Lentils are legumes that grow on a plant botanically called the Lens ensculenta. Scientifically called Lens culinaris, they grow in pods, usually with two seeds in each pod. The seeds are round, oval or heart-shaped disks and are very small in size. Lentils are available in whole as well as in split form. A variety of lentils are available throughout the world, with different colors like black, yellow, red, orange, green and brown colors. They are highly nutritious in nature and widely available throughout the year. Lentils are relatively tolerant of drought and hence are abundantly grown in different corners of the world. They have been in use since the prehistoric times and are believed to have come from Central Asia. In fact, they were discovered at the archaeological sites in the Middle East as well, dating about 8000 years ago. References to lentils are found in the Bible as well, as the food item that Jacob traded to Esau and also as a part of the bread that was prepared during the Babylonian captivity of Jewish people. As the years passed by, lentils spread in different parts of the world. Today, the leading commercial producers of lentils are India, Turkey, Canada, China and Syria. In this article, we will help you explore the health benefits of lentils, in detail.
Health Benefits Of Eating Lentils
- Lentils are rich in dietary fiber, of both the soluble and insoluble types. Soluble fibers help in trapping the bile content and disposing it from the body. Through this process, it plays a role in controlling the cholesterol content of the body.
- The soluble fibers in lentils also help in stabilizing the blood sugar levels. This makes them extremely beneficial for people suffering from insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes. In these cases, lentils balance blood sugar levels, while providing steady, slow-burning energy.
- Insoluble fibers help increase the stool bulk and prevent constipation. They also help in preventing digestive disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.
- Lentils are extremely helpful in lowering body cholesterol, thus keeping heart-related ailments at bay
- Lentils also help the body manage blood-sugar disorders. They contain high levels of fiber, which prevents the blood sugar level from shooting up rapidly after a meal.
- Lentils are highly heart-beneficial foods. They contribute towards heart health, not just by their fiber content, but also by their rich content of folate and magnesium.
- The folate present in lentils helps in lowering the level of homocysteine, which is a great threat for the artery walls and adversely affects the heart as well.
- The magnesium present in lentils helps decrease the resistance to the free flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. The magnesium element helps in lowering the risk of heart attack and other heart diseases as well.
- Lentils are also rich in iron, which provides consistent energy to the body. They are particularly useful for the menstruating, pregnant and lactating women, who are in greater need of iron. Even growing children and adolescents will find lentils highly profitable in providing rich quantity of iron.
- Lentils contain purines, which can cause health related problems for people who are sensitive to them. Excess of purines can even lead to the accumulation of uric acid, which can cause problems like Gout and formation of kidney stones. However, tests have confirmed that purines from plant source have negligible effect, in comparison those in meat and fish.
- Start cooking the lentils by cleaning them thoroughly. First, remove the debris and stones from the lentils. Also, remove the cracked and damaged lentils. Then, place the lentils in a strainer and wash them properly under the cold running water.
- Lentils can be cooked without presoaking as well. Use three cups of water for each cup of lentils and boil them properly before using them in a recipe.
- You can also cook lentils by putting them in boiling water. Prepared in this way, they are easier to digest, when compared with the ones that are brought to boil with the water.
- Green lentils usually take 30 minutes to cook, whereas the res ones need lesser time, of around 20 minutes.
- The cooking time of the lentils can be adjusted as per your needs. For instance, to serve lentils in salad or soup, which needs them in firm texture, you need to remove them from the stove 5-10 minutes earlier than their usual cooking time. On the other hand, for the preparation of dal, which requires a mushier texture, you need to boil them for an additional 10-15 minutes.