Calories In Lentils
Lentils are a type of legume which grows in pods. The pods usually contain a couple of small lentil seeds. They vary in color and may range from yellow to orange to brown. Lentils are sold whole or split and are available at any time of the year. Lentils are much easier to prepare and also cook faster than other dried beans.
A variety of seasonings and flavorings can be used to cook lentils since they absorb the flavors readily. Since lentils are low in calories and rich in nutrients, they are a valuable addition to the diet.
Nutrition And Calories In Lentils
One cup of cooked lentils contains only 230 calories. About 30 percent of calories come from protein. These proteins include amino acids and lysine. Lentils also contain vitamin B, folate, minerals and fiber. Green lentils contain a greater amount of fiber than red lentils. Lentils are also known for their high phytate levels and trypsin inhibitors which are involved in the process of digestion and absorption of nutrients. Lentils are also a great source of iron.
Health Benefits Of Lentils
Lentils are considered to be a healthy addition to the diet due to their high nutritional value. Some of the health benefits of lentils include;
- Lentils contain soluble fiber which binds to the ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body. This reduces the levels of blood cholesterol. Some studies have shown that consuming lentils also causes the liver to produce a lower level of cholesterol.
- Soluble fiber also helps to regulate blood sugar levels and hence is beneficial for those with diabetes.
- Fiber-rich foods help in digestion. Since lentils contain large amounts of fiber, they encourage proper digestion and prevent constipation. Fiber adds bulk to the stools and thus enables their easy elimination from the body. Those who face recurring constipation may consume lentils regularly. The fiber in lentils also helps to prevent diverticulosis which is characterized by the formation of tiny pouches in the intestinal wall.
- You are likely to feel full faster after you consume lentils. Therefore lentils are a great addition to weight loss diets.
- Some studies have suggested that lentils may help to reduce the risk of breast cancer since they contain flavones, a type of antioxidants.
- The fiber in lentils also helps to protect against heart problems. Since fiber lowers the levels of blood cholesterol, the risk of plaque formation on the artery walls is reduced. This helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
- Lentils also contain folic acid and magnesium which are beneficial for the health of heart. Folic acid brings down the level of a compound known as homocysteine which may have harmful effects on the arterial walls and the heart. Magnesium encourages better blood flow and hence promotes a healthy supply of oxygen and nutrients to the vital organs.
- Due to their iron content, lentils are an excellent source of energy and especially beneficial for menstruating women. Lentils help to replenish iron stores and are also recommended for children and pregnant women.
- Lentils are a good substitute for red meat in a vegetarian diet. They contain protein and other important nutrients and do not add calories to the diet.
Buying And Storing Lentils
You can buy lentils either prepackaged or in bulk containers. It is important to ensure that the containers used to store lentils in supermarkets are covered in order to retain their freshness. Avoid buying lentils which have been exposed to moisture or those which appear damaged or broken. Canned lentils are also easily available today. The nutritional value of canned lentils remains mostly unchanged.
It is advisable to store lentils in a cool, dark and dry place. When stored properly, they can stay for up to a year. Cooked lentils can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.
It is not necessary to pre-soak lentils and hence you can prepare them on the day of serving. When preparing lentils, first spread them out on a plate and remove any debris or stones. Then place them in a strainer and wash under running water. To cook one cup of lentils, add them to three cups of water and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, lower the flame and simmer with the lid on. You can add cooked lentils to a cold salad made with fresh vegetables and herbs. Lentil soup is another popular dish made with spices and chopped vegetables.
Lentils contain purines which may lead to health problems in some individuals. When broken down, purines form uric acid. An excessive intake of purines may increase the concentration of uric acid in the body. When crystals of uric acid accumulate in the joints, it can lead to inflammation, swelling, pain and redness.