Why is lentils the healthiest food you can eat?

They may be small, but don’t let their size fool you: lentils are packed with many nutrients, from gut-friendly fiber to immune-boosting zinc. Small legumes are also a staple in vegetarian meals, thanks to their versatility and texture. Moreover, they are affordable and cook quickly, which adds to their appeal. Unconvinced? Read on to learn about the health benefits of lentils along with our favorite recipes.

What is lentil?

Lentils are the edible seeds (also known as legumes) of the lentil plant, which are native to Asia and North America, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It is part of the Fabatia family, which includes other legumes such as chickpeas, peas, and beans. Lentils are also called “legumes,” although the term technically refers to any plant in the legume family. Also, here’s a fun fact: the botanical name for lentils is cooking lenses, which is a reference to the curved, lens-like shape of lentil seeds.

Health benefits

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There are many types of lentils, including brown, green, red, and yellow. The exact nutritional content varies between each type, but all lentils generally boast similar (and impressive) health benefits. In particular, lentils are an excellent source of vegetable protein. This is especially noteworthy if you eat a vegan, vegetarian, or vegan diet, as these eating patterns tend to be lower in protein, according to Erica Ingraham, MS, RDN, registered dietitian and founder of Listen Nutrition. Protein plays an important role in muscle growth and repair, bone development, and the immune system [support,]Ingraham explains. It also increases the feeling of satiety after eating, making lentils a satisfying and filling food.

Plus, lentils are a great source of fiber, “an important carbohydrate for healthy digestion,” says Ingraham. In fact, lentils contain more fiber than beans and chickpeas, according to International Journal of Food Science and Technology. Lentils contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber absorbs water in the body, creating a gel-like substance that may help relieve diarrhea. Insoluble fiber does not absorb water, which leads to an increase in stool volume. This can be helpful if you are prone to constipation, as larger stools are easier to pass. Simply put, the fiber in lentils is incredible for digestion.

There’s more: Lentils contain polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant. According to Ingraham, polyphenols reduce inflammation and oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals (which are harmful molecules). This protects cells from damage, reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease or cancer. The edible seeds are also packed with micronutrients like vitamin A, vitamin K, folic acid, iron and zinc, according to the magazine. Nutrients. Like protein, iron and zinc are often lacking in vegetarian diets. [eating] Lentils can be a useful way to get these nutrients,” Ingraham explains. Moreover, vitamin A and zinc are essential for healthy immune function, as noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How to enjoy lentils at home

If you’re new to lentils, you’ll be happy to know that they’re so easy to prepare. They can be incorporated into a variety of dishes, says Ingraham, including soups, stews, curries, and dips like hummus. Lentils are also exceptional alternatives to meat, thanks to their rich protein content and meaty texture. Try them in a vegan shepherd’s pie or hearty lentil pancakes. Looking for a simpler approach? Make a side dish of rosemary lentils or a warm lentil salad with hard-boiled eggs for a rich, flavorful meal.

This story first appeared on www.marthastewart.com

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