Mix & Match Lentils with Colourful Summer Produce

Gloria Tsang newBecause they are so wonderful in warm, hearty dishes, we sometimes forget about lentils in the warm summer months. But lentils are an excellent way of adding protein to the wide variety of summer produce currently available in grocery stores and at farmers’ markets. When choosing your produce, it’s important to aim for a wide range of colours on your plate to maximize the health benefits fruits (yes, you can pair lentils with fruit!) and vegetables have to offer. Here are some key nutrition colour groups to work into your meal planning this summer.

Orange Fruits and Veggies

The most obvious item in this colour group is, of course, the orange. But there are many other orange fruits and veggies, including yellow apples, cantaloupe, carrots, and corn, just to name a few. Produce from the orange group offers beta-carotenes, which may help prevent cancer, especially cancers of the lung, esophagus, and stomach. They may also help reduce your risk of heart disease and help protect your immune system.

Orange group recipe: Peach and Raspberry Crumble

Red Fruits and Veggies

The red group includes some of my favourite summer treats, like cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and tomatoes. It also includes some foods you might not immediately think of as being red, like beets, pink grapefruit, and red cabbage. Red produce contains lycopene, which may help fight lung and prostate cancers. These fruits and veggies also offer anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that may help prevent heart disease.

Red group recipe: Pasta e Fagioli

Green Fruits and Veggies

Summer offers us a seemingly limitless number of options when it comes to leafy greens like spinach, kale, lettuce, Swiss chard, arugula, and so on, as well as extremely tender peas, green peppers, green beans, and other green veggies. If you have a home garden, this is probably the most bountiful group! And that’s a good thing, because the green group contains lutein, which may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. It has also shown promise in protecting against macular degeneration. Those dark green leafy veggies are high in folate, a B vitamin, which has been shown to help prevent heart disease. And one added bonus: Cruciferous veggies (members of the cabbage family, including broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts) contain sulforaphane, a phytochemical that detoxifies cancer-causing chemicals.

Green group recipe: Barley and Lentil Salad with Kale, Apples, Almonds, and Feta

Purple Fruits and Veggies

My favourite summertime purple foods are blackberries and blueberries. Most of the foods in this colour group are fruits, including plums, prunes, concord grapes, and figs. If you’re looking for a purple veggie, eggplant is part of the purple group. Purple foods include anthocyanins, which may help prevent clot formation, thereby helping to prevent heart disease. They may also lower your risk of cancer.

Purple group recipe: Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins with Red Lentils

Mixing lentils into dishes that feature fresh fruits and vegetables has the added benefit of incorporating protein, which helps make you feel full longer and prevent unnecessary snacking.

You can find many more ideas for incorporating lentils into summer dishes in the free online cookbook Lentils for Every Season: Summer 2013.