Lentils. What are lentils? I can’t tell you how many people I encounter that have never had these amazing little legumes. Unlike beans, they grow in pods that contain one or two of the lentil bean inside. For example, green peas are technically a type of lentil. And of course, they are sold either whole or split. Having grown up in an Indian household, I was raised to appreciate and love the flavor of lentils. They are ubiquitous with Indian cuisine and also pervasive in French cuisine. Not only are these little morsels super tasty and easy to cook, but they offer a plethora of health benefits. Read on to learn more about the countless health benefits of lentils…
Health Benefits of Lentils
- A Super Source of Plant-Based Protein – 26% of lentil’s calories are attributed to protein, making these little legumes a powerhouse of protein for any vegetarian or vegan. And even better, they are an amazing source of iron, a key mineral that many vegetarians and vegans search to replace in their meat-free diet. “Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism.” Iron stores from lentils are truly amazing, because unlike their animal-based counterparts, lentils offer tons of iron without a ton of fat. Creating a meal around our Lentil & Bean Meatloaf is a great way to ensure you get your daily source of protein, without the added fat!
- Full of Fiber – In the classic American diet, there is a remarkable void of fiber. Most Americans opt for foods without fiber, like steaks, cheeseburgers, accompanied with baked potatoes or fries. Women under the age of 50 should consume 25g of fiber a day, while men should consume 38g of fiber a day. But if you don’t plan for it, you won’t get it! If you are looking to monitor your fiber more closely, register for our site and Go Pro! Our Pro Membership provides additional information on fiber, sodium and potassium levels in addition to the standard macronutrient tracking. High fiber foods include oatmeal, leafy greens, nuts and seeds. But lentils are offer the highest amount of lentils per cup! While a cup of spinach offers only 4g of fiber, a cup of split peas offers 16.3g of fiber. And what does fiber do for you? “Insoluble dietary fiber found in lentils helps prevent constipation and other digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.” Let’s all stay regular, shall we?
- Lowers Cholesterol & Cardio Protective – Possibly one of the biggest health benefits, lentils can help our heart health everyday. First and foremost, lentils help lower cholesterol, specifically LDL cholesterol or bad cholesterol. Lower cholesterol means cleaner arteries, thereby lowering our risk for heart attack and stroke. Secondly, lentils are a great source of folate and magnesium, which have been shown to improve blood flow through the arteries and thereby benefiting the heart. And that folate helps to decrease your homocysteine levels which can be toxic to heart health. Treat yourself to a unique dish for lunch with our Savory Indian-spiced Lentil and Rice Waffle, and keep your heart healthy!
- Stabilizes Blood Sugar – Lentils are a great option for those suffering from diabetes or insulin resistance because they are known to stabilize blood sugar. How does this work? That high percentage of soluble fiber is known to trap carbohydrates, slowing down digesting and minimizing spikes in blood sugar, and therefore insulin. If you have diabetes and are looking to lower your A1C at your next appointment, increase your intake of lentils and you will see a difference!
- Promotes Weight Loss – Who doesn’t want a little weight loss?! Despite all of the good stuff you can find in lentils – high fiber and high protein – there are also very few calories. In fact, one cup is only about 230 calories, which means you can get full, stay full, and require much less energy to burn that portion of carbohydrates. Keep in mind, choose a lentil side dish like our Southwest Lentil Salad, instead of french fries or a loaded baked potato, and you also are choosing a dish that is much lower in fat!