Lentils are a seed that belongs to the legume family. As with all legumes, lentils are packed full of nutrients and health-boosting properties.
Lentils are a common staple in Asian and North African cuisines because of availability, nutrient value, and versatility. There are a variety of lentils available, each adding their own color to your dish. Despite the difference in color, all lentils deliver the same healing properties.
Lentils are full of polyphenols. These are powerful plant compounds that provide strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. In addition to this, these compounds provide neuroprotective benefits. Regularly eating lentils can protect your brain, heart, and overall health.
Lentils are full of fiber, folic acid, and potassium, all of which are essential for heart health. Dietary fiber is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, as it lowers cholesterol levels. Too much cholesterol can accumulate in blood vessels, causing damage and obstructed circulation. Folic acid is also found in lentils, and this nutrient also helps to lower the risk of heart disease.
Lentils are also an ideal substitute for meat. They provide more protein than meat and reduce the risk of heart disease associated with eating too much red meat. The high potassium content in lentils also reduces high blood pressure naturally. Hypertension is another leading cause of heart disease, and lentils can reduce this risk significantly.
Lentils contain selenium, which is proven to reduce the rate of tumor growth. Studies have linked selenium to reduced risk for prostate, lung, bladder, colorectal, skin, esophageal, and gastric cancers.
Selenium works specifically to improve immunity by stimulating the production of T cells, which kill disease. The fiber content in lentils is also known to lower the risk of colorectal cancer by promoting healthy bowel movements and gut health.
The high fiber content promotes healthy digestion to prevent common issues such as constipation and bloating. In addition, the fiber in lentils provides food to the beneficial bacteria living in your gut. As they digest the fiber, they produce short-chain fatty acids that protect the lining of the gut wall from inflammation.
As a regular part of your diet, fiber can prevent inflammatory bowel diseases. Fiber also reduces appetite by increasing the feeling of fullness, which can help to prevent you from eating too many calories.
Most people turn to sugary energy drinks or caffeine to get energy boosts. This can cause dangerous spikes in blood sugar levels. Instead, you can fight fatigue naturally by regularly consuming lentils.
Iron deficiency is a common cause for fatigue, and lentils are a great source for nonheme iron. With regular consumption, you experience sustained energy levels and less fatigue during the day.
Calcium and vitamin D usually get attention when it comes to bone health, and dairy products are the go-to resource. Lentils, however, contain a large amount of calcium and can protect your bones too.
This is especially beneficial for those that are lactose intolerant. The inability to digest dairy leaves many individuals calcium-deficient. Adding lentils to your diet is a good way to keep calcium levels up and prevent bone loss and bone disease.
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 large can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, lightly drained
1 cup brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup chopped fresh collard greens or kale, tough ribs removed
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice (½ to 1 medium lemon), to taste
1. Warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once the oil is simmering, add the chopped onion and carrot and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and turns translucent. Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder, and thyme. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly for about 30 seconds.
2. Pour in the drained diced tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often. Pour in the lentils, broth, and the water. Add 1 teaspoon salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes, then season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Raise heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape.
3. Transfer 2 cups of the soup to a blender. Securely fasten the lid, and purée the soup until smooth. Pour the puréed soup back into the pot. Add the chopped greens and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the greens have softened to your liking. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
4. Taste the soup and season with more salt, pepper, and/or lemon juice to fit your desired taste. For a spicier soup, add another pinch or two of red pepper flakes.
5. Serve while hot.
6. Leftovers will keep well for about 4 days in the refrigerator or can be frozen for several months.
Whether you try black, green, yellow, or brown lentils, you can be assured that they will be packed full of nutrients, protein, and compounds to boost your health.
The powerful plant compounds found in these legumes protect against several chronic diseases and reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems. Lentils are versatile, easy to cook, and a beneficial way to boost health and well-being.