Ok, ummm soup! If that is what usually comes to mind when we hear lentils, then we have a lot to learn about these amazing little beans! Lentils have been a pantry staple for hundreds of years; supplying the dietary needs in a variety of cultures.
The most important thing to know about lentils is that they are good for you! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that eating plenty of nutrient-dense foods like lentils can actually lessen your risk of many serious medical problems.
A 2012 report written in the “Archives of Internal Medicine” states that exchanging foods like lentils for red meat helps reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease.
Lentils are not only full of nutrients but are low in fat and high in protein. A quick comparison shows that lentils have 18 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of fat per cup while 1 cup of beef has 31 grams of protein but has 22 grams of saturated fat. When you eat lentils you will also be getting calcium, niacin, potassium, vitamin K and iron.
The folate and 16 grams of fiber in lentils are great for your heart. Homo-cysteine, considered a risk factor in heart disease, will be lowered by the folate in lentils. The soluble fiber in lentils will help also reduce blood cholesterol in your body.
Your digestive system will also benefit from the insoluble fiber in lentils and actually prevent constipation and more serious disorders like diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
Diabetics will find that the soluble fiber in lentils can slow down digestion by trapping carbohydrates and thus stabilize blood sugar levels. Other blood sugar problems such as insulin resistance and hypoglycemia benefit from the slower digestion as well.
Not only do lentils have multiple significant health benefits, they are inexpensive! You can purchase a pound of dried lentils for $1.00-$2.00. The great thing about lentils is that they do not have to be soaked overnight like other dried beans.
If your recipe calls for pre-cooked lentils:
- 1 Cup dried lentils, (green, red or brown)
- 2 Cups water and some salt
Bring to a boil and cook split lentils for about 20 minutes, then cook whole lentils for 35 to 40 minutes. Take off the heat & cover tightly for 5 to 10 minutes
A quick on-line search will result in recipes for a diverse list of various lentil soups, lentils and rice, lentil salad, lentils & spinach, lentil curry, and even lentil loaf!
The only down side of lentils is the dreaded flatulence. This is a food that some folks need to get used to. It is recommended that if this is a problem for your digestive system there are over the counter anti-gas products available. Another suggestion is to add a few dried cloves to the cook pot or some ground cloves to your recipe.
Another hint, if you have not yet tried this food in your cooking, is that the lentils have a very bland taste and will pick up the flavor of what you add to the pot. You can find recipes for lentils with onions, garlic, sausage, peppers, and almost all of your favorite spices for stews and soups.
Try them, you may be pleasantly surprised to find you like little lentils!