Why Lentils Ought to Be a Diet Staple!
Lentils are tasty (nutty and earthy in flavor) and filling. Easy to prepare, very versatile, and loaded with health benefits, they really ought to be a staple in our diet.
According lots research, you’ll reap a boatload of health benefits when you eat lentils. Here’s just some that I found on a super site, Mind, Body, Green (www.mindbodygreen.com):
Lower Cholesterol. Lentils help to reduce blood cholesterol since they contain high levels of soluble fiber. Lowering cholesterol levels reduces risk of heart disease and stroke by keeping arteries clean.
Heart Health. Studies show that eating high fiber foods such as lentils reduces risk of heart disease. They’re a great source of folate and magnesium (BIG contributors to heart health). Folate lowers your homocysteine levels, a serious risk factor for heart disease. Magnesium improves blood flow, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Low levels of magnesium have been directly associated with heart disease, so eating lentils will keep your heart happy!
Digestive Health. The insoluble dietary fiber found in lentils helps prevent constipation and other digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.
Stabilized Blood Sugar. The soluble fiber lentils contain traps carbohydrates, slowing down digestion and stabilizing blood sugar levels. This can be especially helpful for those with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia.
Good Protein. Of all legumes and nuts, lentils contain the third-highest level of protein. 26 percent of lentil’s calories are attributed to protein, which makes them a wonderful source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.
Concentrated Source of Vitamins and Minerals. It would be hard to find a food with more concentration of these vitamins and minerals: molybdenum (330%), folate (90%), copper (56%), phosphorus (51%), manganese (43%), iron (37%), vitamin B12 (8%), pantothenic acid (25%), zinc (23%), and vitamin B6 (21%).
Energy Increase. Lentils increase steady, slow-burning energy due its fiber and complex carbohydrates. Lentils are also a good source of iron, which transports oxygen throughout the body and is key to energy production and metabolism.
Weight Loss. Although lentils include all these beneficial nutrients like fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins, they are still low in calories and are virtually fat free. One cup of cooked lentils only contains about 230 calories, yet they still leave you feeling full and satisfied.
You can see this is one food you always want on hand. And they store well, so keeping an abundance in your pantry or storage is doable. Just store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place. Stored this way, they will keep for up to 12 months. If you purchase lentils at different times, store them separately since they may feature varying stages of dryness and therefore will require different cooking times. Cooked lentils will keep fresh in the refrigerator for about three days if placed in a covered container.
And as far as cooking goes, lentils can be prepared the day of serving since they don’t need presoaking. Spread them out on a light colored plate or cooking surface to check for, and remove, small stones or debris and then place them in a strainer, and rinse thoroughly under cool running water.
To boil lentils, use three cups of liquid for each cup of lentils. And a good tip: Lentils placed in already boiling water will be easier to digest than those that were brought to a boil with the water. When the water returns to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer and cover. Green lentils usually take 30 minutes, while red require 20 minutes.
These cooking times can be slightly adjusted depending upon the final use. If they’re to be served in a salad or soup, a firmer texture is best. So remove them from the stove top typically 5-10 minutes earlier than their usual cooking time. If you’re making dal or something requiring a mushier consistency, achieving this texture may take an additional 10-15 minutes.
I’ll close with an unusual and delicious stew recipe that is so good I often bring it to our church or neighborhood potluck dinners. This is from the site www.veganricha.com. See what you think. But meanwhile, here’s to adding more healthy lentils to the diet!
AFRICAN PEANUT LENTIL STEW (3 - 4 servings)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion
2 juicy tomatoes
4-5 garlic cloves
1 (1-inch) piece ginger
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 – 1 ½ teaspoons Harissa Spice Blend
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup peanut or almond butter
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts
3/4 cup red lentils
2 cups vegetables chopped small or thin slices (zucchini, sweet potato or potato, carrots, broccoflower, etc.)
2 ½ cups vegetable stock or water
3/4 - 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon or more lime or lemon juice
1/2 cup packed baby spinach or other baby greens.
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions; cook until translucent, 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, puree tomatoes, garlic, ginger, chili sauce, tomato paste, spices. Add to saucepan. Cook 5-6 min.
Add nut butter, half of the nuts, lentils, veggies, stock, salt and lemon juice. Mix, cover and cook.
Stir 15 minutes, taste to adjust salt; heat veggies to al-dente; add spinach. Cook until veggies/lentils cooked through. Add more water if needed.
Garnish with rest of the peanuts, cilantro, more lemon juice. Serve with flatbread, crackers or as is.
Pressure Cook: Follow steps 1 and 2 in a pressure cooker over medium heat. Add peanut butter, lentils, half of the peanuts, veggies, stock, salt and lemon juice, mix, close the lid and bring to high pressure. Cook for 5 minutes * (Manual setting for 5 minutes for IP). Let the pressure release naturally. Taste and adjust salt and spice. Fold in the spinach and let it sit for 2 minutes in the hot stew before serving.
* Depending on your pressure cooker, lentils and your preference of consistency, you might need to cook for less or more time.
Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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