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What are lentils? Are they healthy?

Lentils are a staple of many diets. They are one of humankind’s earliest foods. Evidence of lentil-eating has been discovered in archaeological sites in the Middle East over eight thousand years old. To this day, Middle Eastern and Central Asian cooking includes lentils in many of its dishes. Lentils have also been a staple of Lent diets in Catholic countries. If one walks into a health food market today, one can find over 20 varieties of lentils.

There are split versions (for ease of cooking), miniature sizes no bigger than a pencil eraser, and a veritable rainbow of colors from which to choose. There are many different lentils colors, including red and green lentils. There is not much difference in taste; however, they all taste the same, just some variations are easier to cook with. There is a good reason for this abundance of lentils found in health food stores as there are so many health benefits of lentils which we will examine further.

orange lentils in a bowl and table

The nutritional content of lentils

There are multiple health benefits of lentils to be gained if eaten in moderation. According to Purdue University, lentils contain an astronomical 4 grams of fiber per 100-gram serving, or 8 grams per 200-gram serving. To put that in perspective, New York University’s Langone Medical Center listed the fiber count of many fruits, vegetables, legumes, and cereals. Only all-bran cereal has the equivalent number of grams of fiber per serving.

High-fiber foods have long been known to help prevent two kinds of heart disease: coronary and cardiovascular. Lentils are also a good source of vitamins and minerals. In particular, lentils offer high amounts of folate and magnesium. Folate helps one’s metabolism, while magnesium aids in blood flow and oxygenation. Lentils also provide a wide variety of B vitamins, Potassium and Zinc. One would be hard-pressed to find a healthier nutritional source than lentils, weighing in at about 230 calories per cooked cup and no fat. Moderation is key here because lentils can pose a danger to your health if you eat them too often, so keep that in mind.

How can lentils be dangerous to my health?

There are, however, dangers to overindulgence of lentils as well. The nutrition lentils offer limited. The biggest problem with eating too many lentils has to do with the fact that they are high in purines. When broken down, purines become uric acid. High levels of uric acid in the body can lead to gout and the formation of kidney stones. The gout symptoms include swelling and tenderness of joints (usually a big toe) and red or purple skin or rash around the affected joint. Kidney stones can cause severe back and side pain, nausea, pain upon urination, persistent urination urge, and fever. Both of these diseases require treatment by a doctor or hospital.

Lentils are also not a good source of nutrition for anyone suffering from IBS or other bowel or stomach problems. Because they are so high in fiber, lentils put a strain on the digestive tract in the effort to break the food down into nutrients that are easily absorbed. Over-eating lentils in digestive tract sufferers can lead to abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and problems associated with gas.

That being said, lentils are, overall, one of the healthiest foods to eat in moderation. A diet that includes lentils as part of its legume requirements will be more likely to produce high and consistent energy levels and efficient cardiovascular systems. Just don’t overdo it!

Lentils are a very versatile ingredient to add to a variety of recipes. They are easy to add to any vegetarian recipe, and lentil soup is delicious. Let us know your choice for the best lentils would be. What color or type do you like best? I enjoy the brown lentils because they seem to cook faster for me, but red lentils make for a beautiful presentation in any number of recipes, so it’s hard to pick my absolute favorite type of lentils.

Lentil recipes include:

  • Lentil soup or lentil stew
  • Indian dhal dishes
  • Lentil fritters
  • Lentil salad
  • Lentil curry
  • Pasta dishes with lentils
  • Lentil spreads
  • Lentil pie
  • Lentil casserole
  • Lentil puree

and much more

Why do lentils foam when cooked?

Lentils contain saponins that produce a soap-like foam even when rinsed with water. When cooking, this property increases a little more. To prevent the foam from overflowing the rim of the pot, the pot should be large enough. If you are bothered by the foam, you can skim it off with a slotted spoon or add a little vinegar or oil while cooking. Vinegar and oil reduce the formation of foam a little.

lentils paralysis

Legumes are generally known to cause flatulence due to the abundant fiber. Lentils are no exception, and so there is an appropriate saying for them as well:

To prevent this, you can reduce flatulence by adding a few spices and herbs. A pinch of caraway in the cooking water can help coriander and be savory. However, it should be said that flatulence is nothing seriously pathological. They are only a sign that the abundant fiber has vigorously activated our intestinal bacteria, which now produce gases that want to escape loudly.

By the way, if you eat a lot of fiber-rich foods regularly, your intestines get used to it and stop making so much noise. So farting after eating pulses can also signify that you are not eating enough fiber.

Lentils contain an incredible amount of healthy protein and are especially popular with vegetarians and vegans. However, lentils are also famous among omnivores because of their high protein content.

In addition, lentils are an excellent source of phosphorus, iron, zinc, and vitamin K.

red lentils in a bowl

Unpeeled lentils are also full of valuable dietary fiber, which ensures that we can regularly do our “daily business” on the toilet without any problems.

