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Food of the month - Lentils

January 2015

A new year - and that often means we rethink our lifestyle and make decisions to be fitter, healthier, drink less, eat better and altogether improve ourselves!

One easy way to step up a level is to include lentils in your diet. They are already often a key staple in vegetarian diets; but for the rest of us they are also equally good. Low in calories and high in nutrition, lentils are perfect for a big range of dishes.

Lentils, which come from a bushy plant, were one of the first crops domesticated in the near east and archeological evidence shows they were eaten around 10,000 years ago or even earlier.

They are classed as an edible pulse, and come in a range of colours from yellow to reddy orange to green brown, white and black. Brown are generally the most common and the least expensive, while French green lentils, called Puy lentils, can be some of the most expensive around. They are sold in different forms, sometimes split into halves.

Previous Health Foods of the Month...

Cranberries

Pork

Pheasant


 

Diet & Supplements Index

Waitrose Recipes

Lentils have an exceptionally high level of protein, about a third of the calories they supply are from proteins which include certain essential amino acids.

They also contain folate and magnesium, both of which play a part in keeping a heart healthy. Folate lowers homocysteine levels, which can be a risk factor for heart disease; while magnesium can help to improve blood flow, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

Lentils also contain potassium and some vitamin Bs. Different colours have slightly different levels of certain aspects, for instance green lentils are higher in fibre than red lentils. But that said, all lentils are a good source of fibre. This includes soluble fibre which can help reduce blood cholesterol and also insoluble fibre which can help digestive health. Lentils are also a very good source of iron; a one cup serving can provide over half of a person’s daily iron allowance.

Despite all these nutrients, one cup of cooked lentils will only contain around 230 calories.

Sometimes there is concern about using lentils because of confusion about whether they need to be soaked first to make them “safe”. Lentils do not need to be pre-soaked also some people like to leave them in cold water for maybe 15 minutes or so to reduce cooking time and also to improve digestibility.

Lentils are also easy to keep; simply store them in a cool, dark place – you don’t need to keep them in a refrigerator – and they will keep for up to a year.

There are so many great recipes available now using lentils that really there is no reason why most of us don’t include them as a staple part of our normal diets.

 

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