Lentils are seeds of a plant whose botanical name is “lens ensculenta”. Also, Lentils; the name is derived from Latin language – for lens – due to their oval flat shape. They are easily grown in pods that contain either one or two seeds and can be round or oval in shape about the size of a rice grain.
In ancient times, Lentils were an important staple diet and was also known to be a “peasant’s food”. Lentils can be found in dry form at your local supermarket, easily available all year round at comfortable price.
Lentils are health capsules in miniature form.
1. Lentils are complete meal in itself. The nutrient properties and their values /100 gms are as under mentioned:
Protein – 24 gms
Vitamin B1 – 0.5 mg
Vitamin B2 – 0.25 mg
Vitamin B3 - 2.2 mg
Vitamin B5 – 1.5 mg
Vitamin B6 – 0.6 mg
Vitamin B9 – 200 µg
Iron – 8 mg
Magnesium – 100 mg
Phosphorous – 300 mg
Potassium – 700 mg
Sodium – 24 mg
Fiber – 11.2 gm
Fat – 1.2 mg
Carbohydrates – 50.4 gm
Energy – 315 Kcal
2. Very high in protein content, especially among the vegetarian sources.
3. Lentils are good source of both soluble and insoluble fibers. Soluble fiber helps in lowering the cholesterol level in the body and thus aids in heart diseases.
4. With the help of these soluble fibers, the blood sugar level is also stabilized. Hence, lentils are useful in people with resistance to insulin in diabetes.
5. Lentils also provide slow burning energy.
6. The insoluble fibers help in prevention of constipation, thereby preventing other co-related digestive disorders, especially Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
7. The Lentils are also rich in the B-complex vitamins. These vitamins help in prevention of heart diseases. The B- complex vitamin especially foliate and vitamin B6 help in lowering homocysteine levels. Homoscysteine is an amino acid which is responsible for the artery wall damages but vitamin B6 and foliate break down this homocysteine into cysteine or methionine, an essential benign amino acid that is originally not present in lentils.
However, this deficiency is made up are when some other food like rice or cheese is added to it while cooking or eating.
8. One of the most amazing qualities and benefit is that lentils can be sprouted and consumed. This process of sprouting increases the nutritional value especially the proteins.
9. Apart from proteins, lentils are also an excellent vegetable source of iron. They are particularly beneficial for adolescents, pregnant women and lactating mothers; since these groups have an increased requirement of iron.
10. The rich content of iron and folic acid makes it extremely useful in anemic conditions. Daily consumptions of lentils can met almost 90% of the folic acid requirement per day.
11. Lentils area also beneficial in breaking up of urinary stones.
12. The folic acid in lentils provides regular energy to the body which is extremely beneficial in fighting against the weakness, surgery, or viral infection.
13. Lentils are high in fiber lower in calories and fats and hence the most sought after food amongst diet conscious group.
14. Since they are easy to digest and rich sources of all essential nutrients, they are an excellent option for natural foods during weaning phase of the child especially the yellow type of lentils.
15. The lentils can also be ground to flour and used to the various forms of cooking; eg: especially pancakes etc. which are favorites among children.
16. Lentils are skin friendly too especially in powder form for scrubbing and cleansing.
17. In some parts of Indian sub continent powdered lentils is found to be used instead soap especially for young children.
18. A warm decoction or soup of these lentils with salt and lime acts wonders on common cold or flu.
19. Lentils when cooked with any other food item like such as rice or green leafy vegetables provide a whole and balanced meal.
20. The best part is that even if lentils get spoiled or infested within insects they do not go wasted. They can be used as excellent fodder for birds and animals.
21. Another interesting use of lentils as they colorful when they can be stuck on paper or clay models to make attractive craft and art work.
These tiny wonders create numerous wonders in the kitchen. Their easy availability and storage make them one of the most sought after foods in many parts of the world. It is a staple diet and almost prepared daily in the eastern countries. Make sure to store them in your kitchen too.
The author of this article is Rashmi Nandgaonkar, a registered nurse and mid-wife currently managing her own hospital in India. She has also successfully completed numerous workshops in special education on special children and ayurvedic cooking. Recipient of the Mayors award for the title of Best Nurse during her working experience. She is an avid reader, enjoys creative cooking and spending spare time with her kids.