Health Benefits of Lentils
Lentils, lens culinaris or dhal are lens-shaped seeds that grow in pods and are dried after harvesting. A pod normally contains 1 to 2 seeds. There are 3 types of lentils and they are large seeded, medium seeded and small seeds. The size of the lentil seeds vary from 0.5 cm to 5.5mm. There are several varieties of lentil beans and they come in a few colors. They are red lentils, green lentils, black lentils and brown lentils.
The most famous green lentils and considered the best are the French lentils or Puy lentils which are grown on the mountain plateau around the French town of Le Puy en Velay. Puy lentils are dark green color with blue marbling, have unique peppery flavor and retain their shape with cooking. Indian lentils are mostly red and when the skins are removed, the seeds are reddish orange in color. The most common brown lentils are the pardina lentils or Spanish lentils. And beluga lentils are the black color lentils.
One of the benefits of lentils lies in its high protein content. 1 cup of raw lentils provides 49.54g of protein. Lentils are one of the best and inexpensive sources of protein next to soybeans. 1 cup of raw soybeans provides 67.87g of protein. The benefits of lentils as a source of protein also include zero cholesterol and a very small amount of fat. Eating lentils is beneficial especially if you don't eat meat, chicken or eggs.
The National Cancer Institute's recommends consuming 35 grams of dietary fiber in a person's diet per day. A cup of uncooked lentils will provide 58.6g of soluble fiber. So, the benefits of lentils include reducing bad cholesterol level, stabilizing blood sugar levels and speeding up bile acid secretion.
Because of the high fiber content, another one of the benefits of lentils include promoting weight loss. Studies have shown that when a person eats high fiber foods such as lentil soup, she will feel full faster and it will last longer. The tendency to eat more helpings and to eat more often is reduced. And eating breakfast with high protein and high fiber contents is one of the best ways to manage weight.
Lentils contain high amounts of potassium, phosphorus and folate. Lentil seeds also contain considerable amounts of selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C and beta carotene.
Beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C and selenium are antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the cells from the damage caused by free radicals or unstable molecules made by the process of oxidation during metabolism. This means, the benefits of lentils include reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease and cancer.
Adding potassium in your diet by eating lentils helps in building muscles and normal body growth. It also assists in regulating blood pressure, water content, digestion, muscle contraction and transmission of nerve impulses. Phosphorus is beneficial for healthy bones and teeth and in the utilization of carbohydrates, fats and protein for proper growth, maintenance and repair of cells and tissues.
There are many other valuable nutrients which all add up to the benefits of lentils. You can check out the nutritional value of lentils in the chart below. This is based on a 100g of raw or dried lentils and the data is obtained from the USDA National Nutrient Database website.
|Total lipid (fat)||2.04g|
As you can see from the lentils nutrition chart above, a cup of lentils provides about 678 calories. You will get approximately 42 calories from a tablespoon and 353 calories from a 100g of lentils.
Dried lentils are sold whole with the skin intact, grounded and in powder form, or split with the skin removed such as the split red lentils which are common in many South East Asian countries. You can also buy canned lentils with onion, bay leaf and other vegetables.
You don't have to presoak the lentils before cooking. It takes about 20 minutes to cook. And you can make soups, stews, curry and eat with grains such as brown rice.