What are Lentils?
Lentils are legumes that can be cooked and eaten similarly to rice or other grains. They generally have a mild flavor and are added to savory dishes such as soups, stews, curries, or nourish bowls. Lentils are packed with vitamins and other nutrients, and are a staple of the Mediterranean diet.
Different Types of Lentils
Brown – brown lentils have a mild, earthy flavor and hold their shape well when cooked.
Green – green lentils come in a variety of sizes and have a slight peppery taste.
Beluga – beluga lentils are tiny, black, and have a full-bodied earthy flavor. Beluga lentils are popular to use as a base for salads or nourish bowls (also known as power bowls or macro bowls).
Red & yellow – red and yellow lentils cook quickly and have a slightly sweeter taste than other varieties. They do not hold their shape as well when cooked.
The Health Benefits of Lentils
Regular lentil consumption is associated with a lower risk of heart disease due to a positive impact on multiple risk factors. 1 One study found that participants who ate ⅓ cup of lentils each day for eight weeks saw a significant decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. 2 Lentils are also a good source of folate, which the body needs to prevent high levels of homocysteine. High homocysteine levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. 3
Lentils are a great source of iron, with 1 cup of cooked lentils containing 37% of the daily recommended intake. 4 Iron is an essential nutrient that is necessary for multiple metabolic processes in the body, including oxygen transport, electron transport, and DNA synthesis. 5 Lentils are a good choice for people who are looking for a plant-based source of iron. 6
Lentils are made up of over 25% protein, with 1 cup of cooked lentils containing 17.9 grams of protein. 7 This makes lentils an excellent source of protein for anyone looking for a plant-based and/or inexpensive protein source to add to their regular diet. Lentils’ high protein content and savory flavor makes them a great meat alternative; try using them in place of ground beef in your favorite recipes.
Mediterranean Red Lentil Soup with Herbs
A Mediterranean-inspired soup dish full of whole foods!
Recipe courtesy of Bastyr University.
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion
- 2 medium carrots
- 2 ribs celery with leaves, chopped
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed
- 4 cups water
- 1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
- 3⁄4 tsp sea salt
- 1⁄2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- 1⁄2 cup fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
- 1⁄2 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1 bunch spinach, chopped
*Use organic produce when available
In a 4-quart soup pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots and celery and sauté until onion is soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add bay leaves, red lentils, water, tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer over medium heat and cook until lentils are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Add more water if needed. Remove bay leaves. Add spinach and simmer for another few minutes until just wilted. Add parsley and basil, and stir through. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil on top when served, if desired.