Welcome to Tracy’s Nutrition Tips’ first Food Focus! This is a new feature I’m trialing on my blog for Mondays in combination with my Back to Basics series where I will be focusing on one specific food, what it is and its nutritional benefits.

For the very first Food Focus, I thought I’d introduce you to one of my favourite plant-based proteins: lentils.

What are lentils?

Lentils are a highly nutritious pulse that is rich in carotene and certain B vitamins. They are available in both dried and canned forms at the grocery store.1 In Canada, Saskatchewan is the major producer of lentils.2 Lentils come in multiple varieties, including brown and yellow lentils originating from Europe and red lentils originating from Egypt. Brown lentils are sold with the seed coat still on the lentil whereas red lentils are sold with the seed coat removed.3

Where can you find lentils?

Both dried and canned lentils can be purchased from your local grocer. If you’re new to cooking with lentils and are hesitant to purchase a large bag in fears of being wasteful, Bulk Barn also sells multiple lentils varieties!

How should lentils be stored?

If purchasing dried lentils, they should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one year. 3 If using canned lentils, I find that I can store them drained and rinsed in a plastic container in the fridge for up to a week.

What are the nutritional benefits of lentils?

According to the Canadian Nutrient File, 100 grams of boiled lentils contain4:

NutrientAmount
Energy (calories)116 kcal
Carbohydrate20 g
Total Fat0.4 g
Protein9 g
Fibre4.2 g
Calcium19 mg
Iron3.33 mg
Magnesium36 mg
Phosphorus180 mg
Potassium369 mg
Beta carotene5 mcg
Folate181 mcg

Lentils are a great plant-based protein for multiple reasons. They contain calcium, vitamins A and B, iron and phosphorus. Due to their high soluble and insoluble fibre content, they can also improve digestion and help lower blood cholesterol levels. Furthermore, their amino acid profile complements that of cereals (grains) and nuts.

Lentils are also low on the glycemic index, which is important for managing type 2 diabetes as they have a lower impact on blood glucose levels than many other carbohydrate containing foods.3

In addition, the consumption of pulses is associated with a reduced risk of developing several types of chronic disease such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Part of the reason why pulses (including lentils) have these benefits on health is because they are associated with a lower plasma cholesterol level, thus reducing the risk of developing heart disease.5

All of the listed benefits help explain why Canada’s Food Guide recommends minimizing dietary saturated fat intake by eating meat alternatives, including lentils.

If you’re new to plant-based proteins or have never tried lentils before, I encourage you to try them out! I love using lentils as a replacement for ground beef, such as in tacos or pasta sauce. Stay tuned for a recipe this Wednesday that uses lentils!

References

  1. Kent, M. lentils. In Food and Fitness: A Dictionary of Diet and Exercise. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 14 Jun. 2020, from https://www-oxfordreference-com.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/view/10.1093/acref/9780191803239.001.0001/acref-9780191803239-e-1030.
  2. Bhatty, R., Nielsen, M., & Slinkard, A. (1984). Cooking quality of lentils grown in the Canadian prairies. Canadian Journal of Plant Science = Revue Canadienne de Phytotechnie, 64(1), 17–24. https://doi.org/10.4141/cjps84-003
  3. Yadav, S., McNeil, D., & Stevenson, P. (2007). Lentil An Ancient Crop for Modern Times (1st ed. 2007.). Springer Netherlands. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-6313-8
  4. Government of Canada. (2018 February 6). Nutrient profile – Lentils, boiled. Retrieved from https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/report-rapport.do
  5. Bioactives and Health Benefits of Lentils ( Lens culinaris L. ). (2012). In Functional Food Science and Technology Series (pp. 217–228). Wiley‐Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118229415.ch15

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