Fiber-Rich, Nutrition-Packed Lentils | Health
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by Lori Zanteson

Lentils have a long-time reputation as "the poor man's meat," and a history of more than 8,500 years of cultivation along with biblical and historical references. They were even prescribed by Hippocrates (ca. 460-370 BC) for the treatment of liver ailments in Ancient Greece. Today, it's at least partly due to their role as a meat substitute that lentils -- while far more ingrained in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines -- are gaining popularity in the U.S. High in protein and nutrients, lentils have entered into a diverse range of nutritious recipes for Meatless Monday and beyond.

Lentils (Lens enscuenta) are in the legume (or pulse) category, along with beans and peas; they grow in pods with one to two lentil seeds. The seeds are round or oval disks and are usually quite small. Classified by size -- either large or small -- they are sold whole or split. There are many varieties -- more than 50 are grown in India alone -- available in a rainbow of earthy hues from red, orange and yellow to black; but brown, green and red are most common in the U.S. because they retain their shape and texture best when cooked. One cup of cooked lentils packs 63 percent of the Daily Value (DV) of dietary fiber, 90 percent DV of folate, and 36 percent DV of protein.

A good source of fiber, lentils have been shown to lower cholesterol and have a positive effect on managing blood-sugar disorders and maintaining a healthy heart. A Canadian study, published in the October 2012 Archives of Internal Medicine, found that for people with type 2 diabetes, eating a daily cup of legumes, such as lentils, as part of a low-glycemic diet improved glycemic control and lowered the risk of coronary heart disease by reducing blood pressure. And since lentils are high in folate, they can be an important diet strategy, in combination with a multivitamin, to reduce the risk of birth defects among women of reproductive age, according to a 2007 study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada.

When purchasing dried lentils, be sure there's no moisture or insect damage and that the lentils are whole, not broken. Store them up to a year in a sealed container in a cool, dark place. Always clear away debris as you rinse lentils and check cooking time for different colored varieties. Canned lentils (choose those with no salt) are also available for quick-cooking convenience. Enjoy lentils in salads with chopped vegetables and lemon vinaigrette, to thicken soups and stews, or in a spicy ethnic dish such as an Indian dahl -- a lentil stew.

Notable Nutrients

Lentils 1 cup, cooked

Calories: 230

Dietary fiber: 16 g (63 percent DV)

Protein: 18 g (36 percent DV)

Thiamin: 0.3 mg (22 percent DV)

Vitamin B6: 0.4 micrograms (90 percent DV)

Iron: 6.6 mg (37 percent DV)

Phosphorus: 356 mg (36 percent DV)

Potassium: 731 mg (21 percent DV)

Manganese: 1 mg (49 percent DV)

Zinc: 2.5 mg (17 percent DV)

DV=Daily Value

 

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Article: Copyright © 2013, Tribune Media Services.

"Fiber-Rich, Nutrition-Packed Lentils"

 

 

 

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