Lentils are kinda the perfect food. They are cheap to purchase, easy to cook, and deeply nourishing. Best of all, they taste delicious and are super versatile in the kitchen– helping make healthy meal prep a little less stressful. Lentils are great in hearty stews, mashed into chili, blended into dips, served with Mediterranean meals or cooked into curries of Indian and African origin.
Health Benefits of Lentils
Lentils are a great source of sustainable plant-based protein, and they are easy to grow, and actually help improve soil as a nitrogen-fixing plant. And lentils are one of the best options of all the legume family, which includes other beans like chickpeas, soybeans, black beans, green beans, peas, and peanuts. Dr. Michael Greger, doctor and author, shares in his video that red lentils are some of the healthiest beans to eat, and that legumes like lentils are one of the biggest predictors of longer lifespan.
Lentils are an excellent source of minerals like folate, molybdenum, copper, iron, manganese, B vitamins and zinc. And they contain high-quality protein (about 18 grams), so you’ll feel fuller, longer – and best of all lentils cost just a few cents per ounce.
Lentils are also loaded with fiber. Compared ounce-for-ounce with other foods, they are one of the best sources of fiber you can get. Just one cup of cooked lentils contains about 16 grams of fiber, more than half the daily requirements for women.
Of all the things that can be done to improve our health, ensuring that you get ample amounts of fiber is one of the easiest. Fiber, found in whole grains, seeds, fruits, vegetables and all plant foods, is essential for keeping our digestion moving well, and reducing constipation, bloating, and digestive discomfort. Studies are now finding connections between healthy digestion and gut health to better moods, greater immunity, improved vitamin and mineral absorption and production, and even weight loss.
But research suggests that more than 90 percent of Americans aren’t meeting their daily fiber requirement, which is 25 grams a day for women and 38 grams a day for men. Most Americans need to double their fiber intake to just meet these daily requirements. Most people get only about 11-19 grams per day, which is not enough to keep their systems running smoothly.
It’s easy to boost your fiber intake with small changes in your diet, and lentils are one of my favorite options. Whether you choose red, brown, green or black lentils, you can’t go wrong.
What Type of Lentils Should I Buy?
Most lentils have similar nutrition benefits. Choose red, brown, or black lentils depending on your recipe.
Red Lentils: Light orange-red color, and the smallest of lentils, red lentils are the quickest cooking. They tend to get very mashy when cooked, and do not retain their shape, but this is perfect for Indian curries and lentil stews, like the new recipe below for Tomato Coconut Lentils.
Brown Lentils: Slightly bigger, brown lentils are probably the most common. They retain their shape slightly, but will break down like red lentils when cooked for a long time. Since they are larger, they need a slightly larger cooking time. Brown lentils can often look a little greenish, but are different than Green Lentils.
Green Lentils: Called De Puy lentils for the region in France where they originated (and have a protected designation of origin), green lentils are actually a gorgeous mottled green and blue mixture. These lentils are tiny, and because they hold their shape, they work well for lentils salads.
Black Lentils, or Black Beluga Lentils: These lovely legumes that have a darker hue also hold their shape and work great for pretty salads. They look a bit like caviar, and so are often used for fancy appetizers as a replacement.
Check Out Some Awesome Lentil Recipes
Vegan Sloppy Joe’s
Simple and Cozy Lentil Chili
Lemon Miso Lentil Soup
Easy Red Lentil Soup
Persian New Year’s Soup from Lucid Food by Louisa Shafia
Lentil Wraps with Tahini Dressing
Rice Cooker Lentil Curry