We categorize lentils a legume, but are they really a legume? Well… there seems to be room for some debate as to whether lentils are a legume or a pulse. The dictionary I use defines ‘legume’ as: “a seed, pod, or other edible part of a leguminous plant used as food”. The same dictionary defines ‘pulse’ as: “the edible seeds of various leguminous plants, for example chickpeas, lentils, and beans”. The two definitions both include seeds, which lentils are, so by these definitions – lentils really are both a legume and a pulse. To answer the True or False question: it’s True!
Regardless of what category lentils fit into – they are incredibly nutritious. This ancient seed has its origin in central Asia as far as back as 8000 years ago. Today there are many different varieties of lentils, and they are grown in many countries including Canada. They are round or oval seeds shaped like little disks that grow in pods containing one or two seeds. Lentils are fairly small, even though they are classified by small and large sizes. Green and brown lentils seem to be the most common, but there are also red, black, orange, and yellow lentils. Lentils can be purchased whole or split; the split lentils take less time to cook.
For a small seed, lentils pack an amazing nutritional punch. Lentils:
- are a rich source of B Vitamins: folate (Vitamin B9), pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5), as well as Vitamin B1 and B6
- contain both soluble and insoluble fiber
- contain several minerals: copper, phosphorous, manganese, iron, potassium, and zinc
- are a good source of protein
- are low in fat
Here are six top benefits of eating lentils:
- Lentils are relatively easy and quick to cook – faster than many other legumes.
- The soluble fiber content in lentils helps to lower cholesterol levels by trapping bile (which contains cholesterol) in a gel-like substance and moving out of the body.
- The insoluble fiber content of lentils is beneficial for good digestion, by increasing bulk of the stools, which helps the body with elimination. This could also help to heal or prevent diverticulosis and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Due to their protein and fiber content lentils digest slowly, which prevents an immediate rise in blood sugar levels after consuming them in a meal. This is very helpful for diabetics or anyone who wants to manage their blood sugar.
- Lentils are good for your heart, due to the levels of folate (Vitamin B9) and magnesium. Folate helps to lower homocysteine levels in the blood, which protects the heart. Magnesium is beneficial for blood flow which helps improve oxygen and nutrient level all through the body.
- Lentils help increase our energy by increasing the iron level in our blood. Iron is a vital component of our blood that transports oxygen to the lungs, brain and all the organs and cells of our body.
Lentils are convenient to use, as they don’t need to be pre-soaked, and they take less time to cook than many other legumes. They need to be washed or rinsed well before cooking. Here is an easy cooking guide provided by Lentils.ca. Once lentils are cooked, they go well with a wide variety of spices – making them very versatile. Lentil flour is gluten free, which makes it a good choice for celiacs or people with gluten sensitivity. Lentils can be used in soups, stews, vegetarian loaves, dips, burritos, salads, and even muffins. Here is a recipe for Fish with Spicy Green Lentils and a recipe for Easy Lentil Soup.
Would you like to discover which foods are beneficial for your unique body and lifestyle? Are you interested in knowing more about foods with high nutritional content, to help you increase your energy and avoid degenerative disease? Contact me, and let’s chat!
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