Lentils are an excellent food choice for weight loss. They are low in calories, yet they are high in nutrition. They are full of fiber which is essential for making you feel full and for curbing your appetite. Lentils are a also great source of low-fat protein and as such they are an ideal candidate to substitute meat. These wonderful legumes are one of the best natural weight loss foods and any healthy eating diet should include them in the meal plan.
As you can see in the nutrition facts below, 1 cup of cooked lentils without salt contains 16 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of protein and 40 grams of carbohydrate. Even though lentils contain carbohydrate their Glycemic Index (GI) is low. It ranges anywhere between 22 – 45. Anything below 55 is considered low GI. As well lentils are loaded with iron and many other essential nutrients not shown on the label. For the complete nutrition facts you can visit nutritionvalue.org.
About 30% of lentils’ calories come from protein. They contain the 3rd highest amount of protein by weight (the highest are soybeans and hemp). For that reason they are an essential source of protein in many parts of the world. Because of their protein content, they are also a major part of a vegetarian diet.
Lentils are deficient in two essential amino acids, methionine and cysteine. However, sprouted lentils contain sufficient levels of all essential amino acids, including methionine and cysteine (source). Often lentils are served with rice and the combination of rice and lentils makes a complete protein.
Types / Varieties Of Lentils
There are many varieties of lentils but the most common varieties in North America are brown, green and red lentils.
Brown Lentils – this the most common variety you will find in your grocery store. These lentils cook in about 20 – 30 minutes (I prefer not to add salt until they are cooked. I’ve notice that salt sometimes increases the time they need to be cooked). They have a nutty earthy flavor and I find them quite delicious. These are my personal favorites.
Red Lentils – the color of this lentils ranges from pale to deep (almost) red orange. These lentils have the sweetest taste. Unfortunately, they have much less fiber than the brown variety and for that reason, unless I want to add them for color to salads, I generally use the common brown lentils. The lighter lentils are also known as moong dal and red lentils known as masoor dal in India (or in Indian restaurants in North America)
Green Lentils – the color ranges from pale to dark green. They are quite small and they are also called French lentil or Puy lentils. The have a glossy thin shell and because of the shell they take longer to cook. I have not used these in my kitchen but I’ve heard that these lentils may take more than 45 minutes to cook.
Health Benefits Of Lentils
►1. An excellent and an inexpensive source protein
►2. A source of lysine for vegetarians. For vegetarians lentils are very important food because they contain the amino acid lysine which is an essential amino acid for our health but our bodies cannot manufacture it. (Non vegetarians need not worry about lysine as we get it from eggs, meat, poultry, milk and milk products, legumes and so on.)
►3. Lentils are fiber rich. As a matter of fact, if you are not used to eating enough fiber in your diet, because of the rich content of fiber in lentils, you should start eating lentils only gradually. In other words start with small amounts, perhaps 1/4 cup to begin with. The reason for that is that if you suddenly expose your body to too much fiber and your body is not used to it you may suffer from gas, bloating and a general intestinal discomfort. [hilight color=”FFFF00″]Make sure to drink plenty of water when you increase fiber intake[/hilight].
►4. Lentils are rich in iron. Iron is an essential element as it helps circulate oxygen throughout our bodies and helps store oxygen in our muscles. As well, iron plays an important role in our immune system (system that helps fight off diseases).
►5. Lentils are an excellent source of folate. Folate is essential for red cell growth. Insufficient amount of folate may result in anemia. It is also important for the growth of new cells and it is an essential nutrient during pregnancy as it helps prevent birth defects. I cup of cooked lentils contains 358mg (micrograms) of folate, almost the full dietary requirement of this vitamin.
►6. Lentils lower cholesterol. Because of the high level of soluble fiber lentils help reduce blood cholesterol.
►7. They stabilize blood sugar. This important characteristic of lentils is also due to their high level of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber slows down digestion and slows down the absorption carbohydrates into the blood. As well, fiber can lower blood sugar levels. Undoubtedly, lentils are an excellent food for diabetics.
►8. Lentils aid weight loss. The reason for that is that they are “superfoods” with respect to protein and fiber, yet they only contain 230 calories per cup of cooked lentils. A cup of lentils is quite a lot, fills you up mightily and it will definitely keep your hunger at bay for a long time.
A Guide To Lentils
Chef Michael Smith loves lentils. He produced a video about the lentil basics which I share with you below. It is an overview of lentil types, cooking tips, a comparison of dried versus canned lentils and more. It’s a worthwhile watch if you are not familiar with lentils. Although Chef Michael mentions it in the video it is important for you to know that [hilight color=”FFFF00″]anything acidic you might add to lentils will stop the cooking process of lentils and they will remain hard[/hilight]. To avoid this add all acidic ingredients, for example tomatoes or vinegar last (a teaspoon to a tablespoon of vinegar enhances the flavor of the lentils and it does not make them sour).
[hilight color=”FFFF00″]Warning:[/hilight] Do not eat undercooked lentils. Undercooked, they contain phytic acid which prevents your body from digesting and absorbing minerals. Also, undercooked lentils may cause gastric discomfort.
Why Are Lentils Considered One Of The Best natural Weight Loss Foods
I have not spend much time talking about why lentils are an awesome weight loss food. So just to summarize the reasons which you may even have gathered by now, they are:
- Low number of calories for the amount of nutrients they contain
- High protein level
- Abundance of fiber
- Low glycemic index (ranges from 22-45; anything below 55 is considered low)
- Low in fat
- Powerhouses of nutrients including minerals and vitamins which are essential for your body to function well
- Keep you from being hungry and snacking
In summary, lentils definitely need to be included in your healthy eating plan. Serve then as a soup, side dish, main dish, include them in your salads and even use them in baking to reduce the fat you use. In the next article I will show you how to use lentil puree to make delicious chocolate chip cookies. Your kids will never know!
Please leave a comment. Share your favorite lentil recipe. And, you found the article helpful please share it with your friends.