The other day I prepared a lemony lentil and carrot salad as an accompaniment to our fish dinner. My partner, who is not familiar with lentils, asked whether lentils were a veg.
When I was a child, my mother used to cook various lentil soup recipes. At the time, it was mostly red lentils, but nowadays there’s a whole variety available on the market.
What are lentils?
Lentils are legumes; the seeds of a plant which is botanically known as, Lens ensculenta. They grow in pods similar to peas and beans. Lentils are sold dry and, very often, they are split in half.
Lentils: health benefits
Lentils have plenty of health benefits. They are an excellent source of minerals, B-vitamins and are high in protein as well as fibre. Studies have shown that lentils not only lower cholesterol but they are also beneficial in managing blood sugar levels. The soluble and insoluble fibre found in lentils reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease. Lentils are also a good source of iron. The good thing about lentils is that, unlike red meat, they provide iron and protein without the fat. Not a bad deal for 230 calories for a cup of cooked lentils!
Buying and storing lentils
Lentils can be bought from healthy food stores or from supermarkets. They come dried in packets or by weight and they can also be bought ready cooked in cans. When buying dried lentils make sure they are free from moisture and there are no signs of insects.
Dried lentils can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 12 months.
Lentils can be used in various soup and salad recipes. In countries like India, lentils are sometimes mixed with rice to provide both proteins and carbs in one meal.
Very often, soups are made with red lentils or yellow ones because they become mushy when cooked. Green, brown and puy lentils keep their shape and, although green and brown lentils make lovely soups, they are more often used in salads.