What is Lentils? Lentils are legumes that grow like peas and beans in a pod, inside the pod are two small lentil seeds.
Culinary Uses: Lentils are perfect for making soups, stews and casseroles.
Different Types of Lentils: There are hundreds of varieties of lentils, which range in color from yellow, orange, red, green, and brown to black; and can be bought either with or without their skins. The most common type of lentils sold is the relatively large, all-purpose brewer. Of all the kinds available, red lentils cook the fastest, because they are sold with their hulls removed. But they also provide less fiber than the black, brown, or green varieties, which come with their hulls intact.
Health Benefits of Lentils:
- Lentils are very rich in protein. A one hundred gram serving of lentils has around 26 grams of protein; but lentils lack two essential amino acids, isoleucine and lysine. However, lentils form a complete protein when combined with foods such as grains, nuts, seeds, eggs and dairy products.
- Lentils are high in soluble fiber which can help reduce blood cholesterol levels since it binds to it. Studies have shown that people with diets rich in legumes show an 82% reduction in their risk of heart disease.
- Lentils is rich in insoluble fiber which helps increase the size of stool, this can then speed the elimination of waste products in the intestines; this means they are great to help alleviate constipation. Fiber can also help both reduce the risk and the symptoms of diverticulosis, a condition in which small pouches form in the colon wall (usually from the pressure of straining during bowel movements).
- Eating beans or lentils two or more times per week was linked with a 24 percent reduced risk of breast cancer.
- Lentils have one of the lowest ratings on the GI index, which means that it has a low effect on raising your blood sugar levels.
- Lentils are helpful for weight loss since their high protein and fiber content promote a feeling of satiety.
- Lentils health benefits does not decrease when canned. This means that the nutritional value of lentils in a can is very close to lentils that were bought dry.
- Lentils are a good source of folic acid. It is recommended that all women of child-bearing age consume 400 mcg of folic acid per day.
- Lentils reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Although the exact connection has not been determined, it is believed that the Vitamin E found in lentils helps prevent Parkinson’s disease.
Lentils Buying Tip: Whether you purchase lentils prepackaged or in bulk, look for those that appear largely unbroken (bags with broken lentils appear “dusty”). Buy from a source that has a good turnover.
Storage Tip: Don’t mix newly purchased lentils with older ones; the older they are, the longer they take to cook. Keep them stored in a cool, dry place, and they will stay fresh for several months.
Preparation Tips: Sort through lentils before cooking them to remove any small stones or twigs. Spreading them out on a platter with a contrasting color will make this task easier. Then briefly rinse the lentils.
How to Cook Lentils:
- Lentils need no presoaking, and they cook in less than an hour (in some cases, under 30 minutes; but it’s always advisable to refer to the package direction as all types of lentil cook in different amount of time. Although, a basic rule of thumb is one cup of lentils to three cups of water. Bring the lentils and water to a boil in a medium pot, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
- When you cook lentils make sure you avoid cast-iron or aluminum cookware, because these materials can adversely affect lentils’ appearance and also may lengthen cooking time.
Shelf life: Lentils are shelf stable for up to 12 months, when dry.
Side Effects of Lentils: Lentils and other legumes can cause indigestion and should not be consumed by people with irritable bowel syndrome.