Tasty lentils contain fiber, protein, vitamins
If you’re looking to eat healthier, lentils — whether black, brown, yellow, green or red — should be among the top foods in your meal plan. Fortunately, learning how to cook lentils isn’t too complicated.
Lentils have nutritional benefits to cover all of your bases:
Lentils are rich in fiber: One of the biggest benefits of legumes like lentils is their high levels of fiber, which most people don’t get enough of in their diets.
“Lentils are a complex carbohydrate that are super high in fiber, especially soluble fiber,” said Jennifer Hanway, a nutritionist and certified personal trainer. “Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance that moves through the GI system and can help remove some substances related to high cholesterol.”
For example, brown lentils can provide nearly a day’s worth of fiber (26 grams) in just a single half-cup serving, according to Hanway.
Lentils can help regulate blood sugar: The fiber in lentils can do more than help with digestion. “The soluble fiber in lentils can help balance blood sugar by slowing the glucose release into the bloodstream and preventing spikes in insulin,” Hanway said. That’s one of the big benefits of lentils for people with diabetes, as it helps keep blood sugar levels on an even keel.
Lentils are a good source of protein: Lentils pack in more than 20 grams of protein per half-cup serving — about the same amount as 4 ounces of salmon. That makes them a perfect addition to any meatless meal.
Lentils have plenty of vitamins and minerals: One of the health benefits of lentils is that they’re like a very tasty multivitamin: you can get calcium, potassium, zinc and iron by eating them, along with plenty of B vitamins.
Here are ways to enjoy more lentils (and their many benefits):
1. Swap your starches for lentils.
“I might replace starchy carbs — like rice or pasta or potato — with lentils,” Hanway said. “You still get the complex carbs, but a ton more fiber and protein.”
Alternatively, consider getting the best of both worlds by enjoying the many health benefits of red lentil pasta or other lentil-based pastas.
2. Get colorful with your lentils.
Each type of lentil has a slightly different protein, fiber and vitamin profile, so to get the full benefits of eating lentils, mix it up a little.
For instance, black lentils are packed with potent antioxidants. “Black lentils are full of anthocyanin, an antioxidant usually found in purple and blue foods, such as berries and red cabbage,” Hanway said.
Also, lentils have different textures — yellow and red lentils are more likely to break down and are great for soups, while black lentils hold their shape and are great for lentil burgers.
3. Don’t overcook them.
Hanway recommends turning off the stove a few minutes early when you’re making lentils. “You don’t want to boil them within an inch of their life,” she said. “Cook two or three minutes less than you think, turn the heat off, leave the lid on, and let steam help cook them through.”
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Lisa’s Monastery Stew (Lentil Soup)
Serves 12 (freezes well)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 carrots, sliced
- 3 onions, chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 2 28-oz cans tomatoes
- 2 cups dried brown or green lentils
- 6 chicken bouillon cubes
- 6 cups water Garlic powder, to taste
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ½ cup sherry or cooking sherry
- Swiss cheese for topping (optional)
- Sauté carrots and onions in oil until tender. Add dried herbs and sauté briefly.
- Chop up the canned tomatoes slightly, retaining juice, and add to pot. Add other ingredients except parsley and sherry.
- Bring to a boil and simmer covered for at least 90 minutes, adding the parsley and sherry about 20 minutes before serving.
- Top with grated Swiss cheese before serving, if you like.
- Leftovers can be frozen in individual or multiple portions.
— Courtesy of the Beacon’s president