Middle-Eastern Style Lentil Soup – whole food plant based

The new Canada Food Guide encourages a whole food plant-based diet which is a good option for those who are metabolically healthy — especially those who are insulin sensitive. The challenge is that I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes 10 years ago and while I am in partial remission now as a result of dietary changes I implemented 23 months ago, on a cold winter day like yesterday I really wanted a bowl of my favourite homemade lentil soup.

I knew from testing my blood sugar in response to different foods that I was beginning to tolerate a small amount of whole, unground legumes such as chickpeas that had been soaked from the dried ones, then cooked. I also knew that leaving the lentils whole rather than pureeing them would reduce the blood sugar response and by adding additional non-starchy vegetables such as spinach and fresh green herbs would also help lower the glycemic response, so in the interest of science (of course) I decided to make the lentil soup and test my response two hours afterwards and the next morning.

The only significant source of carbohydrates that I ate yesterday was the soup which was ~20 g of carbs per bowl.  I was pleased and encouraged that after 23 months of changing how I ate that my blood glucose two hours after eating it was only 5.5 mmol/L (100 mg/dl), which was normal. This morning my fasting blood glucose was 6.3 mmol/L (114 mg/dl) which was significantly higher than what it has been the last few months eating a low carbohydrate diet, but considering the amount of slowly digestible carbohydrate in the soup, it was somewhat understandable.  To more accurately assess my glycemic response to the soup, I should have tested my blood sugar before I ate it, after 30 minutes, 60 minutes and 2 hours after eating it, as I did with my chickpea “experiment” as the 2 hour snapshot after 2 hours doesn’t provide any information as to what was happening to my blood glucose at 30 minutes and 60 minutes, which may have included a spike.

The soup was a nice treat and it was encouraging to me to continue to discover that as time goes on, I can reintroduce small amounts of whole-food carbohydrate sources without unduly impacting my blood sugars. Of course, being in remission from Type 2 Diabetes is not Diabetes  reversal, so I am by no means “cured”, but I am doing much better than 23 months ago.

As I know from several studies, including a 2015 study from Israel (Zeevi D, Korem T, Zmora N, et al. Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic Responses. Cell. 2015 Nov 19;163(5):1079-1094), everyone’s glucose response to individual foods is different and the only way to know how each person will respond (whether Diabetic or non-diabetic / insulin resistant) is to test individual response to a specific amount of the food, which is what I did. While legumes are not something I would eat on a regular basis as it would negatively impact my glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C) level, it is certainly nice to be able to have it sometimes.

Of course, for those who are insulin sensitive, this is a delicious whole-food, largely plant based meal.

Below is the recipe for the soup. I included a piece of beef shank, but it can as easily be made without any meat for those that don’t eat it.

NOTE: This recipe is posted as a courtesy for those following a variety of different types of eating styles and not necessarily as part of a Meal Plan designed by me. This recipe may or may not be appropriate for you.

Middle Eastern Lentil Soup


1 medium yellow onion, chopped finely
1 medium carrot, diced
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced finely
2 tbsp olive oil
1 slice of beef shank, optional
2 cups small brown lentils, rinsed well
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
kosher salt, to taste
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves (coriander greens), chopped
1 cup fresh parsley (flat leaf or curly), chopped
2 300 g packages of frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
4 liters cold water

Herb Topping (optional)

3 green onions, minced finely
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced finely
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced finely
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced finely
1 tbsp olive oil

Saute the green onions in the olive oil over a medium heat until wilted, but not browned, add the garlic and saute a minute or two then add the chopped parsley and cilantro and continue sauteing until the greens are slightly cooked.  Set aside to top each bowl of soup with, just before serving.


  1. Saute the chopped onion in the olive oil until lightly browned
  2. Add the chopped carrot and saute until partially cooked
  3. Add the beef shank, if using and brown on both sides
  4. Add the minced garlic and saute (being careful not to let it brown as it would become bitter)
  5. Add the coriander and cumin powder, and keep stirring
  6. Toss in the rinsed brown lentils
  7. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper
  8. Add cold water and stir to dislodge anything that may have stuck to the bottom
  9. Over a medium-low heat, bring to a simmer, skimming off any foam that accumulates from the meat protein
  10. Cook at medium-low for several hours, until the lentils are cooked but not too soft
  11. Twenty minutes before serving, add in the well-squeezed spinach, fresh parsley and fresh cilantro (coriander greens)
  12. Prepare the herb topping and set aside to top individual bowls of soupd when serving
  13. Enjoy!
Middle Eastern Style Lentil Soup

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