Lentils Health Benefits
Lentils, red, green, yellow, or black, have been a part of our diet since Neolithic times. Lentils are available in many forms, such as whole grain, split, and with or without skins. In any form, they are highly nutritional and have a range of health benefits. Lentils are easy to cultivate and are tolerant to drought conditions as well, which makes them easier to grow almost all over the world.
Lentils can be eaten along with rice or as a soup; their nutritional properties can be attributed to the carbohydrates, dietary fiber, protein, thiamine, calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc in them.
However, lentils also contain phytates, which reduce the availability of minerals, making them less desirable. Soaking lentils overnight can reduce their phylates content. The lentils grown in Saskatchewan, Canada, which is the largest producer and exporter, has additional lentils benefits because these are enriched with selenium, an essential micronutrient that helps with general well-being. Some of the health benefits of lentils are as follows.
- Lentils aid in maintaining a healthy immune system and also help in protecting against cancer.
- Selenium-rich lentils are believed to benefit people suffering from chronic arsenic poisoning.
- The folate present in lentils protects against coronary heart disease as it lowers homocysteine in the blood. Folate also prevents birth defects, making it very good for pregnant women. Lentil also said to help in lowering the risk of breast cancer in women.
- The dietary fiber content in lentils provides almost a third of the daily requirements, and lentils are absorbed slowly, which keeps sugar levels low and also provides energy for a longer time.
- Lentils reduce the risk of heart problems and help in the functioning of the digestive system, keeping away constipation at bay.
- Lentils are also helpful in lowering cholesterol levels.
- Lentils are rich source of iron, and it is a good alternative for vegetarians and vegans.
- Protein content in lentils is as high as 26%, which means they can adequately meet protein requirements.
Additionally, lentils have been considered the food that can remove micronutrient malnutrition in impoverished countries such as Africa and South East Asia.
Green lentils are becoming extremely popular as they have been found to clear the digestive system and positively affect colon function and serum lipids. Green lentils that are soaked overnight and allowed to sprout are considered highly nutritious. Green lentils are also helpful in countering diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, un-skinned green lentils can be powdered and used instead of soap to keep the skin clear and smooth.
Beluga black lentils are power packed with B vitamins and minerals and help in strengthening the body. Yellow lentils are easy to cook, taste great, and can be made a part of one’s everyday diet. Red lentils are more nutritious than the yellow lentils and are often an important meal in the Middle East and Asian countries.
Lentils do not contain all the needed the proteins; they lack some of the sixteen essential amino acids that are important for building of protein. It is thus important that lentils are eaten along with other supplements like meat and fish or tofu and soy, if you are vegetarian.
Lentils have a long shelf-life and are can be consumed either cooked or sprouted. Sprouted lentils can be eaten in salads.
Lentils have low glycemic indices, low fat content, and high fiber, making them good for fighting various diseases and maintaining overall digestive and colon health.
Whether eaten raw or cooked, lentils need to be soaked overnight to help remove the phytates present in them.
Dil Thavarajah, Albert Vandenberg, Graham N. George, and Ingrid J. Pickering, Effect of green lentils on colonic function, nitrogen balance, and serum lipids in healthy human subjects, J. Agric. Food Chem., 2007, 55 (18). Publication Date (Web): August 9, 2007.