Right after soybeans, lentils are among the vegetables with the most phytoestrogens. Numerous studies have shown that balanced estrogen levels can prevent various hormone-related cancers such as breast cancer or prostate cancer. Menopausal symptoms are also usually less severe if a balanced diet contains estrogen deficiency as far as possible.

Thanks to the saponins in legumes, lentils can also protect against infections and reduce high cholesterol levels. In studies, saponins have also been shown to inhibit the growth of tumors. Consequently, those who consume plenty of saponins in their diet can also protect themselves preventively against colon cancer. I found a fascinating article about saponins on the website of the Max Rubner Institute.

Colorful lentil varieties and their uses

Lentils all share the exact origin, but they differ in color, size, flavor, and bite depending on the variety. As with potatoes, there are firm-cooking and floury-cooking lentil varieties. However, lentils are not all the same.

Below you will find some lentil varieties and their use:

Brown lentils (floury)

Brown lentils are relatively large lentils that become floury when cooked. They are therefore excellent for stews and soups. But they can also add a hearty touch to stir-fries, spreads, or casseroles.

Green lentils (firm cooking)

Green lentils are relatively small and remain quite crunchy when cooked. They are therefore great for salads or as a vegetable garnish. However, you can also let the green lentils germinate and eat the crispy fresh sprouts in your salad.

Red lentils (floury)

Red lentils are nothing more than peeled brown lentils. Because they do not contain as much fiber due to the missing shell, there are usually fewer problems with flatulence, which can otherwise occur with the unaccustomed consumption of legumes. Because of the absent shell, red lentils are cooked in no time. However, they break down even more quickly than brown lentils and dissolve into mush in no time at all. Nothing of the pretty red color remains on the plate after cooking. When cooked, the red color turns yellow. However, red lentils are excellent for soups, stews, or purees.

red lentils

Yellow lentils (floury)

Similar to red lentils, yellow lentils are also already peeled lentils. Therefore, they also disintegrate very quickly during cooking. Thus, yellow lentils are often used in Indian cuisine. Otherwise, yellow lentils can be used similarly to red lentils. Also, red and yellow lentils are similar due to the lack of shell in terms of digestibility.

Vertes Du Puy lentils (firm cooking)

Slate-gray, slightly speckled Puy lentils have an exciting peppery flavor. Their price is also quite peppery compared to other lentils, so you’re more likely to use these lentils only on special occasions. Still, it’s worth giving this distinctly aromatic delicacy a try. Vertes du Puy lentils are usually somewhat smaller and rounder than other lentils. In addition to their slightly peppery flavor, du Puy lentils also have a subtle nutty taste. After cooking, this noble lentil variety remains relatively firm to the bite, so they can also be used to make delicious lentil salads or vegetable side dishes.

Champagne lentils (firm cooking)

Champagne lentils are – as the name suggests – a specialty from France. These are very small, red-brown lentils that taste very aromatic. Like Puy lentils, Champagne lentils are also firm in cooking. These lentils are very popular among gourmets. They remain crunchy when cooked and absorb the flavor of spices and herbs very well.

Beluga lentils (firm cooking)

The small Beluga lentils are considered the caviar among lentils. They are black and taste particularly spicy. Beluga lentils are suitable as a vegetable garnish or an ingredient in rice dishes. Beluga lentils also taste fantastic when prepared as a salad.

Beluga lentils

Mountain lentils (firm cooking)

Mountain lentils also belong to relatively small lentil varieties. They are red-brown and remain somewhat crunchy after cooking. The processing is similar to that of brown lentils. However, the mountain lentils have a more intense flavor.

 Alb-Leisa / Alb lentils (firm-cooking)

Alb lentils are small, green, marbled lentils grown and harvested in the Swabian Alb. Alb lentils remain pithy when cooked and have an aromatic, spicy, distinctly nutty flavor. Especially a lentil salad tastes quite excellent with this lentil variety.

Tip for the vegetarian diet: In combination with other protein foods, lentils form a full-value meat substitute. These include other legumes, such as chickpeas or beans. But also, protein-rich nuts, seeds, or dairy products help meet the protein requirement.

Conclusion: Lentils – the new old superfood with an intense flavor: Whether in soups, salads, or side dishes, lentils are healthy and have good nutritional values. Depending on the variety and the form of presentation, lentils contain varying amounts of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. Common to all types is the high proportion of fiber and protein. The ingredients can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, or diabetes.

General well-being, such as immune strength, balanced blood sugar levels, and healthy body weight, also benefits from adding lentils to the menu. The popularity of lentils is nothing new, and there are numerous recipes for them: classic dishes or stews with the popular legumes prove this. Lentils thus deserve to be called the “new old superfood.”

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