Lentil & Olive Baked Cod: Small Ingredients, Big Health Benefits
7 minute read
Often when we cook, we focus on the main ingredient as the source of our taste and nutrition. What we miss is that many of the added ingredients or smaller food items are just as beneficial, if not more so. Conversely, using lots of unhealthy additives can overwhelm whatever benefits might have been in a meal otherwise.
The recipe below gives you examples of two frequently overlooked items, lentils and capers. They may be small, but they pack big health-filled punches.
Love Your Lentils
The nutty, earthy taste of lentils makes them a tasty addition to any meal. When you learn of the health benefits they come with, they will become a staple in your diet for sure.
They may be small, but the boosts they can give your food and health are immeasurable.
Boost Heart Health
High fiber foods like lentils have been shown to reduce your risk for heart disease. Lentils help to lower your blood cholesterol which prevents clogged arteries, heart attack and strokes. In addition to this, lentils contain high amounts of magnesium which also plays a role in heart health. Magnesium improves blood flow and oxygen distribution and deficiency has been linked to increased risk of heart disease.
The high dietary fiber content of lentils makes them great digestive aids. By promoting efficient digestion, feeding your gut bacterial community, and protecting intestinal health, lentils can prevent common digestive troubles such as constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.
Full of Protein
Like all legumes, lentils are full of protein. Much of our health relies on consuming adequate amounts of protein and lentils are great for everyone. They are especially good for vegans or vegetarians who miss out on the proteins from meat.
Blood Glucose Control
Fiber has the ability to trap carbohydrates, which can slow digestion and lower blood glucose levels. This is especially beneficial for diabetics and those with insulin resistance, but it also helps to prevent diabetes in the first place.
The fiber in lentils creates a full feeling without filling you full of calories. You feel fuller for longer which means you avoid unhealthy snacking. Combined with the host of nutrients and low fat content, this makes lentils an ideal food for those trying to lose weight.
Unlike carbohydrates that cause blood glucose spikes and crashes and fluctuating energy levels, fibrous foods like lentils provide a steady stream of energy. The fiber content slows digestion which means energy is released more slowly giving you sustained levels.
Lentils are also full of iron which helps to transport oxygen around the body, promotes optimal metabolism, and prevents fatigue.
Surprise Benefits of Capers
These unripe flower buds are typically used in garnishes or seasonings for the unique and tangy flavor they add to a meal. Beyond the taste you get, there are some surprising health benefits you get from capers too.
Full of antioxidants: Quercetin and rutin are two extremely powerful antioxidants found in capers that protect your cells from oxidative damage.
Fights anemia: Anemia results from a lack of iron. Iron in your red blood cells binds to oxygen to transport it around your body, so without it you do not circulate the oxygen you need. Capers are high in iron and can help you keep those levels up.
Maintain strong bones: Capers are full of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K which are all essential to bone health and reduced risk for osteoporosis.
Anti-inflammatory properties: Chronic inflammation is the cause of many serious diseases and capers contain strong anti-inflammatory compounds that can reduce inflammation and protect your tissues from damage.
Healthier digestion: Capers are full of dietary fiber which promotes digestion and relieves common digestive troubles like constipation.
Allergy protection: Compounds within capers have been found to reduce allergic symptoms of mild irritations and spasms.
Healthy blood vessels: Rutin, one of the antioxidants in capers, smooths blood circulation and can reduce stress and strain on blood vessels, thus protecting them from damage.
For the cod bake
1/2 cup black lentils
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup kalamata olives, halved
scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1.5 cups vegetable broth or water
4 to 6 six-ounce cod fillets (or other thick white fish), skin removed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the lemon-caper vinaigrette
1 tablespoon rinsed capers, minced
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
1 lemon, juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. For the vinaigrette, put the capers, shallots, garlic, mustards, lemon juice, parsley, and a pinch or two of salt and pepper into a small mixing bowl, then whisk in the olive oil in a slow stream. Let the mixture sit for up to 30 minutes before serving.
2. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Put the lentils, tomatoes, olives, scallions, and lemon into a baking dish and pour the vegetable broth over the top, making sure the lentils are fully submerged. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked al dente and the tomatoes are tender. Remove the dish from the oven.
3. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel, season with salt and pepper, and add the fillets to the dish so they fit snuggly among the lentils and veggies. Roast for between 10 and 12 minutes, until the fish is cooked through and opaque. Serve immediately with a drizzle of the lemon-caper vinaigrette you made earlier.
The Bottom Line
Most people know of the benefits of fish but forget that what you cook with the fish is just as important. With the right ingredients and surprise benefits of foods like lentils and capers, you get a delicious meal with more nutrition than you could imagine.
Sometimes it is the ingredients we least expect to be the most valuable, so never underestimate the small stuff when it comes to your health.