What struck me about that dish was how much the lentils reminded me of crumbled ground beef. So I began to experiment with substituting lentils in meals I traditionally prepared with ground beef. Since it was long before I gave up meat and dairy, it wasn’t because I was trying to eliminate the meat. It was purely because I loved the taste and texture of the lentils!
I substituted lentils for ground beef in my spaghetti sauce, sloppy Joes, tacos, burritos, and chili. In each case, I diced and browned an onion and garlic, added the cooked lentils and cooked it with the onion and garlic as I would have crumbled the ground beef, then added the rest of the ingredients and cooked it down.
I also experimented with adding uncooked lentils to the onion and garlic (since they don’t need to be pre-soaked) and cooking them down in the enchilada or marinara sauce, which worked well. In either case, I ended up with a quick (less than 30 minutes) and very tasty meal every time!
Now that I consume only plant-based foods, lentils feel like an “old friend” that I didn’t have to leave behind. And even better, lentils are oh, so good for me (and you too)!
Here are some more reasons you’ve got to love lentils:
- Lentils are satisfying and filling, and a one-cup serving of lentils is low in calories and fat with only 230 calories and less than a gram of fat! So lentils help keep you trim.
- Lentils are loaded with protein, packing 18 grams into a single serving! For me (my age, activity, etc.), that’s nearly half (43%) of my Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein!
- Lentils are chock full of fiber, with a healthy 21 grams of fiber in only one cup. That’s about three quarters (74%) of my RDA for fiber! Lentils have both soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol because the soluble fiber reduces absorption of cholesterol.
- Lentils are packed with a whopping 8 grams of iron per serving, over three quarters (82%) of my RDA for iron! Iron carries oxygen to the brain and muscles, and gives us energy.
- Lentils are rich in phosphorous, with 356 milligrams (mg) of phosphorous per one-cup serving, half (51%) of my RDA for phosphorous! Phosphorous strengthens our bones and teeth, improves our digestion and excretion, gives us more energy, helps regulate our hormones, helps our bodies produce proteins, and because phosphorous is abundant in the cells in our brain, helps us have proper brain function.
- With 731 mg of potassium in a single serving, lentils have nearly twice the potassium in a medium banana! Potassium helps lower blood pressure, a leading risk factor for stroke.
- Lentils are packed with cancer-fighting, health-promoting antioxidants. A single one-cup serving of lentils has 358 micrograms of folate (folic acid), 90% of my RDA for folate! Plus 2.5 mg of zinc, almost a third (31%) of my RDA for zinc! Folate helps prevent genetic mutations and thus protect against several types of cancer (pancreatic, colon, and bladder). Zinc helps protect against neurological disorders. Lentils also have an abundance of flavonoids, which protect against oxidative damage of free radicals, improve brain function and memory, and improve overall health.
- You will also find 335 micrograms of thiamin (vitamin B1) in a serving of lentils, almost a third (31%) of my RDA for thiamin, which helps maintain a healthy nervous system and improve cardiovascular functioning in the body.
- Lentils may also be beneficial in preventing type 2 diabetes by helping to stabilize blood sugar and prevent blood sugar spikes.
I used my personal RDAs to give you some context for the grams, milligrams, and micrograms of each of the nutrients found in lentils to help you see just how densely nutritious lentils are. You can go to http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/fnic/interactiveDRI/ to determine your own personal RDAs.
What are some of your favorite ways to prepare lentils?
- Matthew Kadey, http://www.alive.com/articles/view/22913/load_up_on_lentils