Lentils - The Versatile, Affordable & Nutritious Legume

Lentils - The Versatile, Affordable & Nutritious Legume

Bev Dunne

Last week I wrote about the benefits of good gut health, and the importance of a wholesome diet to help maintain our gut health. With the cooler weather arriving, I’m thinking it is time to get the soup pot out and cook up some tasty, wholesome soups.  I find one of the most sustaining and nutritious ingredients in a good soup is lentils. Lentils are one of those wonderfully versatile legumes which can be used in many ways when cooking vegetarian food.  They are an inexpensive and highly nutritious food source and can be used in soups, stews, curries, burgers, vegie loaves and even sprouted.  Lentils are frequently combined with rice, particularly in Middle Eastern and South East Asian cooking.

Lentils can also be sprouted and included in salads. When sprouting lentils, I would suggest using brown lentils (sometimes known as green lentils).  Soak the lentils for 12 hours in a jar or sprouter, rinse and drain then rinse every 24 hours.

Lentils are a tremendous meat alternative because they contain over 25% protein as well as providing a slow-burning carbohydrate. In addition, lentils are one of the best plant based sources of iron.  This of course makes them an important part of any vegetarian diet.  They are high in B vitamins, particularly Vitamin B1 plus potassium, zinc and magnesium.

Just as importantly, because they are high in fibre, they support regular bowel movements. Lentils may also assist in the growth of healthy gut bacteria and can help overall gut function. It is also believed lentils may help promote good heart health by maintaining good cholesterol and blood pressure.   Because they are a good source of polyphenols they also contain antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties. These polyphenols contained in lentils are also thought to be of benefit in helping blood sugar levels. 

So, all in all there are many good reasons why we should include lentils in our diet.   Plus, they are very economical. 

There are many different types of lentils however the most commonly known lentils are the brown (green) and red lentils. Blue lentils also known as French lentils or Puy lentils have also become popular of late. These lentils are a small green/blue colour which do not need soaking before use.   Red lentils will cook quickly and become quite mushy if overcooked.  Brown lentils take about 20 to 30 minutes to cook and in contrast to the red lentils, will hold their shape well.

Below are some of my favourite lentil recipes which I have cooked for many years.