Lentils: Faster Than Beans and an Ideal Meat Replacement
Chances are good you’ve at least heard of lentils before. However, if you’re like a lot of other people in the UK, you’re not really sure what they are, how they work, how they taste, or what are lentils. There’s good news. Not only are lentils easy to understand, but they can be a very tasty way to get better nutrition on your plate.
What Are Lentils?
What are lentils – you can think of lentils as cousins to beans. They’re technically legumes, like pinto beans, black beans and all the rest. However, they don’t come with the same drawbacks that beans do, such as having to be soaked before cooking. They grow in a pod, usually two at a time. They are generally round, although some are heart shaped. Lentils are sold whole or split, and you’ll find three different colours on the market – red, brown and green.
Green lentils are a French variety. They tend to hold their shape and texture the best, and cook up firmer than brown or red. Red lentils are a little sweeter than the brown or green ones, and they tend to get a little soft. Brown lentils are the most common, but are also the most prone to getting mushy when cooked, which is why they are often used in soups and the like.
Each colour brings a slightly different flavour to the table, but they are all tasty options. Plus, they pack in some interesting health benefits that everyone should know.
Health Benefits of Lentils
Lentils offer quite a few health benefits, but their ability to improve heart health is one of the primary reasons for eating them (other than their taste, of course). They are very high in fibre, which reduces cholesterol, but also helps keep you fuller for longer periods. Lentils are also very good sources of folate, which is important for heart health, as well as for fighting breast cancer. Their folic acid content and amount of potassium are also important for heart health.
As hinted at above, lentils also have cancer-fighting capabilities. However, it goes deeper than being a significant source of folate. Lentils are also high in selenium, which is actually not found in most other foods. Selenium is an anti-inflammatory, and has also been shown to slow the growth of tumours while enhancing the immune system.
Lentils can also help improve your energy levels by supplying extra iron. Iron deficiency is one of the leading causes of fatigue today, and lentils actually supply more than one-third of your RDA of iron in just a single cup.
The Nutritional Makeup of Lentils
Lentils are packed with good nutrition and include:
- High amounts of folate (90% of your RDA in a single cup)
- High amounts of iron
In addition, a cup of lentils includes just one gram of fat, and 18 grams of protein, with 230 calories overall
- High amounts of manganese and phosphorus
- High amounts of potassium and vitamin B6
Getting Them Onto Your Plate
Adding lentils to your daily meals is actually pretty simple. They can replace beans in most soups and stews, and because they cook much faster and don’t require pre-soaking, you can save some time, as well. You can also use them as a bean or meat replacement in just about any meal.
Lentil dip can be made easily by mashing cooked lentils into a paste, and then adding your preferred flavourings. Enjoy it on pita, chips and more. You can even add lentils to a cold salad or to a noodle dish if you like.