Lentils are one of the first foods to have ever been cultivated and date back to over 8000 years. They’ve been discovered in multiple archaeological sites in Central Asia and the Middle East. Since the spreading of their seeds, lentils have become a staple and traditionally eaten with wheat, barley or rice. In India, lentils are used in traditional dishes including dal, a yellow lentil curry which is rich in exotic flavors.
There are several different varieties of lentils. In the United States, the most common ones are brown, yellow or green. You can also find red, orange, black and blue colors. Most lentils are round, oval or heart shaped and smaller than a pencil eraser. They’re relatively light in weight, despite their nutritious density, and versatility.
Within the last century, lentils have been forgotten by many people. Whether it’s the texture, the taste or the mere fact that they’re a lentil, these healthy legumes deserve far more attention than they currently receive. If you’re not eating enough lentils, hopefully by the time you finish reading this, you’ll add them to your upcoming grocery list.
5 Reasons to Eat Your Lentils
Lentils Keep Your Heart Happy
Lentils are a rich source of folate and magnesium. These vital nutrients help to keep the heart happy by lowering homocysteine levels, improving blood flow and increasing oxygen within the body. The high amount of magnesium found in lentils will also help to heal the heart after a heart attack and also prevent one from happening.
Your Digestive System will Work Better
People 65 and over often struggle with constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis. Without correcting these problems, they can lead to more problematic health issues. Luckily, fiber is one of the easiest ways to reverse all of the above and help the digestive system to work better. Lentils are one of the best sources of dietary fiber; both soluble and insoluble. The soluble fiber creates a gel like substance which traps cholesterol packed bile in the digestive trap and eliminates it from the body. The insoluble fiber increases liquid within the stool and decreases uncomfortable constipation.
Energy Levels are Boosted
The fiber and complex slow burning carbohydrates found in lentils will increase energy levels while replenishing iron throughout the body. As a result oxygen levels become boosted leading to a production of energy and a heighted metabolism. Through regular lentil consumption, increased energy levels can promote better, stabilized moods and alleviate anxiety or depression.
Blood Sugar Levels are Re-balanced
Diabetes, insulin resistance and hypoglycemia are rampant across the world and a common health concern in men and women over the age of 65. The fiber in lentils will slow down digestion and start to stabilize blood sugar levels. Studies (1) have shown that just 50 grams of lentils every day will help to lower blood sugar and insulin levels in the body. It will also lower total cholesterol, triglyceride and very low density lipoprotein levels.
Rich in Protein
Vegetarians, vegans or anyone who does not consume a lot of meat, often do not get enough protein. Like water, protein is a life source and without it, brittle bones and osteoporosis can result. Lentils contain extremely high amounts of protein; in fact up to 26% of their calories are protein. If you are not fond of meat or fish, start to eat more lentils on a daily basis.
How to Select and Store Your Lentils
When you purchase lentils in the store, you’ll find them dried in small pre-packed packages or bulk containers. Make sure there is no moisture in these locations and if you’re buying them out of a container, ensure there is a lid to keep them fresh. You may also find lentils in cans. Normally, canned food is not recommended because the vegetable or fruit loses a lot of it’s’ nutrients. In the case of lentils, very little vitamins or minerals are lost so by all means, canned lentils are okay if they make it easier for you to consume them. One thing to keep in mind is that canned lentils do contain salt and additives, but you may find brands which are organic and have low sodium levels.
Must Have Cooking Tips for Lentils
Unlike many legumes, lentils do not need to be pre-soaked. You can spread them on a plate to remove any stones, debris or bad lentils (discolored or oddly shaped). Once finished, place them in a dish or strainer and wash them in cool water for about one minute.
When you’re ready to cook your lentils, you will want to use 3 cups of liquid for every cup of the legume. This liquid does not have to be water, but rather can also include broth or coconut milk. It is better to bring the liquid to a boil before adding the lentils; once they’re in the pan, turn the heat to a simmer and cook them until soft (20-30 minutes).
Simple and Nutritious Lentils Recipes to Try
If you’re ready to eat more lentils, be sure to try out these easy, healthy recipes…
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Take 3 cups of coconut, almond or dairy milk and bring it to a boil. Add 1 cup of red or brown lentils and cook until soft. Just before turning off the heat, add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom powder with your favorite dried fruits and nuts. Sweeten with honey or maple syrup and serve warm. You can save the leftovers and reheat them or enjoy cold.
Take your salads up a notch by adding some lentils to them. Any type of lentils will do, but the red and green ones work best. Try a warm lentil salad by cooking some red lentils up and set them aside. Sauté’ a red onion and half a yellow or red pepper. Now add in a bunch of spinach or kale. Once finished, toss in the lentils and top them with a tablespoon of olive oil, the juice of ¼ lemon or orange, salt and pepper (or your favorite dressing).
By now, you should be pretty convinced to eat more lentils. Let us know what you think about these incredible foods for people over the age of 65 and please share your favorite dish if you have one!
References: 1. McIntosh M, Miller C. A diet containing food rich in soluble and insoluble fiber improves glycemic control and reduces hyperlipidemia among patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutr Rev 2001 Feb;59(2):52-5. 2001. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11310776