It is all about the immune system right now, well that and a well-known virus that’s causing a global crisis, and due to the latter we all need to keep ourselves at the best physical and mental state possible. Our diet is paramount now and always in ensuring that our bodies and minds can function at their highest level, so we need to be consistently aware of how well we are eating. Fresh fruits and vegetables, greens, whole grains, protein and fibre should all be essential factors making up our daily intake. One way to get a great dose of fibre, folate and protein, as well as lowering cholesterol and improving digestion, is to incorporate the edible seed from the legume family that is the lowly lentil! They’re low in fat, nutrient-dense, and affordable so we thought we’d give some ways to add these super-seeds into your weekly meal plans simply and effectively to give your nutrition a boost and reap all the benefits lentils have to offer.
Why we should incorporate lentils into our diet:
Iron: A cup of lentils will deliver about one third of your recommended daily intake. Iron is essential for the blood to keep the oxygen flowing through us at a good speed. An important factor for vegetarians.
Calcium: A top tip for vegans, if you steer clear of dairy then lentils are your go-to for your calcium intake packing a whopping 38g per cup.
Protein: Also important for vegetarians; in one cup of lentils you’ll find a hearty 18g of protein.
Polyphenols: These are the compounds within us that like to fight the bad guys such as UV rays, radiation and even cancer. They’re also known to promote a healthy heart and help prevent diabetes.
Fibre: A cup of lentils will give around 15 grams of fibre, important for gut health and digestion.
Folic Acid: An essential nutrient for pregnancies, folic acid is important for aiding your body in cell production and maintenance as well as preventing or treating anaemia.
Magnesium: An essential mineral for our health and something which many of us do not get enough of, even with a healthy diet. It isn’t the easiest thing to find within foods and so at around 70g per cup lentils are a great supplier.
How to incorporate lentils into our diet:
There are four types of lentils which are the most widely used:
Brown lentils: they’re sturdy and earthy and can handle being in stews, casseroles, or slow-cooked dishes without falling apart.
Yellow and red split lentils: popular for Asian dishes, they are simple and quick to cook and have a nuttier flavour and softer texture.
Green lentils: can vary in size and can be used in place of Puy if you can’t locate these. Puy lentils are actually named so as they stem from the French region Le Puy. These are a peppery tasting lentil that are similar, but smaller, than their green cousins.
Beluga lentils: the most illusive which resemble the caviar of the same name, being small and black – a great addition to salads.
You can buy pre-cooked lentils or dried. If you are going for dried then you may need to soak them for an hour or two before boiling in plenty of water until soft. Some do not require soaking, others require a longer soaking time, be sure to check the packet.
One of the best things about lentils is their versatility, you can convert them into any type of cuisine by simply utilising the spices and herbs specific to it. For example if you feel like sampling the taste of Morocco, you can make your lentils adding coriander, cumin, garlic, turmeric, ginger, onion, salt, chilli powder, black pepper, cloves, paprika, cinnamon and nutmeg.
If you are meat eaters and often take to using minced beef, pork, lamb or poultry in any dishes you make you can substitute half (or all for vegetarians) the minced meat for the same weight in cooked lentils and you’ve reduced fat and increased nutritional value to your dish. Some basic homemade staples such as shepherd’s pie, bolognese, homemade burger patties, stuffing for peppers, taco, fajita, or burrito fillings, chilli con carne, etc. You can add them to soups, salads, stews, curry, tray bakes, stir fries, pasta sauces.
If you’re a fan of Asian flavours then lentils will come as no newbie to you, but increase your culinary repertoire by creating some fusion dishes, such as healthy, hearty salads boosted by a serving of lentils and roasted vegetables, topped with seasonal fruits like pomegranate, and toasted seeds and nuts. Serve with asian-spiced salad dressing (use regular oil and vinegar or lemon and add some Indian spices). There are endless recipes available online to suit all tastes and dietary requirements, so whatever you are craving for dinner I’ll bet there’s a lentil-based option!
Full Nutritional Guidelines per 200g / one cup lentils (approx.):
- Calories: 230
- Carbs: 39.9 grams
- Protein: 17.9 grams
- Fat: 0.8 grams
- Fiber: 15.6 grams
- Thiamine: 22% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Niacin: 10% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 18% of the RDI
- Folate: 90% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid: 13% of the RDI
- Iron: 37% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 18% of the RDI
- Phosphorous: 36% of the RDI
- Potassium: 21% of the RDI
- Zinc: 17% of the RDI
- Copper: 25% of the RDI
- Manganese: 49% of the RDI
Online diploma courses in Nutrition
Here at the School of Natural Health Sciences nutrition is one of our top courses. From vegetarian and vegan to the special dietary needs of adolescents and the elderly – our nutrition courses will set you up as a Nutritional Therapist. Find out more about each course by clicking on the links below: