LENTILS: ENOUGH SAID
The new age of nutrition awareness has awakened the American People to the endless possibility and immense power of the foods we eat. Studies have gone to the far corners of the culinary globe to explore the relationship between diet and behavior. Not surprisingly, our emotional health is strongly related to our brain chemistry, which in turn relies on diet. People with altered mood states have been found to be deficient in key vitamins and minerals. 1 Furthermore, neurotransmitters (serotonin and dopamine), which regulate mood, require vitamins and minerals as cofactors for their normal function. see 1 In short, when they are not happy, you are not happy.
Several vitamins, minerals, and nutrients have proven to be effective in fighting depression (namely, B Vitamins, Omega 3’s, Tryptophan, and Chromium) and there are plenty of foods chock-full of these goodies to boot.
Stewed, boiled, tossed into a salad, sprouted, sauteed or pressed into a patty for burgers, the lentil is a versatile protein powerhouse, and my personal favorite. They are dirt cheap and packed with all of the ingredients that the American fast food industry and fast-paced dietary lifestyles tend to neglect. Lentils are also a standard in Mediterranean cooking, and a lifeline to the largely vegetarian populations of the Far East and India.
Lentils are one of the best things you can put in your body. Period. 30% of their caloric content is made up of protein, and just one cup of cooked lentils accounts for 50% of your daily dose of tryptophan; a key amino acid in the production of Serotonin.2 According to clinical trials in London, people fed food deficient in tryptophan became rapidly depressed within hours.
One double-blind trial at the Basel University of Psychiatry in London administered 34 depressed volunteers with either the SSRI antidepressant Luvox or 300 mg of 5-HTP (5-Hydorxy Tryptophan which is what plain-old tryptophan is converted into naturally in the body before eventually becoming serotonin). At the end of the six weeks, both groups of patients had had significant improvements in each of the four assessed areas for depression—depression, anxiety, insomnia, and physical symptoms. However, those taking 5-HTP had a slightly greater improvement. see 1
Lentils are also huge source of folate and dietary fiber in addition to being a good source of recommended Daily Values for vitamin B1 and iron (which help fight depression only in miniscule ways). 3 Although there have been no links to fiber and depression (other that the obvious benefits of being ‘regular’), there have been a great deal of findings on the links between folate, or folic acid, and depression. Folic acid is key to the production of DNA and RNA and is quite active in the brain and central nervous system. Low levels of folic acid affect the production and distribution of essential compounds and neurotransmitters. 4 Furthermore, reports show that folate deficiency is present in 17% to 31% of major depression patients.see 1 Our good friend the lentil provides 89% of our needed daily intake with just one cup! see 2 and 3 So, the next time you are feeling depressed, don’t run to the doctor looking for the next pill for a quick fix. Assess your diet. Food, like pharmaceutical compounds, has an immense effect on the brain. The more balanced you make your meals, the more balanced your health and functionality. And with lentils, what better and cheaper way is their to do so?