Lentils are one of my favorite "health" foods. Especially now that I'm trying to avoid wheat and corn (most of the time :), lentils have been a lifesaver. I notice that if I don't have some carbs with most meals (especially breakfast and especially while pregnant), I get frustrated easily with my kids, can't concentrate, lack energy for my workout and am just generally crabby! But if I chose refined carbs, I just want more...and more. The protein and fiber in lentils helps balance their glycemic load and they're one of the easiest legumes to prepare and digest.
Let's look at what a 1/2 cup of cooked lentils contains:
20 g carbohydrates
8 grams of fiber
2 grams of sugars
9 grams of protein
*20% of daily iron needs
*45% of daily folate needs (important for a healthy heart & women who are or may be pregnant)
*nearly 10% daily magnesium needs.
But what about if you're trying to go paleo, like so many these days? Are lentils (or any legume) acceptable in the paleo diet? It depends who you ask. Chris Kresser, author of Your Personal Paleo Code discusses how paleo is more of a "template than a rigid prescription" and in this, Are Legumes Paleo article, he talks about how legumes, when prepared properly and eaten in moderation, can absolutely be part of a healthy diet (if you tolerate them). It is important to soak lentils to help break down some of the phytic acid known to bind some of the nutrients in lentils and make them easier to digest.
So no matter what your personal food philosophy these days, I think lentils are worth a try.
- I get green or French lentils from the bin section at Whole Foods, but you can get them at any grocery. I like these varieties as they keep their shape best, but all are delicious.
- They're not processed (aka no BPA from a can)
- Very affordable
- Super easy to prepare (go for the rice cooker )
How to properly prepare lentils:
1. Rinse lentils being sure to remove any rocks or random things.
2. Soak for 18 hours in water. Leave out at room temp -covered.
3. Drain the water and rinse.
4. Cook in the rice cooker with 2x the amount of water as lentils (this is my favorite way to cook lentils because it's so easy and hands-off.
5. Alternately, you can cook lentils stovetop with the same 2:1 water:lentil ratio. Bring to a rapid simmer then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered for 20-30 minutes until tender.
6. Salt the lentils AFTER you cook them as salting before (or adding acid) will make them stay crunchy even after cooking.
For more details on cooking lentils, check out this how to cook lentils tutorial on the kitchen.
Once they're properly prepared, I love a simple "salad" of lentils with butter or olive oil, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, avocado and hot sauce. Here's a few more ideas for lentils:
Goop's lentil meatballs
Real Simple's Slow Cooker Curried Lentils with Chicken and Potatoes
And a few other favorites:
Anto's kid-friendly lentil bowls
Blanc Burger's Green Lentil Burger