Lentil Salad with Fennel, Apple & Apricot

Bean salads were my go-to for many years. Anytime I went anywhere (parties, camping, trips), I packed a bean salad. That way I always had a hearty source of protein and starch. And people always seemed to like my creations.

About four years ago, I started shifting from my vegetarian roots to more of a paleo template. After being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, I jumped into the paleo world pretty hardcore, and stopped eating legumes entirely. Legumes contain anti-nutrients that can be problematic for digestion. And the whole focus of my approach was to heal my gut in order to reverse the autoimmunity...so beans were out for awhile.

 

Learn more about how to heal your gut here

 

Restricted diets are never the goal -- it's not "how many foods can I take out?" but "how many foods can I get away with?". I've talked about this concept before on this podcast interview, this podcast, and in this blog.

I experienced healing with this way of eating, but started to test the boundaries about a year ago. I learned: most grains are still a no-go. I can get away with *some* *sometimes*, but generally don't feel great when I eat them. I also learned: I can eat beans/legumes as long as they're properly prepared (as laid out in my nutrition program). 

This is great news, because beans -- especially lentils -- are a great source of resistant starch. Resistant starch is starch that our bodies cannot digest, so it travels down to our large intestine where our gut bacteria can digest it. (P.S. SO COOL.) Those bacteria ferment the resistant starch to short-chain fatty acids, like butyrate. Butyrate does a LOT for us - a crucial component of gut health, and also helpful for brain health, weight maintenance and cancer prevention.

The downside to resistant starch is that it can be problematic for those with bacterial overgrowth or dysbiosis. So like everything else in the food and nutrition world...whether or not you tolerate lentils DEPENDS ON WHAT'S GOING ON IN YOUR BODY. But if you do well with lentils, you're gonna want to make this recipe.

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Lentil Salad with Fennel, Apple and Apricot

  • 1 cup dried green lentils (or 3 cups cooked*)
  • 1/2 bulb fennel, shaved
  • 1 apple, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricot
  • 1 cup loosely packed (or one handful) fresh parsley or cilantro
  • 6 fresh mint leaves
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, divided

*Trader Joe's sells pre-cooked lentils in their produce section, which would make this recipe a BREEZE. 

1. Cook lentils according to package -  I use my Instant Pot to speed this up.

2. While lentils are cooking, shave the fennel bulb. Place in a large bowl with 2 Tablespoons of the vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon of the sea salt. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, toast the sunflower seeds: place in a medium fry pan over medium-high heat. Don't walk away, these burn QUICKLY. Wait until the seeds are slightly browned and fragrant. Immediately remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.

4. Chop the fresh herbs extremely fine.

5. When lentils are done, drain and run under cold water to cool them. Add to the large bowl.

6. Stir in apple, toasted seeds, chopped apricot, chopped herbs. Dress with remaining vinegar, olive oil and salt. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 4 days.