LENTILS

Add lentils to your meal and increase your fiber and protein intake. Lentils are inexpensive, easy to prepare and contain many vitamins and minerals. Eat the low-fat food and help prevent chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. Serve them as a main meal or as a side dish and satisfy your hunger while providing your body with lasting energy.

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Compared to other types of dried beans, lentils are relatively quick and easy to prepare. They readily absorb a variety of wonderful flavors from other foods and seasonings, are high in nutritional value and are available throughout the year.

Lentils are legumes along with other types of beans. They grow in pods that contain either one or two lentil seeds that are round, oval or heart-shaped disks and are oftentimes smaller than the tip of a pencil eraser. They may be sold whole or split into halves with the brown and green varieties being the best at retaining their shape after cooking.

Fat, Calories and Carbohydrates

One cup of lentils contains less than 1 g of fat and no saturated fat. Low-fat food contributes to weight management and helps prevent heart disease and conditions that are related to obesity. According to Whole Foods, a cup of lentils contains 230 calories. The calories are made up of complex carbohydrates that provide the body with energy without causing rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. Lentils release energy for a long time and are a slow digesting carbohydrate source.

Fiber

A cup of lentils contains nearly 16 g of fiber, more than half of the recommended daily requirement. Soluble fiber in the lentils helps with regularity and cleans the digestive tract. Lentils also contain soluble fiber. Intake of soluble fiber lowers the risk of diabetes, constipation and heart disease. Lentils help people stay full longer; the high fiber meal keeps the body satisfied longer than low fiber foods.

Vitamins and Minerals

Lentils contain nearly 90 percent of the daily recommendation of folate, which helps produce new cells and is essential to iron production in the body. Lentils also contain magnesium, which is important to muscle and nerve function, strong bones and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Lentils are very low in sodium and may help lower the risk of high blood pressure. Lentils contain vitamin B6, which helps the body break down sugars and starches and supports functioning of the nervous system.

Protein

Lentils provide the same protein benefits as meat without the fat, calories and cholesterol that often accompany animal products. One cup of lentils contains 17 g of protein, which is essential to muscle development and growth. A diet rich in protein contributes to healthy nails, skin and muscles.