Lentils, a type of legume which grow in pods and come in a variety of colors, are a great source of protein that’s cheap to buy and easy to prepare. They provide a variety of essential nutrients and minerals while being very versatile in cooking and providing overall health benefits. Just one cup of cooked lentils provides 18 grams of protein, 16 grams of fiber, 90% of the body’s daily folate needs, 37% of iron, 49% of manganese, 36% of phosphorus, 22% of thiamin, 21% of potassium and 18% of vitamin B6. They also provide riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. All of these are essential for maintaining total body health and helping prevent illnesses and health problems,
For years consuming plant based foods of all kinds has been connected to reduced rates of many health conditions, and lentils are no exception to these benefits. They promote healthy skin and hair, increasing energy naturally, and promoting a healthy weight. Combined with a varied diet of many healthy foods and proper exercise, lentils can be a major asset in healthy lifestyles. The nutrients in lentils can also promote a healthy heart by reducing LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, decreasing blood pressure, and improving circulation. The folate in lentils is highly beneficial for pregnant women in providing nutrients to their children, lowering the risks of birth defects. Lentils promote naturally detoxification of the body, lowering the risk of cancerous growth and improving overall cell health. The iron content boosts energy, especially in those with iron deficiency problems, and the fiber improves digestion and promotes healthy weight loss.
Lentils come in a variety of colors and types but the main four are
- Brown lentils – cheapest and soften upon cooking, very useful in soups and stews and as an alternative to beans
- Green lentils – stay firm when cooked and have a nutty flavor, great to use as salad toppings
- Red lentils – cook the fastest and have a more mild taste, these are commonly used in Indian recipes
- Black lentils – resemble caviar when cooked
Dried beans require soaking before they can be cooked, and do not provide as many health benefits as lentils. Lentils can be used in place of beans in any recipe, can be added to soups and stews, made into a healthy dip, or even used as a meat replacement for some recipes including meat balls. And cooking the lentils themselves is quick and easy, just place the lentils in a pot with 2 cups of water for every cup of lentils, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer to desired tenderness. This process takes about 15-20 minutes and precooked lentils can be refrigerated for later use in recipes or as a quick healthy snack.
Have you tried lentils yet? Feel free to share tips and recipes in the comments below!
By Samantha Dillon, DR Vitamin Solutions