Red lentils are one of the most versatile pulses out there. But why are they not getting enough attention?
Lentils, also known by their Latin name of Lens culinaris are a part of the legume family, and they are considered a pulse. A pulse is the dried edible seed of a plant one of the oldest pulses known (Pulse Canada). Out of the 11 pulses recognized, here in Canada we primarily grow 4: lentils, beans, chickpeas, and dry peas (Pulse Canada). They were one of the earliest crops to be domesticated, and they draw their origin from Western and Central Asia (Shyam et al. 2007).
Pulses contain almost no fat, and for this reason peanuts and soybeans are not pulses (What is a pulse?)
Pulses come in many shapes, and can be whole, split, or ground up into flour. Red lentils are split therefore they are quick to cook and can be used in a variety of dishes. An example would be dahl, which red lentils make a beautiful addition to.
Good for us… and The Environment!
Along with being high in protein and low in fat, red lentils are one of the best sources of fiber. Lentils contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which both provide different benefits to our body. Insoluble fiber is not absorbed by the body, and hence provides bulk to our food – improving digestion and gastric motility. While soluble fiber is soluble in water and it is absorbed in our intestine. Soluble fiber particles attach to cholesterol particles and help to clear them out of our body.
According to Pulse Canada, pulses are even healthy for our food system and the environment. Pulses are nitrogen fixing crops, which means they can convert nitrogen in the atmosphere to ammonia, which is easily metabolized by plants (Pulse Canada).
Red Lentils – Health Superheroes!
A plant-based diet has been shown to improve indigestion, lower cholesterol, and even lower inflammation. Eating more plants is not only good for you, but helps protect from chronic diseases, mainly cardiovascular diseases.??
Red lentils are a rich plant-based source of protein and fiber. It is recommended to reach 25-30g of fiber per day and 1g/k/d of protein. Incorporating red lentils to your diet can help you easily meet your fiber and protein needs.
Red lentils also contain a significant amount of folate, which is a superhero involved in cell division. If someone eating plant-based does not get enough folate, it can affect the way DNA is made in our body. This error means that cells cannot properly divide into their mature form. Inadequate folate has even been implicated in developing certain types of cancer! Since folate is so strongly involved in DNA synthesis, not getting enough folate can cause the DNA strands to break and become unstable (Bailey & Gregory, 1999).
Top 5 Health Benefits of Red Lentils:
- Lower Cholesterol
Soluble fiber found in red lentils binds to “bad” cholesterol and helps our body excrete it through bile acids. This helps to lower our cholesterol, which helps keep our heart healthy by reducing the risk for Atherosclerotic plaque. (That’s the plaque that builds up in your arteries and raises your blood pressure!)
- Important for Red Blood Cells
Red lentils contain a significant amount of folate. Folate is a B Vitamin which helps to form red blood cells in our blood! When folate deficiency occurs, it can cause Megaloblastic anemia, which means the precursors to red blood cells: Megaloblasts fail to divide into red blood cells because of the lack of folate (Bailey & Gregory, 1999).
- Improve Digestion
The insoluble fiber found in red lentils passes through our digestive system without being absorbed and provides bulk. This increases gastric motility, which means the rate at which we digest increases. Red lentils can make you more regular!
- Improve blood sugar control
Since red lentils are so high in fiber, they help to improve blood sugar control. Since Fiber is not digested, it is not absorbed by our body and hence does not raise blood sugar levels. To be more specific, soluble fiber is even better to prevent the spiking of blood sugar because it is absorbed by the body. A study by Fujii et al. proved that increasing fiber in one’s diet helped patients with glycemic control and even lowered cardiovascular disease risks!
- Eliminates fatigue
Low iron levels cause fatigue which prevents a person from doing daily activities with the same energy. Iron is essential for forming hemoglobin, which is involved in the transport of oxygen throughout our body (Barhum, 2019). Due to red lentils being so high in iron, incorporating lentils in a plant-based diet along with other pulses and legumes can help maintain proper iron levels, which is especially important for females in their reproductive years.
The following nutrient profile is for ¼ cup of red lentils.
Folate: 90% of our daily value
Thiamin: 22% of our daily value
Phosphorus: 36% of our daily value
Iron: 3.6 mg
WOW! A serving of red lentils comprises 45% of a male’s daily value of iron and 20% of a female’s daily value of iron.
Carbohydrates: 30 g
Protein: 13 g
Fat: 0.5 g
Fiber: 15 g
3 Easy Recipes for Red Lentils:
Red lentils are truly the most versatile pulse, and can be incorporated into anything!
Since we love red lentils so much here at Good Food For Good, here are the top recipes for red lentils – a special shout out to our readers!
Our favourite way to cook red lentils is in this hearty dish called Masala Dal. It is oh so filling and uses our Tikka Masala sauce which takes out the hassle of making a masala yourself.
If you’re looking more for a Mexican inspired dish, these refried lentils by The Minimalist Baker go great with tacos or even enchiladas. Add our Good Food For Good Taco sauce for an extra spicy kick!
Finally, this red lentil and potato soup by Easy Vegan Meal Prep would be oh so hearty on a cold day!
- Bailey, L. B., & Gregory, J. F., III. (1999). Folate Metabolism and Requirements. The Journal of Nutrition, 129(4), 779-782. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/129.4.779. doi:10.1093/jn/129.4.779
- Barhum, L. (2019, May 04). The Health Benefits of Iron. Retrieved May 10, 2019, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/iron-supplements-benefits-4178814
- Fujii, H., Iwase, M., Ohkuma, T., Ogata-Kaizu, S., Ide, H., Kikuchi, Y., . . . Kitazono, T. (2013). Impact of dietary fiber intake on glycemic control, cardiovascular risk factors and chronic kidney disease in Japanese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: the Fukuoka Diabetes Registry. Nutrition Journal, 12(1), 159. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-12-159. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-159
- Shyam S. Yadav, David McNeil, Philip C. Stevenson (Editors) (2007). Lentil: An Ancient Crop for Modern Times. Berlin: Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9781402063121.
- What is a Pulse? (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2019, from http://www.pulsecanada.com/about-pulse-canada/what-is-a-pulse/