Sadly, Americans are often limited in their palette of healthy foods. The recent budget crisis which has affected so many households, has had the one happy effect of encouraging people to cook at home rather than eat fast food. Lentils are one of the foods that the United States is rediscovering.
Lentils have been popular in Indian food and other eastern countries for thousands of years. Here in the United States, vegetarians and frugal shoppers have known the benefits of lentils, but many people have never even tried them, let alone added them to their regular diet.
Lentils are a legume-like beans peas and soybeans and peanuts-and are often used as a meant substitute due to their high protein content, around 26%. In fact the only legume to beat them in the protein game are soybeans. In addition they are high in other vitamins and minerals such as B1, folate, iron, magnesium, copper, potassium, and dietary fiber, just to name a few. For a good look at what the tiny but mighty lentil has to offer, check out http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrientprofile&dbid=43 .
Not only are these tiny little guys good for you, but they are surprisingly easy to cook and very tasty, going well in a cornucopia of different dishes. Many vegans and vegetarians use lentils as a meat substitute, cooking them in lentil loafs and burgers, as well as stews and soups.
Most varieties of lentils don’t need to be soaked overnight like dried beans do, and are very easy to prepare, much like cooking rice, though the time is a little longer. They keep very well, as most dried legumes do, and can be used, stored and used again throughout the months after the initial purchase. One can also purchase red and black lentils, but they are not as readily available as are the brown and green.
Image via Wikipedia
Speaking of purchase, the next reason to add the lentil to your shopping list is the price. The common brown/green lentil often found in American grocery stores is generally under a dollar a bag. One bag will make more than one meal for the typical family, and can be used in a variety of ways. My favorite way to cook lentils is in soups and stews that can boil away in the crock pot or simmer on the stove. They add texture and flavor, and take on the flavors of whatever you are cooking very well. A frugal, healthy purchase for the careful shopper.
Check out some recipes for lentils at slowcooking located at http://www.justslowcooking.com/inxlen.html
Published in: Cooking