Lentils—a humble legume worthy to be praised. Packed with protein and iron, lentils are an excellent addition to any vegetarian or non-vegetarian diet. Even though these legumes grow in pods with only a couple beans per pod, they are extremely inexpensive and have an array of different varieties to choose from according to your liking.

Disease/Ailments:

Iron deficiency anemia
High cholesterol
Diabetes
Constipation

Health Benefits:

Iron deficiency anemia: Lentils are a great source of iron. For increased absorption rates of iron consume lentils with foods high in vitamin C such as citrus fruits or tomatoes.

High cholesterol: Lentils contain zero cholesterol and in addition provides cholesterol-fighting properties. They are great source of insoluble fiber, which binds to cholesterol already present in the body and removes much of it in feces.

Diabetes: Lentils are high in carbohydrates, but because they also contain soluble fiber, they are considered a low glycemic index food for diabetics. The soluble fiber in lentils attracts water which creates a gel-like substance. This slows down the absorption of food into the system, which helps prevent rapid sugar spikes.

Constipation: As a plant food, lentils are a high source of dietary fiber! On average, 1 cup of cooked lentils contains about half of the adequate intake needs of dietary fiber for both men and women. The insoluble fiber found in lentils increases the bulk of stool providing for quicker and easier transport through the system.

Pregnant, or those who could become pregnant: Lentils are high in folate and iron. Insufficient folate may cause birth defects such as spina bifida. Folate is especially critical during the fetus’ development in the first few weeks of pregnancy – often before a woman even realizes she is pregnant, as well as throughout the pregnancy. Iron is also critical during pregnancy, and it is best to have sufficient iron prior to pregnancy. Insufficient iron can lead to pregnancy related iron-deficiency anemia. Insufficient iron can cause preterm delivery, low-birth-weight infants, and lower cognitive functioning.

Good Source of:

Iron, fiber, protein, folate, potassium, and phosphorus

Purchasing, Storing, and Enjoying:

Purchasing: Lentils can be bought dried, pre-packaged at the store, or in bulk at many health food stores. They are very inexpensive. They can also be purchased pre-made in many Indian foods.

Storing: Uncooked lentils can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to several months or in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for a year. Once cooked lentils will stay good for up to a week stored in the refrigerator.

Enjoying:

  • Depending on the brand, some lentils may have small rocks in the packaging. Be sure to look through the lentils and rinse them before using.
  • Make lentils a regular part of your meals. Their great in soups, over brown rice, and in stews. You can also enjoy them roasted as a crunchy addition to salad.

Resources and recipes:

Some great tips for picking which color to use:

  • Brown lentils. The least expensive, they soften when cooked and can become mushy. Use for soups.
  • Green lentils. Also called French lentils, these have a nuttier flavor and stay firm when cooked. Green lentils are the best choice for salads.
  • Red lentils. The fastest cooking, these lose their shape and turn golden when cooked. They taste milder and sweeter than green lentils. Use them for purees and Indian dals.

 Recipes:

Lentil roast: http://www.lifeandhealth.org/2013/06/06/lentil-roast

Sicilian tomato lentil pasta: http://www.lifeandhealth.org/2013/06/06/sicilian-tomato-lentil-pasta

Sweet baked lentils: http://www.lifeandhealth.org/2013/04/24/sweet-baked-lentils

Mujaddara Lebanese lentils: http://www.lifeandhealth.org/2013/04/23/mujaddara-lebanese-lentils

Crunchy roasted lentils: http://www.lifeandhealth.org/2013/04/22/crunchy-roasted-lentils
References:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/lentils/AN01640

Encyclopedia of Foods and their Healing Power. Book 2.

McIntosh M, Miller C. A diet containing food rich in soluble and insoluble fiber improves glycemic control and reduces hyperlipidemia among patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutr Rev 2001 Feb;59(2):52-5. 2001.


About the Author

Ashley Kim

"Our bodies are our gardens—our wills are our gardeners." – William Shakespeare

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