All beans and legumes are hearty, which is nice when you really get a craving for something filling and tasty. But some beans and legumes are more nutritious than others, and lentils are a stellar example. Not only are these legumes easier to digest than some others, but they’re also the perfect package of nutrition, especially for plant-based eaters. You can choose from red, brown, and even golden or green lentils, so if color and variety are your thing, lentils have you covered. They also differ in flavor depending on which color you choose. The reddish orange ones are a bit sweeter and thinner, while the green and brown ones are nuttier and a bit thicker. Whatever color you choose, all lentils are equal in the nutritional components they contain.
If you’re trying to eat less meat, are already meat-free, and especially if you’re vegan, take a look at why lentils belong on your plate (and in your tummies!).
Let’s start with a biggie- protein. Everyone wants to eat more protein because goodness forbid we don’t get enough or lose our strong muscles, right? Well, thankfully, lentils are packed with protein and not just a little bit either. Lentils contain 18 grams of protein in just one cup. Now, while that might not seem like a lot, even half that amount is still more than one egg and a lot more nutritious for you too! Lentils are not a complete source of protein, but as we now know, your body can use the amino acids from all your foods to form complete proteins in the body. No special food pairings needed!
Iron is essential to not only red blood cell function, but also for aiding in metabolism and even boosting your mood and digestion. Many plant-based foods contain iron such as quinoa, chia seeds, oats, pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, all beans (including cacao beans!), raisins, figs, prunes, and even bananas and green peas. Lentils are an iron star because they contain 36 percent of your daily iron needs in just one cup. If you combine some lentils with quinoa, pumpkin seeds, and some leafy greens either in a burger or a salad, you’ve got yourself one iron-packed meal that will keep you going strong for hours!
3. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is one of the most overlooked, necessary nutrients needed for mood health and metabolism. It helps produce energy, enhances mental clarity, and even helps relax the body in times of stress. Bananas, sweet potatoes and avocados are all commonly known sources, but lentils are also a great option, providing 20 percent of your B6 needs in one cup.
Lentils also contain folate, another necessary B vitamin needed for metabolism and healthy brain function. Lentils have 90 percent of your folate needs in just one cup! Other beans and legumes, along with asparagus, oats, quinoa, nuts and seeds are also good sources.
5. Fiber and Low Glycemic
Fiber is one incredibly important nutrient you need for good health. It helps manage your blood sugar to treat and prevent Type 2 diabetes, and also keeps you full and boosts metabolism. Though plant-based eaters eating whole foods are likely to ever have to worry about getting enough, a small or medium size serving of lentils is sure to send you closer to your daily needs. A ¼ cup of lentils has 8 grams of fiber, and is lower in starch and natural sugars than some other beans. This makes them easier to digest and also lower on the glycemic index.
Other benefits of lentils include a high potassium content, 23 percent of your daily zinc needs, and a nice punch of copper, a mineral needed for digestion and metabolism. No matter if you use lentils in soup, stews, tacos, veggie loafs or veggie burgers, or even topped across a hearty veggie grain bowl, lentils are a win for sure. They’re also a smart choice if you’re looking to manage your weight the healthy way because they have metabolic-boosting properties and absolutely no fat or cholesterol.
Here are seven tasty recipes you can try each day this week if you need further lentil inspiration:
Lead Image Source: Sweet and Smokey BBQ Lentils