One of the healthiest and cheapest supper dishes you can make is with lentils – the legume that comes in a small package but with a powerhouse of goodness and high nutritional value. In general the smaller the seed, the more nutrition a food has by weight or volume - so lentils fit the bill there.
Believed to have originated from Central Asia, the humble lentil has been consumed since prehistoric times with seeds having been found in archeological sites in the Middle East dating back 8000 years. Later in this article you will find an easy to make lentil curry recipe
All the good things you should know about lentils
- Lentils are rich in resistant starch, a carbohydrate that is thought to encourage fat burning while shrinking fat cells.
- Lentils have the highest level of protein by weight of almost any plant-based food. Protein makes up 26% of the calories in lentils so it is no wonder they are a staple in many parts of the world.
- Studies have found that people who eat high fiber legumes like lentils have a much reduced risk of heart disease. With twice as much fiber (including soluble fiber) as other fiber-rich foods, lentils help in regulating blood sugar by providing steady, slow-burning energy and balancing blood sugar levels. This is very good news if you have insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes or if you need to lower your cholesterol levels.
- Lentils have high levels of folate which help to lower the levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is an intermediate product in an important metabolic process called the methylation cycle. When folate (as well as vitamin B6) are around, homocysteine is immediately converted into cysteine or methionine avoiding damage to artery walls.
- Lentils are also a great source of niacin (B3). B vitamins are important for the healthy functioning of the nervous, digestive and immune systems.
- Lentils also have high levels of magnesium which is nature's own calcium channel blocker to enable veins and arteries to breathe a sigh of relief and relax, which lessens resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.
- Lentils are easy to digest and faster to cook than many other beans and you don't have to take so many precautions against gas.
- Lentils are loaded with iron and are a great way to replenish the body's iron stores so especially important for vegans and vegetarians.
- People who consume lentils at least three times a week reduce their risk of developing polyps - small growths in the lining of the bowel which can become cancerous - by a third.
Lentils are generally available pre-packaged as well as in bulk bins. Just make sure that the bins containing the lentils are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure its maximum freshness. There should be no evidence of moisture or insect damage and the lentils should be whole and not cracked. Store lentils in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place where they will keep for up to 12 months.
As promised, here is the recipe for lentil curry
Ingredients (to serve 4 or more)
- 1 to 2 cups of lentils
- 4 cups vegetable or other stock
- 1 chopped onion
- 3 chopped cloves of garlic
- 2 diced carrots
- 2 diced celery ribs
- 2 cups cabbage finely sliced
- 1 can diced tomatoes or 4 fresh tomatoes
- 2 to 4 teaspoons of curry powder
- 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro or 1 to 2 tablespoons dried coriander
Season, add cilantro and serve over a bed of rice.
- Rinse lentils thoroughly in a colander.
- Sauté onion in a little of the stock for about 5 minutes until translucent.
- Add garlic, carrots, celery and cabbage and sauté for a further 2 minutes.
- Add in curry powder and then lentils, stock and tomatoes.
- Bring to the boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 30 minutes until everything is tender.