Lentils are Loaded with Nutrition
Soups, stews, casseroles and chilis really hit the spot on a cold day.
You can keep these hearty dishes healthy by including lots of vegetables along with lentils.
The super little lentil
Lentils are a “super food” – nutrient-dense and full of protein, fiber, and micronutrients. They can help you boost your nutrition and improve your health in a delicious way, plus they are budget friendly.
Lentils come in a range of colors and sizes. Brown, green and red lentils are the most common, but lentils can also be black, orange and yellow.
They don’t require pre-soaking the way beans and other legumes do, so most types take only around 15 minutes to cook on the stovetop.
Lentils are the basis for many dishes around the world from Indian dal to Moroccan harira (lentil soup) to French lentil salad.
Their versatility and significant protein content make them a popular choice for vegetarian dishes, and they lend themselves to a wide variety of recipes – check out ours below.
Packing a nutritional punch
At just 230 calories for one cup, lentils pack a nutritional punch while filling you up. They are an excellent source of many nutrients, including dietary fiber, lean protein, iron, and folate.
- A cup of cooked lentils contains 16 grams of fiber, more than half of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended daily allowance (RDA).
- Studies say a diet rich in fiber may decrease your risk of stomach, colon, breast and throat cancers.
- Fiber helps you feel full, which can help you maintain a healthy weight.
- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) advises eating fiber-rich foods like lentils to help prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol.
- A cup of cooked lentils provides 18 grams of protein with less than 1 gram of fat and no cholesterol.
- Because of their nutritional value, legumes such as lentils have been called a better protein choice than beef, poultry or fish with their higher amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Since lentils do not contain all of the amino acids needed for your body to process proteins, it's advised you include brown rice or another whole grain in your daily intake to provide your body with the building blocks to make a complete protein; the lentils and grain do not need to be eaten in the same meal.
- Lentils are a good source of iron with approximately 7 milligrams in a one-cup serving.
- Women up to age 50 need 18 milligrams of iron per day, while older women and men need 8 milligrams per day.
- Pregnant women and growing children and teens need even more.
- Your body doesn’t absorb iron from lentils as well as it does from meat sources, so it's recommended that you eat your lentils along with a food rich in vitamin C, such as peppers, dark greens, tomatoes or citrus, to improve absorption.
- Each cup of cooked lentils contains 358 micrograms of folate – more than almost any other food! One cup of lentils provides nearly your entire 400 microgram RDA of folate.
- Adequate folate helps protect against certain cancers, vascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and age-related hearing loss, according to Harvard Women’s Health Watch.
- Folate is especially important for pregnant women because it lessens the risk of certain birth defects.
These powerful nutrients in lentils offer many health benefits, including the prevention of or help in managing chronic illness, including heart disease and diabetes.
The fiber in lentils helps stabilize blood sugar levels while giving you sustained energy.
Fiber is particularly important to people with diabetes, insulin resistance, or hypoglycemia because their bodies have trouble maintaining normal blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that adding one cup of lentils or other legumes to the diets of people with diabetes improved their blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels and lowered their blood pressure.
Try one of our tasty lentil recipes, below, to incorporate these little legumes into your diet and reap the nutrition and health rewards they offer.
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