Type of Lentils
Lentils come in several colors: red, yellow, orange, black, green, brown. Shapes: round, oval, heart-shaped. Sizes: as big as a pea or smaller than a pencil eraser. But most of all, they are the lords of versatility in the kingdom of legumes.
As one of the earliest known cultivars, lentils have had a place in man’s diet for at least 8,000 years. They have been a staple in South Asian and Mediterranean cuisines for centuries.
- A one-cup serving of cooked lentils is 230 calories. A whopping twenty-six percent of those calories come from protein.
- They are high in several B vitamins, including folate. This folate, plus high levels of magnesium and soluble fiber, makes them heart-healthy.
- The soluble fiber slows digestion and the conversion of complex carbohydrates to sugar, thus stabilizing blood sugar levels.
- They contain insoluble fiber, which helps lessen the risk of digestive disorders.
- They contain both types of fiber and complex carbs which means that they provide the body with an energy boost.
- The iron in these legumes helps to ensure good oxygen distribution throughout the blood and contributes to a healthy metabolism.
- And, as if all that goodness wasn’t enough, they are nearly fat-free.
Because they are so high in protein, they are a special value to vegetarians and vegans. Even better, combined with rice, they make a complete protein (meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids).
Dried lentils are simple to prepare, and cook faster than other legumes. Because the green and brown varieties hold their shape better during cooking, they are better used for salads, rice dishes and other instances where firmer texture is important.
The consistency of the cooked yellow, red, orange, pink and black variety tends more toward the mushy side, making them ideal for soups, stews, and curries.
As is the general rule when cooking legumes, do not add salt until they are done. Salting the cooking water will make them tough.
So…What do we Do With Them?
Perhaps the most well-known use of lentils is in soups and stews. This recipe for Hearty Vegetarian Soup sounds amazing. Dal, or stewed lentils, is a traditional Indian dish. There are numerous types of dal, one of which is masoor dal. For a good vegan, gluten-free dal, give this recipe for Masoor Dal Tadka a try.
Lentils also make wonderful salads. This chilled Green Lentil Salad with Cucumber and a Cumin & Lemon Vinaigrette combines tastebud-slapping flavors like cilantro, cumin, lemon, paprika, garlic and cucumber into one big bowl of yum. Hot or cold, these are a great non-meat way to add protein to an ordinary green salad.
Lentil sprouts are just like the sprouts of other legumes and make a tasty salad and sandwich toppings.
If you’re looking for a meat substitute at mealtime, you won’t be disappointed. Burgers made with lentils and/or beans are very popular these days, but for something a little different, try these Lentil Sloppy Joes. Missing mom’s old-fashioned meatloaf? Whip up this Meatless Monday “Meat” Loaf made with lentils and mushrooms. Add vegan gravy and smashed potatoes and you’ll think you’re back at Sunday dinner when you were a kid.
This is a mere sampling of the countless ways to create heart-healthy, protein-packed, fiber-rich meals using lentils.