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Lentil, an unassuming variety of legume
For thousands of years, lentil, an unassuming variety of legume, has been sustaining man. Although lentils are comparatively inexpensive, they are very nourishing, filling, and more importantly, the most delectable of all the legumes.
Thought to have originated in the Near East or Mediterranean area, lentils have been a source of sustenance for our ancestors since prehistoric times. They are the oldest pulse crop known to man and one of the earliest domesticated crops. The word lentil comes from the Latin lens.
Lentils, botanically-known as Lens culinaris esculenta, are otherwise known as dal or dahl in India, are a separate branch of the legume family tree and look like small, flat round disks.
Lentils come in a huge variety of colors and flavors ranging from black to orange to green. They need no presoaking, cook in only 45 minutes and have a pleasant, peppery flavor. Lentils are a very popular legume used throughout much of the world.
Types of Lentils
Most varieties have a distinctive, earthy flavor. Few of them are Chickpeas, Yellow split Peas, Green split Peas, Lima Beans, and Brown Lentils. Lentils are used worldwide to cook many different dishes. Lentil dishes are most widespread throughout South Asia.
Depending on location, lentils were either considered a necessity for people struggling with food insecurity or a delicacy for members of the upper class. While those who could not afford fish during the season of Lent substituted lentils, lentils graced the tables of peasants and kings alike as a tasty and plentiful source of protein.
Today, however, lentils are a food for all and have taken a prominent place among edible legumes, while other legumes have fallen off of menus; the lentil has risen in popularity. Agriculturally, lentils are a solid crop when drought is likely and the soil conditions are not favorable. In the kitchen, lentils are welcome for their ability to cook quickly, offer delicious flavor, and provide plenty of nutrients, such as protein, iron, and Vitamins A and B.
There are hundreds of varieties of lentils, with as many as 50 or more cultivated for food. They come in a variety of colors, with red, brown, and green being the most popular. Lentils have an earthy, nutty flavor, and some varieties lend a slight peppery touch to the palate. Lentils grow best in cool weather.
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Dried lentils are a staple food around the world due in large part to its indefinite shelf-life, high nutrition value, and because it is relatively impervious to drought-like growing conditions. A majority of the world's supply of lentils are harvested from Canada, India, and Australia. Lentils are a versatile bean or legume that can be stored indefinitely.
This healthy pulse can fill in those nutrient gaps in your diet
Lentils can be a good source of the iron most commonly found in red meat and are high in potassium, vitamins and minerals than a large banana. Lentils have a very low glycemic index and resistant starch content, which make them suitable for a diabetic diet. Lentils are also gluten-free. They are of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. But this is far from all that lentils have to offer. Lentils also provide good to excellent amounts of six important minerals, two B-vitamins, and protein-all with virtually no fat. A half-cup of dried lentils is the nutritional equivalent of 100 percent of your body's manganese requirements and can meet nearly 50 percent of your iron needs. Manganese plays a role in maintaining normal blood sugar level and helps protect against free-radical damage.
Proteins are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, 1/2 cup of dry lentils, yields just over 1 cup of cooked lentils, and has about 26 grams of protein. It is also the equivalent of 80 percent of the daily fiber requirement.
When looking at vegetarian options, lentils are the top source of Folate of all the plant-based foods. Folate, also called vitamin B9, is essential for women who are pregnant or who want to become pregnant. Folate helps the body create DNA and other genetic material and supports red blood cell formation and nerve function. Folate is shown to lower artery-damaging homocysteine, may help prevent anemia, and studies show it can protect against developing heart disease, cancer, and dementia.
Lentils have the second-highest antioxidant content (behind black beans) among all tested legumes and offer significant levels of protein, iron, zinc, and Folate. A diet rich in legumes may help reduce cholesterol, hypertension, and the risk of pre-diabetes, fibrocystic breast disease, and prostate cancer proliferation. They may offer significant anti-inflammatory effects, as well.
They are high in phytates, which may reduce the risk of colon cancer and may have protective effects against osteoporosis. Lentils and other foods containing resistant starch may help block the accumulation in the colon of hydrogen sulfide, which is associated with inflammatory bowel disease.
Sprouted lentils have twice the antioxidant content as unsprouted and red lentils beat other types in overall nutritive benefits.
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