Brown, Green, red or black lentils are low in calories, high in iron and folate, and are an excellent source of protein. Lentils are an outstanding source of molybdenum and folate. They are also a very good source of dietary fiber, copper, phosphorus and manganese. Additionally, they are a great source of vitamin B1, pantothenic acid, zinc, potassium and vitamin B6. Lentils are full of polyphenols and research shows they may reduce several heart disease risk factors.
Lentils are inexpensive and make a nutritious base for soups and salads. A serving is a 1/2 cup cooked.
Lentils are rich in complex carbohydrates, boosting the metabolism and helping the body to burn fat. There are 9 grams of starch in a single serving of lentils, which provides the body with quick energy. In addition, you’ll benefit from 8 grams of fiber when you consume a half cup of lentils. Fiber helps to stabilize blood sugar, boost satiety, and improve digestive health. Lentils provide 2 grams of naturally-occurring sugar. There are no fats in lentils and 9 grams of protein in a single serving.
How to Buy
When you buy lentils, look for uncracked discs that have not been exposed to dust or moisture. You can buy lentils in pre-packed containers (bags or boxes), but many stores also sell lentils in the bulk section so you can buy only the amount that you need.
You can buy lentils canned and precooked but be sure that no sodium or other preservatives are included.
Buy lentils in the bulk section of your local coop. The turnover is higher and you will not be caught buying old stock. Old lentils take much longer to cook and can shed their skins when cooking. If you buy them in a packaged bag, be sure it is clear so that you can see the quality. They should have a bright, uniform color – a dull color indicates lack of freshness.
How to Store
Store lentils in an air-tight container in your pantry or in another cool, dark place. If stored properly, lentils should stay good for up to 12 months.
How to Cook
Before cooking lentils, you should rinse the legumes to remove any dirt or dust. Remove any cracked or broken discs.
Boil three cups of water and add one cup of lentils. Simmer for roughly 20 minutes, although cooking time will depend on your taste preference and on the variety of lentil used.
Lentils are quick and easy to cook. Green and brown lentils cook evenly and don’t get mushy. The red, yellow and orange lentil are wonderful but are better added to soups and sauces rather than cooked on their own.
The most reliable way to cook lentils is to bring them to a rapid simmer, then reduce the heat to low for the rest of the cooking. Keep a few bubbles coming up to create some gentle movement in the lentils. Cooking will take 20-30 minutes. Keep an eye on the pot to be sure the lentils are covered with water. Another trick is to wait to add salt or any acidic ingredient until the lentils are done cooking.
One cup dried green, brown, or French lentils
2 cups water
1 bay leaf, garlic clove, sprig of thyme or rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt at the end of cooking. Season with olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, or fresh herbs.
You do not need a recipe to add lentils to your diet – add to soups, sprinkle cooked lentils on salads, drizzle a serving with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) and herbs, use in sandwich wraps, add to soups or use as a bed for a poached egg.
Cooked lentils can be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days in an air tight container.