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Friday, June 27, 2014

I HEART LENTILS

 
It is no secret that legumes are highly nutritious foods. They have nutrient indices much higher than the other high-protein staples - meat, eggs dairy. Indeed as a class beans, peas, and lentils rank higher in nutrition than grains and nuts and are as good for you as many fruits and even certain vegetables.

Of the legumes, the most nutritionally superior is the lovely lentil. Lentils are our personal favorite legume, not only because of the high amounts of molybdenum, fiber - tons of fiber! - as well as copper, phosphorus, manganese, iron, protein, zinc and many B-vitamins they contain, and not only because of all the legumes lentils are the easiest to digest (say bye to bloat!), but also because they are so easy to prepare!

Unlike beans, lentils require no soaking, which is one less step. Not only that, they can be cooked in a fraction of the time it takes to whip up some pintos or kidneys. Most beans take a good hour to 90 minutes to boil. Not so with lentils. The green variety usually take 30 minutes, while red ones require a mere 20 minutes on the stove.

To boil lentils, use three cups of liquid for each cup of legume. Bring the water and lentils together with 1 or 2 tsp salt to a bubble then reduce heat, cover and let simmer for the recommended length of time. For added flavor, add a white onion and maybe a few cloves of garlic to the pot a couple of minutes before the lentils are done cooking. (Remember to remove from stove immediately and strain the excess water, otherwise the lentils will lose their texture.) That's it. Ready to eat.

It deserves mentioning that a cup of cooked lentils provides 6.5 mg of iron, especially important for vegan athletes. If you are an active male following a plant-based diet, aim for 20 mg of iron each day. That's 3 cups of cooked lentils. Pre-menopausal gals who shun meat should strive to achieve 45 mg of daily iron, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.

Iron helps your blood transport oxygen to your muscles and organs. Iron deficiency is associated with anemia and its symptoms, including rapid heart rate, fatigue, malaise and pallor. None of this is very fun. So make lentils a regular part of your dietary intake. Throw a batch on the stove today!

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