Updated: May 26
Hey friends, it's Mental Health Awareness Month and you might be asking what the heck does that have to do with my lentil grill-out party, but I'm here to tell you that these burgers may lend to mental health!
If you've been paying attention to the media, you have probably heard the news that the gut is like the second brain (also called the gut-brain axis). This is due to emerging research showing the relationship between the type of bacteria in the gut and brain health, including mood, anxiety, depression, focus and memory. We have trillions of bacteria in the gut. This bacteria has the ability to produce hundreds of neurochemicals that the brain uses to regulate mental processes such as learning, memory and mood. For example, gut bacteria manufacture about 95 percent of the body's supply of serotonin, which influences both mood and gastrointestinal activity. A balanced gut microbiome is important for the gut to make neurotransmitters that help our brain to function optimally (i.e. to be happy, stay focused, improve memory and have less anxiety).
How do we create a balanced microbiome? Well, there are many factors that can impact the gut microbiome including stress, our environment, exercise and diet. One way you can help your gut create a healthy balance of bacteria through food is by eating enough fiber. The bad news is that 95% of Americans don't get the recommended 25 grams (recommendation for women) to 40 grams (recommendation for men) of fiber a day. The good news is that it's easy to increase fiber intake from plants! One cup of lentils alone has 16 grams of fiber — that's half of the recommended amount! Yay for lentils, as well as other legumes — you can simply start adding 1/2 to 1 cup of your favorite cooked bean or lentil every day right now to easily start boosting fiber. Other foods that provide fiber include nuts (walnuts, pecans, pistachios, almonds), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, chia, flax), whole grains (oats, farro, buckwheat, kamut, wheat berries), fruits and vegetables.
You've also probably heard that fermented foods high in probiotics are good for gut health. This is true! However, probiotics cannot do their job without adequate fiber.
Back to the lentil burgers—hearty, healthy, satisfying and delicious—that explains these nutrition-packed burgers that keep on giving back with leftovers for days ahead! They have approximately 228 calories with 8 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein each, not to mention they're chock-full of B vitamins, iron and folate—nutrients essential for mental health. Personally, I tried these burgers four different ways — with a creamy garlic cashew cream, with a homemade vegan barbecue sauce, topped with Carrot and Cabbage Peanut Slaw and topped with avocado and kimchi — they were all delicious! This is the perfect meal to “Layer it Up,” adding even more ingredients (and, therefore, nutrition) to make it truly complete.
Prep time: 30
Cooking time: 45
1 cup lentils dry, brown or green (or 2 1/2 cups cooked lentils)
3 cups of water
2 Tbsps flax meal
6 Tbsps water
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1 Tbsp dried oregano
3/4 cup raw oats
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup finely chopped onion (I've used both red and yellow onion, they both work well)
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 Tbsps tomato paste
2 Tbsps vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp reduced-sodium tamari or coconut aminos
1/2 cup oat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Wash the lentils well, removing any debris, then place in a medium stovetop pot. Add three cups of water. Bring to a high simmer then lower the heat. Cover and cook for 25-30 minutes or until tender. (A mushier texture works well for these burgers.) Once finished cooking, drain any excess water and set aside.
In the meantime, add the flax meal and water to a small bowl and let sit. This will be your “flax egg,” which binds the burgers.
Place the walnuts, oats and oregano in a food processor. Blend until the walnuts and oats are completely blended. Set aside.
Place a medium-size stovetop pan on medium to high heat. Add the oil, carrots and onions. Cook on medium for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water or veggie broth as needed to deglaze the pan.
Stir in the garlic, 1/4 tsp salt and turmeric. Cook for another 30-60 seconds.
Lower the heat, add the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and tamari. With a spatula, mix until everything is combined. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, add ½ of the cooked lentils from the pot and mash with a fork or potato masher.
Add the remaining lentils (so half of the lentils will be mashed and half will be whole for some texture).
Mix in the carrot, onion and garlic mixture; the oats and walnuts mixture; and the oat flour, salt and pepper. Mix until all ingredients are combined.
Finally, fold in the flax egg so it’s mixed in well. Since there are no eggs, you can taste the mixture and add more seasoning if you'd like. Red pepper flakes or more oregano might be good additions.
Form eight individual patties with clean washed hands, placing them on a baking sheet or clean cutting board before transferring them to the stovetop.
To cook, grill on the stovetop or your outside grill as they stay together really well! For the stovetop: Spray with olive oil to prevent sticking. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Once the skillet is hot, cook the burgers on each side until browned for about 5 minutes per side. For the grill: Grill on each side for 5-7 minutes. We used a copper mat. Alternatively, bake them in the oven by placing them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and baking them at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Storage: Store the cooked patties in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days or freeze, with parchment paper in between each patty, for up to one month.
Enjoy these with all the fixings!
Per serving (8 servings): 216 calories, 30 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams fiber, 11 grams protein, 7 grams fat, 434 milligrams sodium