Oooh those lently legumes of lovely. They come in many shapes, colours, and sizes and have been an important feature of cuisines around the globe for 8000 years where they form a nutritious base for curries, soups and stews. Modest and humble, they’ve often been overlooked and underappreciated. However, current research suggests that lentils could play an important role in a healthy, sustainable diet.
Lentils, so what?
Lentils are legumes, sometimes referred to as pulses. Often bought dried and split, they have the advantage over many legumes that they don’t require long soaking or cooking to make them safe and palatable to eat. They can be cooked within 20 minutes or bought tinned without compromising nutritional value. Naturally gluten-free, they are a viable alternative to meat in a varied vegetarian or vegan diet.
All lentils are high in fibre and protein whilst low in fat, but research shows that lentils have much more to offer. They contain useful quantities of B vitamins, minerals including iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc as well as phytochemicals which have an anti-oxidant effect in the body. The combination of nutrients has the potential to help maintain a healthy heart, blood sugar balance, weight management and overall wellbeing.
Fill up with fibre
Many people fail to reach the recommended level of fibre in the diet. Insoluble fibre can help to relieve symptoms of constipation and can prevent digestive conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Diverticulitis. Lentils also contain soluble fibres which have been found in studies to help manage blood glucose whilst creating feelings of fullness which are valuable for those seeking to lose weight. Low glycaemic index foods such as lentils can improve fasting glucose and insulin levels to help in the management of Type 2 diabetes and the prebiotic carbohydrates in lentils can also support gut health.
Whole lentils have been shown in research to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, which can be explained by the combined action of protein, resistant starch and micro-nutrients. Several large-scale studies have shown that increased fibre intake in men and women can help in the management of blood pressure and heart health. Lentils are a particularly good source of folate (Vitamin B9) which is essential for pregnant women and their developing babies and helps to manage the damaging effects of homocysteine in arteries.
Get great energy
Lentils are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, particularly iron which is a key factor in energy production and metabolism. Pregnant or menstruating women, children and adolescents may have increased energy needs. Lentils are a great option for this, as they’re lower in fat and calories and much cheaper than red meat sources.
Lentils are filling, nutritious, quick, cheap and easy to prepare. Whether it’s vegetarian dishes that you’re preparing, or want to add them with meats, this nutritious food is sure to liven up your dishes.