Autumn Lentil Soup

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During Autumn and Winter I recommend making a big pot of soup once per week so that there’s always some nutritious comfort food readily available. It’s also a great way to use up whatever veggies in your fridge need eating up. Soup recipes like this one are very flexible, so feel free to be creative with the veggies and herbs you include. Having said that, there are 2 ingredients in this recipe that I’d like to highlight. Lentils are higher in protein than any other bean or legume (except soy, which is NOT a fertility-friendly food) while also being easier to digest and less ‘gas-producing.’ According to the Harvard Nurses Health Study (the largest study ever done on diet and fertility), women with the highest intake of plant-based protein are much less likely to have infertility. This doesn’t mean you need to follow a vegetarian diet, just eat plant proteins often. Lentils also contain significant amounts of iron, zinc, magnesium, folate and other B vitamins. Also packed with cholesterol-lowering fiber and the ability to stabilize blood-sugar levels, lentils are a fabulous source of slow-burning fuel. And all this with very little fat and few calories!

Now let’s talk about kombu. It’s not a common item in most people’s pantry, but it deserves to be part of your fertility diet. A sea vegetable that is available in dehydrated form, kombu is high in iron and calcium as well as iodine, which is essential for thyroid function. If you are medicated for hypo- or hyper-thyroidism, do not consume excessive amounts of kombu, but do include it in your diet in small amounts (like in this soup!). Kombu is also a natural flavor-enhancer; MSG was originally produced by extracting glutamic acid from kombu! Of course, MSG is now made from synthetic ingredients and is indeed toxic, so is best avoided, but adding kombu to any soup, stew, or sauce is a highly nutritious way to enhance flavor.

1 Tablespoon butter
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 small butternut squash (or half of a large one), peeled and diced
5 large leaves of kale, shredded
1⁄2 cup French lentils, rinsed well in cold water and strained
1 large strip kombu seaweed, torn or chopped into small pieces
1 Bay leaf
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon each of fresh rosemary, oregano, and thyme, chopped very fine (or, 1⁄2 teaspoon each dried herbs)
1 1⁄2 litres chicken, turkey, beef, or vegetable broth, ideally homemade
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Optional garnishes: shredded parmesan cheese & fresh parsley

Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes, adding a splash of water anytime onions stick to the pan.
Add carrots, celery, kombu, fresh herbs, cayenne, and a couple pinches of sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Sauté until the carrots and celery start to become soft (about 2-3 minutes) and then add the squash, mixing well and sautéing another couple of minutes.
Add the Bay leaf, lentils, and broth. If there isn’t enough broth to fully cover the vegetables by 1 inch, add some more broth or water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Taste soup and add more salt & pepper if needed. Stir in the kale and allow to simmer 5 more minutes.
Garnish with shredded parmesan cheese & fresh parsley, if desired.

This soup will taste better the next day, after the flavours have had more time to meld.

Krista A. Parr is a Vancouver Registered Holistic Nutritionist and founder of Root to Fruit Nutrition, specializing in fertility and women’s health.

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