Health practitioner Dr. Perricone, one of the regular contributors in Oprah.com, shared to the world his super food list which included beans and lentils on the number four position; and ranked number two on the United States Department of Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid.
Therefore, this article will bring to everyone’s attention the reason behind all the health claims on lentils and its promising attributes like other super foods.
Lentils are legumes same with other types of beans which are grown in ponds in countries such as Central Asia and India. The size of one or two seeds can be compared to the tips of pencil eraser with an oval or heart-shape. Lentils are available in different colors like green, brown, yellow, red, orange, and black. The green and brown lentils can retain their shape after being cooked as to compare with other variants and the taste features a nutty flavor.
These lentil seeds are the first source of foods dating back 8000 years. In fact, lentils were mentioned in the Holy Bible as an item that Jacob traded for his birthright. During the explorations of cultural tribes in Africa and Europe, lentils are also eaten together with wheat and barley. The lentils were also introduced in India and become their famous dish. One of the best traditional cuisines is known as dal or spiced lentil dish as their source of balanced diet which only contain little or no meat.
Nutrition Facts of Lentils
What is in lentils that make it super food? Just imagine that lentils lack only 2 essential amino acids in order to complete the 20 amino acids that we need in our body. Lentils are low in fat, high in fiber, and low in calories (230 calories for cup of cooked lentils) which are best option for dieters. The lentil seeds can aid digestion process and stabilize the blood sugar for its potential to lower the glycemic index and prevents blood sugar to rise rapidly after eating.
In addition, lentils are also rich in thiamin or vitamin B1, high in folate content or vitamin B6, loaded with minerals such as magnesium, calcium, manganese, phosphorus and iron.
Take note that magnesium, the natural calcium channel blocker, has an essential role to keep our heart healthy. Enough supply of magnesium can relax the arteries, lessen resistance, and tremendously improves the oxygen, blood flow and nutrients. Likewise, lentils are energy booster and can replenish iron stores. Some people regarded lentils as best alternative for iron meat because of its low calories and fat content.
Lastly, the high amount of tryptophan, a kind of amino acid can help to produce protein when combine to other amino acids. This tryptophan is known for anti-depression and can induce good sleep because it serves as a precursor for melatonin and serotonin of the brain. Another significant compound found in lentils is called molyddenum which function is to catalyze important chemical reactions in metabolism.
Research-based health benefits of lentils
A study published in the Internal Medicine Archives regarding any diet high in fiber, such as lentils, can prevent heart disease by 82%. To elaborate further the claim, there was a long study that took 25 years to conduct among 16,000 middle-aged men in different countries like Japan, Greece, Yugoslavia, Finland, and United States whereas diet patterns of selected participants were analyzed and the risk of death from heart disease.
They found on the data gathered that legumes can reduce the risk of heart disease by 82%. Other interesting results were revealed that among the countries participated in the study, United States got the highest percentage when it comes to meat consumption; Northern Europe for dairy products consumption; Southern Europe for legumes, vegetables, fish and wine consumption; and lastly, Japan for fish, soy products, and cereals consumption. It maybe assumed the lifestyle and culture of these countries play the major role on the health status of their citizens.
In Canada, there were clinical studies conducted by University of Saskatchewan, the potential of lentils as a performance enhancer in sports. The preliminary results showed that athletes performed much better and gained more endurance after consuming lentils in comparison with eating pasta. The underlying principle is the ability of lentils which provides slow and sustained release of energy to muscles.
Therefore, the research team tries to measure how lentils were absorbed by athlete participants by testing their muscle biopsy, carbon dioxide and oxygen. With this, more Canadian firms are willing to invest on sports energy with lentil content if proven that the study is conclusive and proves its promising health benefits to athletes. They are looking forward to manufacture energy bar and cereals which are lentil-based.
Storage of Lentils
You can purchase lentils in prepackaged containers or bulk bins but make sure that these are tightly covered and with good product turn over to ensure the freshness. Storage of lentils is best recommended to place in an airtight container, dry, and dark place. Normally, the shelf life can be lasted for 12 months, but to make sure, look for the expiration date placed on the label.
Of course, if you do not opt to stock lentils in containers or bulk bins, try to look for canned lentils that can be found on your local supermarket. However, any vegetables in the form of canning can lower the nutritional value compared with fresh vegetables.
Ways to Cook Lentils
Lentils are ready to cook and no need to soak in water for hours before cooking. However, you still need to sort these out to remove few small pebbles that come with the lentils. To easily remove the small stones, use light colored plate to easily distinguish the debris. Then, transfer the lentils in a strainer and wash them thoroughly with water.
Here are some ways to cook lentils:
- Best combination that vegetarian may consider on their diet could be organic brown rice and lentils if they are particular to get enough protein on their meal.
- For cold salad, simply combine cooked lentils with chopped sweet peppers and other healthy vegetable toppings of your choice. To add some flavor, you can season your cold salad with herbs and spices.
- Another way to prepare this legume is by tossing the cooked lentils, broccoli florets, and leeks to buckwheat soba noodles. To add flavor, dress with ginger, garlic and olive oil.
- The famous lentil soup is very easy to prepare. Simply add vegetables of your choice with cooked lentils cayenne pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and coriander.
Minor Issue on Lentils
Lentils contain natural substances called purines which are commonly found in the body cells of humans, animals and plants. The health implication of purines is the development of high uric acid when these purines have been broken down as the body cells die and regenerated. Uric acid plays very important role to prevent damage in blood vessels. Our kidneys are responsible to maintain the uric acid level, and some foods may trigger the uric acid to rise and when uric acid crystals build up, it causes gouty arthritis and the formation of kidney stones. If a person is having these two symptoms, lentils are not being recommended to prevent the aggravation of health condition.Concentrated amounts of purines are also found in high-protein foods like kidney, mackerel, sardines, mussles, and yeast.
The beneficial phytochemicals and multi-faceted nutrition with its preventive health attributes give a rationale why lentils occupy the one of the highest echelons on super foods list, and not to mention the versatility of lentils that can be added in various cuisines. The wonder benefits of this super food are undisputed, and with more refined studies, sooner or later, lentils will reveal more of its potential in the field of alternative medicine.