Lentils are such little beads of joy. The fact that they contain such wonderful nutrition packed into a tiny little legume is just an astonishing feat of nature.
That a plant such as this can draw nutrients from the soil, the sun, the water and turn it into a lentil which can nourish, fuel and feed our body is really an under looked marvel that we should all be taking advantage of.
Sadly the lovely little lentil hasn’t had a loving marketing manager to spruce him up and show him for all his glory. Unfortunately he is still regarded as bland ‘hippie food’ full stop. But this lovely little lentil is so much more.
There is a lot of strong evidence to support the inclusion of lentils in a healthy diet. In fact, those that eat lentils have been found to be some of the healthiest people on the planet.
I really think that it is time that the lentil is seen for what it really is.
Fibre: Packed full of both soluble and insoluble fibre, lentils are one of the highest sources of fibre you can get your hands on. Fibre can reduce cholesterol and therefore protect your heart from heart disease. Fibre is also important for preventing constipation and colon cancer. Fibre also makes you full, and when you are full you are less likely to reach for the tim tam biscuits.
Magnesium: Lentils are also good for our heart due to the high magnesium content. Magnesium helps to keep the hearts artery walls supple and elastic reducing the resistance against the artery wall and preventing pressure from building (high blood pressure).
Iron: Ever wondered how the oxygen we breathe into our lungs, gets delivered to our cells? It gets transported around our bloodstream on haemoglobin, a molecule made up of iron. If we don’t have enough iron, our blood can’t transport oxygen to our cells. Iron is also critical for metabolism and energy production.
Folate: Required for every cell to produce energy, or I like to call it fuel. A cell can’t work it doesn’t have energy, just like a car can’t drive without petrol. Why does a cell need to produce energy you may be thinking? Here is a quick example. Every time light comes into our eye, the cells require energy or fuel to process that light and turn it into an image. Our nerve cells that run from the eye up to the brain also require energy to pass the message up to the brain. The brain cells then need energy to transfer that image from our eye into an image our brain can understand. Our muscle cell then needs energy to be able to life our arm to catch the ball that has just been thrown at us that we have only seen because our eye and brain had the energy in the cells to convey the messages to us. Amazing! Folate is also important for its role in replicating DNA and therefore creating new cells. Skin, hair, nails are all cells which are renewed often and all require folate.
Protein: 1 cup of cooked lentils contains approximately 18grams of protein, a wonderful nutrient essential for growth and repair of all tissues in the body. For example, to make a muscle bigger and stronger it needs protein. To heal a burn or cut, it needs protein.
Tryptophan: An amino acid that can help us to feel great and sleep soundly. Tryptophan from foods is converted in the brain to the neurotransmitter ‘serotonin’. Neurotransmitters help to transport electrical messages from nerve to nerve in the brain and other cells. Serotonin is very important in enhancing our mood and regulating sleep. What a bonus!
Lentils are low in fat, high in nutrients making them the perfects little addition to the weekly meal list.
This recipe is just the base. From here you can experiment with loads of different flavours and combinations.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cups lentils
- 9 cups water or stock
- 3 carrots chopped
- 3 sticks of celery chopped
- 2 onions chopped
- 3 garlic cloves chopped
- Into a hot pan, place olive oil, carrots, celery, onions and garlic.
- Sautee for 2-3 minutes until light brown.
- Add lentils and water/stock.
- Tune heat down to medium and leave to simmer with no lid for 40 mins.
- To test if the lentils are ready, squeeze a lentil between your fingertips. If it pops it is ready. If not, continue to cook until soft.
- Note: the liquid may evaporate from the pan before the lentils are ready. In this case, simply add 1 cup of water. You may need to repeat this several times.
- If the lentils begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, stir the lentils.
Variations: to the above recipe you can add either
- 3 tsp of curry powder
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- Curry paste such as green, red or yellow.
- Chopped capsicum
- Coconut milk
- Chopped basil, thyme, oregano
- Once cooked, stir through your favourite tomato pasta sauce
- Poached eggs
- Sauteed field mushrooms
- Chicken, beef, pork or lamb
- Dollop natural yoghurt and fresh herbs on top
- Use on top of your homemade pizza
- Baked pumpkin and sweet potato
Why do lentils cause gas?
Do you get windy after lentils? Here’s why: Lentils contain oligosaccharides which are a type of carbohydrate. When the lentils get eaten and move through to our intestine, these oligosaccharides get eaten as fuel by the good bacteria in our intestine. When they feed off the oligosaccharides, the bacteria produce hydrogen gas as a completely normal and natural waste product. This builds up in our intestine, and makes it’s way out via…well, you get the picture.
It’s perfectly normal to experience gas (unless of course it is causing pain and discomfort)
What to do about it
Soaking your lentils overnight in cold water can help to reduce the gas that eating them may cause. This is because the soaking process breaks down the oligosaccharides. After soaking, rinse them well, then cook as normal.
Have we changed your mind about lentils now?