More and more people are choosing to eat and live healthy. So, it is of no surprise that many people are choosing plant-based diet. Currently, protein lentils are the hottest trend, the buzzworthy ingredient for all health enthusiasts. You can now find gluten-free pasta and chips made from lentils in your local grocery stores. On the other hand, even the internet is filled with thousands of salad and soup recipes where lentils are the main protein.
So, is all these hype about protein lentils worth it? Should you add it to your everyday diet? Well, to answer these questions, next we will discuss everything that you need to know about protein lentils, so that you can use it effectively.
What are Protein Lentils?
Protein lentils are part of the legume family; so are round or lens-shaped, tiny seeds that grow in a pod. They are sold in the market without or with their outer husk. They come in a variety of sizes and an array of colors like green, black, red, yellow and brown, which happens to be the most popular kind. Each kind of lentil has its very own distinct flavor and texture.
Lentils are harvested and used for thousands of years now. They happen to be a staple in many Asian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and North African countries. It happens to be a popular choice of plant-based protein source in many vegan recipes. Rich in fiber, plant protein and folate; the health benefits of lentils are many.
Nutrition Value of Protein Lentils
Lentils are an inexpensive way to get your hands on a wide range of nutrients. This highly nutritious ingredient is loaded with potassium, magnesium, B vitamins and zinc.
Lentils are often called protein lentils because it is made up of over 20-25% protein. And this is the reason why protein lentils are popular alternative to meat.
Most vegetarian diet can lack the right amount of iron. They happen to be a great source of iron.
One cup of lentils (cooked) will provide around:
- Protein: 18 grams
- Carbs: 40 grams
- Calories: 230
- Fat: 0.8 grams
- Fiber: 16 grams
- Folate: 90% of RDI (Reference Daily Intake) / 358mcg
Here it is important to mention that for different types of lentils, the nutrient content will vary slightly. Some other nutritional value found in a cup of cooked protein lentils are:
- Vitamin B6: 19% of the RDI
- Iron: 38% of the RDI/6.6mg
- Magnesium: 17% of the RDI
- Manganese: 48% of the RDI
- Zinc: 18% of the RDI
- Potassium: 20% of the RDI
- Phosphorous: 37% of the RDI
- Copper: 26% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid: 12% of the RDI
- Niacin: 10% of the RDI
- Thiamine: 23% of the RDI
Protein lentils are a good source of “good” complex carbohydrates. Thus, it is safe to say that your body will digest it slowly. This will help you to keep feeling full and be energized all throughout the day. It will also improve digestion and promote balanced blood sugar level. Besides this, there are many other benefits of protein lentils.
Benefits of Protein Lentils
Some major health benefits of having protein lentils are:
- Lowers Cholesterol
The soluble fiber present in lentils can help to lower the LDL cholesterol level. At the time of digestion, the soluble fiber happens to bind with bile salt. This takes place in the gut and is passed out from the body. Now the body must make more bile salts to replace what it lost. Cholesterol is used for bile salt production and is pulled from the bloodstream. This will lower the LDL level. One serving of cooked lentils can lower LDL cholesterol by around 5%.
- Gut Health
The soluble fiber found in lentils are advantageous for your gut health as well. 1 cup of cooked lentils contains around 15grams of fiber. Some of the soluble fiber happens to be prebiotic fiber. Prebiotic fiber is as important as probiotic for your gut. Gut-friendly bacteria feed on it. It promotes the survival and proliferation of good bacteria in your gut which can improve your mood, bowel movements and help in appetite regulation.
- Great source of Plant-based Iron
If you need to add non-heme plant-based iron, then lentils will be the best ingredient to get your hands on. Iron is necessary to produce RBC (Red Blood Cell) and transporting oxygen all throughout your body. During pregnancy, protein lentils can be helpful. The volume and production of blood during pregnancy can increase by around 50% so that the body can support the growing fetus. You can add the adequate amount of iron in your diet by adding lentils to avoid premature delivery, fatigue anemia and iron-deficiency.
- Healthy Pregnancy
During pregnancy B vitamins, especially folate is important. In fact, according to many studies 400mcg of folic acid per day is recommended to women who are pregnant or trying to conceive. Having the right amount will prevent different major birth defects including neural tube disorders.
