Lentils- The Versatile, Affordable & Nutritious Legume

Lentils- The Versatile, Affordable & Nutritious Legume

Bev Dunne

Recently I promised to share with you some of my favourite winter warming recipes. These are recipes I have cooked for many years. With the cooler weather arriving, I’m thinking it is time to cook up some tasty, nutritious, and very affordable dishes. 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 or nonvegetarian 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 Southeast 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.


Recently in my column, I shared a nut loaf recipe which included in its ingredients, savoury yeast flakes. We had lots of customers enquiring about these flakes, intrigued as to what exactly savoury yeast flakes sometimes known as nutritional yeast, were.

This particular yeast is the deactivated form of a strain of yeast known as Saccaromyces cerevisiae. Although this yeast is the same species as brewers and bakers’ yeast because it is deactivated it is unable to ferment. The flakes are a lovely yellow colour and are great to sprinkle over pasta, veggies, or rice. They have a nutty cheesy flavour and can really lift the flavour of a dish.

Savoury Yeast Flakes have become very popular particularly with vegetarians, vegans, and those suffering from dairy intolerances as these flakes have quite a cheesy taste. Not only do they have a lovely cheesy savoury flavour, but they are also extremely nutritious. Savoury yeast flakes are high in Vitamins B12, folic acid (B9), pyridoxine (B6), niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2) and thiamine (B1) which help our bodies stimulate our energy reserves. It is a complete protein containing approximately 8-10g per 2 tablespoons, plus minerals such as magnesium, copper, and manganese.