Growing up, lentils, chickpeas and many beans and other pulses were not my food of choice. But I’m here to tell you now that I not only eat these strange little bean type things, I also like them! I wanted to do a post about how great lentils are and why we should all be stocking up on these delightful pulses.
What are lentils
Lentils are a plant, specifically the seeds of the plant, and grow in pods much like peas. They are originally from Asia and North Africa but the main countries producing lentils today are Canada (36.9%) and India (28.7%) (FAO data) (although it looks like there might be some UK production going on at the moment).
Lentils come in a variety of different colours and sizes (we will be selling red, green and puy lentils).
This may be the boring stuff but this is the real reason we should eat lentils.
Firstly, lentils are an excellent source of protein, making them a necessary (as well as cheap and delicious) staple of vegetarian and vegan diets. Lentils are also low in fat and contain a number of micronutrients including minerals such as Magnesium, Phosphorous, Calcium and Sulphur. They are low in Sodium and relatively high in Potassium. Iron is also relatively significant in lentils, as is Zinc and these pulses contain folate, thiamine (vitamin B1) and riboflavin (vitamin B2). There are many others but these are the most well known.
All these chemicals may not mean much to us written down like that, but, put simply, they are all vital in a whole host of human biological functions, such as nerve impulses.
This paper found that lentils have a number of health benefits. These pulses have been mentioned in ancient treatments and are used nowadays in folk medicines to treat anything from diabetes, skin infections and burns. Lentils are also used as source of lectins for treatment of infections such as HIV.
Some of the most interesting health effects of lentils I came across are:
Blood pressure lowering
Improved cardio-vascular health
Prevention and management of diabetes
Laxative (not necessarily a good thing but you never know ?)
You may or may not believe in all of the above and I would say that humans are all different so these effects will not be true for everyone. All in all though, I think it is safe to say that lentils are one of the most nutritious and healthy foods available on the market today.
What to do with them
So now we know why we should eat lentils but here is why we actually WILL eat them. I have included a few of my favourite recipes with lentils below. If you give them a try let me know how you get on and please send in any others you may have.
Pan-fried halloumi with caramelised red onion and lentils -this is my absolute favourite recipe with lentils and the mint sets off the halloumi perfectly.
Vegetarian ‘Shepherd’s’ pie – a really good one for the cold, dark winter months this is such a comforting meal to make. It does take a bit of time but most of that is just sat in the over so it isn’t too much effort
Coconut Dal – this is a nice, relatively simple recipe which can go in the fridge and do lunch for the rest of the week.
Just to be aware, some of the recipes above use cooked lentils. You can buy lentils cooked in tins or they are also available dried. Tinned lentils are quicker to cook and the tins are recyclable but they will likely be more expensive. On the other hand, you can bulk buy dried lentils (try to avoid the single use plastic though). Dried lentils only need boiling for around 20-25 minutes before they are ready to eat so it isn’t a big issue.
Top tip: we sell dried lentils WITHOUT the plastic packaging and you can buy exactly the amount you need.