Lentils! I love lentils. Lentil stew was one of my favorite things growing up. Of course, when I had it as a kid it was made with ham, but I assure you they are delicious without meat. Lentils are my answer when people ask me how I’m getting enough protein as a vegan. Well, Lentils, garbanzo beans, tempeh, tofu, and almost all the grains that I eat on a regular basis. (It’s seriously not hard to get the protein you need people.)
Lentils are delicious, adaptable, and quick cooking. They come in several different kinds with different uses for each one. They are versatile and super easy to use. Plus, as a bonus, they are really, really good for you.
How good for you? Well, I already talked about the protein but were you aware that they are also an excellent source of iron. (I know my infographic already said this but it’s worth repeating.) Just ½ a cup of cooked lentils provides 15% of your daily iron needs. You don’t get much better than that.
They’re high in fiber. Fiber aids in healthy digestion and according to the office of disease prevention and guidelinesadults need between 25-30 grams of fiber a day. Yet the average American gets less than half of that. Adding a bit of lentils to your diet can help give you the fiber you need to stay healthy.
They are packed in vitamins like manganese, folate, and potassium. They help regulate your blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, and fight anemia. Wowza!.
For complete information on recommended nutrition guild lines check health.gov.
With all these health benefits it’s a wonder people don’t cook with them more. I get it, I get it, it’s hard to find time to cook. But, Lentils don’t need that much time. Most lentils will cook in about 20 mins. Green lentils take more time but they all have the same great benefits. Let’s talk about these different kinds of lentils and how they can best be utilized.
Red lentils, cook quickest, and tend to disintegrate after a long cook time. This makes them excellent as thickeners in stews and soups. (Or as I’ll show later on in the week, in curry.) They are often found in Mediterranean and Indian dishes. (Have I mentioned curry yet? Well, I should. Curry is amazing and lentils are my go to source of protein when I make it.)
Brown lentils are sort of middle of the road, easy to sue and adaptable to lots of different situations You will find them in soup sand stews. (these ae the kind I grew up with as a kid.) They work great thrown in a crockpot with veggie stock and vegetables. A great throw it in and forget it recipe for the busy parent.
Green lentils are firmer, take longer to cook and have a chewier texture. I like to mix them with other lentils when making things like lentil loaf or for soups and stews with long cook times. They maintain their shape even after lengthy cooking which makes them an excellent addition to your long cooking stews or curry.
There are two other types which I am not as familiar with, black and yellow. (My mother didn’t like the way they looked cooked.) They cook and taste very similar to red lentils and cook down quickly in 15-20 minutes. I use them in place if red lentils if I can’t find red.
I’ve never cooked with black lentils and can’t give much info about them. From what I’ve read they have an earthy flavor and make a great side dish. If you find them, experiment with them. They are bound to be delicious.
No matter which kind of lentil you choose, they are all excellent. They are the reason I’ve had very little trouble transitioning from omnivore to Vegan. But, regardless of what your dietary path is, lentils can be a great addition. Don’t let cooking scare you. It’s easier than it looks.
Are you already a fan of lentils? What are some of you go to recipes?
I am not a nutritionist, dietitian, or medical professional of any kind. I am just a regular person sharing my personal journey on a way to a healthier, more satisfying life. Consult with a medical professional before starting any new exercise or diet plan. Please see full disclaimer here.