Lentils used to be more like poor people’s food. They have a long shelf life, are very satiating and are also inexpensive. But times are changing. Since the lentil is extremely nutritious and healthy, it is becoming more and more popular, especially among health-conscious people. Even the gourmet cuisine has discovered the lentil for itself, because it is extremely versatile and its variety of colours is also visually impressive. Whether crunchy, exotic or sweet – the lentil cuts a fine figure even in the most daring preparations. Small lentil varieties taste particularly fine because they have a higher proportion of peel in which their delicate aromas hide.
Origin of the small lentils
The lentil, which bears the Latin name Lens culinaris, is a legume from the Orient. Its pods each contain two to three small disc-shaped seeds. The lentil is one of the oldest cultivated plants, having been cultivated for over 8000 years.
For centuries, lentils have supplied millions of Indians and Central Asians with their valuable nutrients and vital substances. Via Egypt and Rome, the lentil then reached Central Europe, where it is now one of the most important pulses alongside beans and peas.
The variety of lentils and their preparation
Lentils are not only versatile; they are also distinguished by their variety of varieties. There are brown, green, red, yellow and black lentils. Some are offered with the skin and others are peeled. Both variants have their advantages. The unpeeled lentils are more nutritious and tasty, as the peel contains the most nutrients and flavours.
The peeled lentils, on the other hand, are easier to digest, which is particularly beneficial for people with a weak digestive system.
From lentils you can conjure up delicious stews, Indian dhals, hearty spreads, crunchy meatballs, delicious salads and much more. There are no limits to your imagination when it comes to preparation.
Tip: Lentils should be well washed before cooking. The unpeeled lentils are soaked overnight and the next day they are placed in fresh, cold water and cooked without salt, otherwise they do not become soft. A dash of lemon juice or vinegar (after cooking) intensifies the fine lentil aroma.
What makes lentils so valuable?
Lentils have a high protein and fibre content and also contain many complex carbohydrates. Due to the high fibre content, lentils have a low glycemic index (GLYX).
This means that they cause the blood sugar level to rise only slowly and therefore cause only a small amount of insulin to be released. Dietary fibres also provide long-lasting satiety, good digestion and support the immune system by absorbing and eliminating toxins from the intestines.
The nutrient composition of the lentils seems so interesting to a Canadian company that they are currently even developing an energy sports bar based on lentils. Canadian studies of competitive athletes have shown that their endurance performance increases significantly if they eat more lentil dishes instead of potatoes or noodles before the competition.
Lentils are a good source of protein
Especially for vegetarians or vegans lentils are a valuable source of protein. In order to increase the biological value of the lentils, they should be enjoyed together with a whole rice, because the lentils lack two essential amino acids (methionine and cystine), which are however contained in the rice.
By combining both foods, the body can be provided with all eight essential amino acids. Therefore, this combination is optimal from a nutritional point of view.
Tip: Enjoy germinated lentils as often as possible, because the germination process significantly increases their nutrient density, they are particularly easy to digest and the two missing amino acids are also suddenly present.
The lentil and its richness in vital substances
Lentils are rich in secondary plant compounds. These include aromatic, colouring and protective substances which protect the plant from harmful influences and thus from diseases. Its health-promoting properties in humans have now been clearly proven by countless scientific studies.
Lentils also contain remarkably high amounts of potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Lentils also contain a significant amount of B vitamins, which are important for the nervous system. Due to their high folic acid content, lentils are considered an ideal pregnancy food.
The proportion of molybdenum in lentils is also very high. Molybdenum is one of the essential trace elements. It acts as a cofactor for enzymes that convert food into energy. As you can see, it is worth integrating delicious lentil dishes into your diet on a regular basis (1 to 2 times a week), and not just for taste reasons.
Lentils have a high purine content
Besides being rich in nutrients and vital substances, lentils are also rich in purines. Purines are natural components of every body cell, because they are essential for the genetic material and the development of new cells. When old or diseased cells are broken down, these purines are released again. Purines also enter the body through food.
However, the body cannot simply excrete excess purines because they must first be converted into uric acid. Only then can they be excreted in the urine. This is not a problem for a healthy organism. However, if a high uric acid level is already present, as is the case, for example, with gout disease, the consumption of foods with a high purine content should be avoided.
However, it is known that even in this situation vegetable purine-rich foods often pose no problem and can be eaten with pleasure, which is not recommended for animal purine-rich foods.
Tip for the external use of lentils: Gout patients can also use lentils externally: For this purpose, the lentils are boiled and puréed. After cooling down (in the case of inflammation, the pulp must be cold), the lentil mush is placed in a linen bag and placed on the affected area for about 20 minutes.
Try our recipe for Faki Soupa – Greek Lentil Soup
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