Lentils are fast becoming one of the more popular foods when it comes to good nutrition. But let’s take a moment to look at why even the South African Food Based Dietary Guidelines (SAFBDG) states “Eat dry beans, split peas, lentils and soya regularly”. Here are the top five reasons to continue eating lentils.
THE MIGHTY LENTIL
First let’s just clarify what lentils are. Lentils are from the legume family which includes beans and peas. Lentils grow in pods, usually with two seeds in each pod. There are over 20 varieties of lentils depending on the area they grow. They have different colours, textures and cooking times. Lentils are very versatile.1 Lentils are highly nutritious and some health benefits include:
- Helping to control blood glucose levels
- Assisting in digestion and boost metabolism
- Reducing the risk of cancer
- Sprouted lentils aid in muscle generation
FIVE REASONS TO EAT LENTILS
1. Packed with protein
One of the main reasons to eat lentils is their protein content. Lentils are a good source of protein, 26% of lentil’s energy comes from protein. On average, lentils contain 17g of protein per cooked cup. Compared to other legumes and nuts, lentils contain the third-highest levels of protein. The body needs a constant supply of protein to repair and grow, and lentils contain all of the building blocks such as amino acids that are needed by our body to build muscle. They further are a great source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.2
2. Full of fibre
Lentils contain a substantial amount of soluble fibre that helps to reduce the Glycaemic Index (GI) in food. Fibre in lentils can help with the following:
- Fibre helps to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and helps keep blood sugar levels constant. This is very beneficial for people with diabetes and insulin resistance3.
- The fibre in lentils can help lower cholesterol which is the bad fat. Lowering your cholesterol helps lower your risk of heart disease and strokes.
- The insoluble fibre in lentils leads to a happy tummy too. The fibre helps to prevent constipation and other stomach problems.4
Lentils are also a great source of folate and magnesium. Folate and magnesium are important to keep your heart healthy. High Homocysteine levels are a risk factor for heart disease and folate helps to lower it. Magnesium improves blood flow by relaxing the cardiovascular muscles. This helps lower blood pressure and increases oxygen flow through the body, thus making your heart strong. Other nutritious components found in lentils are molybdenum, tryptophan, manganese, iron, phosphorous, copper, vitamin B1, and potassium.4
4. Sustained energy
Lentils are a great source of sustained energy as they have a low GI. Lentils on average have a Glycaemic Index (GI) of 29 per serving of 150g. A food with a low GI, such as FUTURELIFE® HIGH ENERGY Smart Food™, gives you a slow constant energy release. Lentils also contain high amounts of iron which help transport oxygen around the body. Oxygen is needed for making energy in the body.3
Even with all of these beneficial nutrients such as fibre, protein, minerals and vitamins, lentils are low in energy and contain very little fat. One cup of cooked lentils only contains about 960KJ this makes it very nutritionally dense. Lentils make you full without the added energy and this can help to maintain weight.
The last but certainly not least reason to love lentils is that they are very tasty and extremely versatile to use in cooking. Some lentils will automatically add flavour to stews just by adding them in. Other lentil types are bland so you can add to soup to increase the protein and nutrient content without changing the flavour.
So now that you know the many benefits of lentils, don’t be shy to get out there and add a lentil or two to your soup and stews and enjoy the benefits.