Love em’ or hate em’, lentils deserve a bit more street cred. Why? Because they’re packed with nutritional benefits and are cheap as – well, lentils - to buy.
They come in a rainbow of colours and are super-quick to cook up. If nothing else this autumn, learn to love your lentils.
Lentils originally come from central Asia and have fed humans for more than 8000 years. Never hugely popular with the wealthy, they were widely considered the “poor man’s meat”.
However, their health benefits have long been recognized: Hippocrates was one of the first physicians to prescribe them to his patients for liver ailments.
They may not be what your grandmother regularly served up, but thankfully we British are increasingly enamoured of the humble lentil. They’re now commonly found in supermarkets; and you really don’t have to be vegetarian to eat them!
Lentils are a true superfood. They contain high levels of folate, iron and manganese as well as anti-carcinogenic phytochemicals. They also contain B1, B5, zinc and selenium which all help boost the immune system – ideal during cold and flu season.
They have a low glycemic index, meaning they take longer to break down which helps to mop up undesirable animal fats and trans-fats. Lentils have also been shown to make a dramatic effect on lowering blood pressure.
Great for dieters, lentils are one per cent fat and 44 per cent insoluble fibre. The high levels of soluble and insoluble fibre helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, eliminate blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. It also means lentils take longer to chew and make you feel fuller for longer.
Each one-half-cup cooked portion contains 115 calories, 8 grams of fibre and 9 grams of protein, which helps to build lean muscle tissue. They are, however, an incomplete protein. Combine them with nuts, seeds, grains or rice to get the full spectrum of benefits.
Bite for bite, lentils are among the most nutritious foods around yet cost just pennies. With more people having to cut down on grocery bills, lentils are a great addition to your shopping basket.
You can also sprout them to create your own salads or add to sandwiches and pittas. Sprouting also increases their amino acids and improves digestion so you’ll increase the benefits even more.
Lentils are also gluten-free, making them a great choice for those with gluten-intolerance. Anyone can eat lentils!
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