Lentils are one of the earliest cultivated legumes, so it is no wonder that they have become an essential part of our diet. They add a high volume of fiber and protein to our meals. They do not require soaking overnight before you cook them. Lentils are extremely handy and low-priced, and this makes them a widely selected form of high-quality protein.
Lentils are edible seeds from the legume family. They’re well known for their lens shape and sold with or without their outer husks intact. Though they’re a common food staple in Asian and North African cuisines, the greatest production of lentils nowadays is in Canada.
Lentils are frequently characterized by color, which can vary from red, green, yellow, brown to black. Each kind of lentil is exclusively composed of phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Below are the Health Benefits of Lentils:
1. Digestive and gut health
Fiber acts as a bulking agent in the digestive system as well as creates a feeling of fullness. Lentils are loaded with fiber, which helps in easy bowel movements and weight loss. Insoluble dietary fiber found in them helps prevent constipation and other digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.
2. Antioxidant properties
Lentils are filled with the goodness of polyphenols. These are a group of health-contributing phytochemicals. The polyphenols, like flavonoids along with other bioactive compounds, have strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective properties.
3. Stabilised blood sugar levels
The fiber found in lentils slows down digestion and helps in maintaining blood sugar levels. Including them frequently in your diet can help control blood sugar levels in diabetes, hypoglycemia, as well as insulin resistance, which was commonly seen in PCOS.
4. Healthy heart
Your overall risk of heart disease is greatly reduced if you consume lentils regularly because they are known for reducing blood pressure. Besides, proteins in lentils interfere with the chemical angiotensin i-converting enzyme (ACE), which usually causes blood vessel-narrowing and a rise in your BP.
Lentils being rich in folate, prevent excessive accumulation of homocysteine (a common amino acid in our blood). You are at a higher risk of heart disease if you are obese. They are also very filling, so you eat less food and stabilize your blood sugar levels.
5. Great protein source
Since lentils contain about 25% of protein, they become an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. While it contains all the essential amino acids, it is limited in methionine and tryptophan. Combining them with whole grains provides a complete profile of essential amino acids.
Caution: There is a downside to eating lentils in excessive amounts. They contain lectin, tannins, phytic acid, and trypsin inhibitors which may hamper absorption of important nutrients. The good news is that you can decrease the amount of these agents in your diet. Just soak the lentils the night before and discard the water used for soaking to get rid of the anti-nutrients.
Different Types of Lentils
Lentils are often categorized by their color, which can range from yellow and red to green, brown or black.
Here are some of the most common lentil types:
- Brown: These are the most widely eaten type. They have an earthy flavor, hold their shape well during cooking and are great in stews.
- Puy: These come from the French region Le Puy. They’re similar in color but about one-third of the size of green lentils and have a peppery taste.
- Green: These can vary in size and are usually a cheaper alternative to Puy lentils in recipes.
- Yellow and red: These lentils are split and cook quickly. They’re great for making dal and have a somewhat sweet and nutty flavor.
- Beluga: These are tiny black lentils that look almost like caviar. They make a great base for warm salads.
Each lentil type has its own unique composition of antioxidants and phytochemicals.
SUMMARYThere are many different varieties of lentils, but brown, green, yellow and red, as well as Puy and Beluga are the most widely consumed.
Lentils are often overlooked, even though they’re an inexpensive way of getting a wide range of nutrients.
For example, they’re packed with B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and potassium.
Lentils are made up of over 25% protein, which makes them an excellent meat alternative. They’re also a great source of iron, a mineral that is sometimes lacking in vegetarian diets.
Though different types of lentils may vary slightly in their nutrient contents, one cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils generally provides about:
- Calories: 230
- Carbs: 39.9 grams
- Protein: 17.9 grams
- Fat: 0.8 grams
- Fiber: 15.6 grams
- Thiamine: 22% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Niacin: 10% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 18% of the RDI
- Folate: 90% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid: 13% of the RDI
- Iron: 37% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 18% of the RDI
- Phosphorous: 36% of the RDI
- Potassium: 21% of the RDI
- Zinc: 17% of the RDI
- Copper: 25% of the RDI
- Manganese: 49% of the RDI
Lentils are high in fiber, which supports regular bowel movements and the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Eating lentils can increase your stool weight and improve your overall gut function.
Furthermore, lentils contain a broad range of beneficial plant compounds called phytochemicals, many of which protect against chronic diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Lentils are an excellent source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. They’re also a great source of plant-based protein and fiber.