- Healthy Nails, Skin and Hair
The iron, protein and B vitamins present in lentils are needed for growth of healthy nails, skin and hair. The hard protein with which nails, skin and hair are made up of is known as keratin. Having protein lentils will mean that you are getting the adequate amount of protein which is needed for keratin production. Besides, lentils also contain L-lysine which is an essential amino acid. L-lysine reduces excessive hair shedding. It also contains B vitamins including Biotin or B7. Biotin fight against the signs of aging skin and promotes healthy hair growth. Pale skin, brittle hair and weak nails are signs of iron deficiency. Thus, having lentils can make your nails and hair stronger and skin better.
- Lots of Polyphenols
In simple words, polyphenols can be described as a type of active compounds that can fight against different harmful agent in your body. From radiation to UV rays to cancer to heart disease, polyphenols are important to have a healthy life. Lentils are full of polyphenols. Chickpeas and green peas are popular choice when it comes to food with polyphenols. However, lentils contain more polyphenols than these fellow legumes. Some of the polyphenols present in lentils happen to be flavanols and procyanidin. They are known for being anti-inflammatory and having strong antioxidant and neuroprotective effects. Besides stopping the growth of cancer cell, the polyphenols can even improve your blood sugar level.
- Lower Blood Pressure
Lentils are also known for lowering the blood pressure. With lentils there is a chance that there will be a reduction in the blood pressure level. Besides, protein present in lentils can restrict blood vessel constriction and thereby help to regulate the blood pressure level.
- Heart disease
According to different studies, it has been determined that lentils can lower the risk of heart diseases. When the intake of folate is insufficient, then there is a chance that your body has high level of homocysteine. High level of homocysteine leads to the risk of having heart disease. As lentils are an excellent source of folate, it is said that having lentils can prevent the accumulation of excess homocysteine in your body.
- Weight management
It is a great alternative to eating meat for protein. Thus, managing weight and controlling food intake can be done with lentils. They are generally extremely easy to cook and can be made to your liking. Thus, they have become a staple in many homes.
- Folic Acid
Whether you are pregnant or not, folic acid is an important nutrient to load up on. Besides preventing birth defects, with the adequate amount of folic acid in your system you can enjoy healthy hair growth, lower the risk of stroke and different heart disease.
- Strong bones
Per cup of cooked lentils has around 38 grams of calcium. So, vegans or vegetarians can easily replace any dairy-laden products with lentils if they are looking for a calcium-rich ingredient to add in their daily diet.
- Good night’s rest
If you are overworked or stressed or having trouble sleeping, then chances are your diet is missing magnesium. Consuming magnesium can help to eliminate the mentioned problem. A cup of cooked lentil contains around 70mg of magnesium. So, those looking to increase their magnesium intake can rely on lentils for the same.
How to Cook Protein Lentils?
One of the best things about lentils is that they are quite easy to cook.
Legumes generally requires pre-soaking before it can be cooked. However, this is not the case for lentils. You do not have to soak the lentils before you cook them. The antinutrient content in it is significantly lowered when the lentils are being cooked. Soaking can lower the levels even further.
You must wash the lentils before you can cook them. Rinsing the lentils well to get rid of any impurities.
Usually it takes less than 20 minutes to cook lentils. Add it to a pot, then add adequate amount of water and a pinch of salt and bring it to a boil. Once the water starts to boil, reduce the flame and let the lentils simmer uncovered till it is done which takes around 15 to 20 minutes.
When the lentils become crunchy or soft as per for preference, drain the excess water. You can rinse the lentil with cold water to avoid overcooking them.
Here it is important to mention that there are some lentils (split or small sized) which cooks in 5 to 10 minutes.
Lentils can be had for lunch or dinner. It can be cooked in big batches and keeps fresh in the fridge for up to 4 days.
No matter what type of lentils you go for, the fact will not change that they are packed with essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. They promote digestion and reduces the risk of different types of diseases. Protein lentils are nutritionally dense ingredient that can be cooked easily under 5-20 minutes.
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