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14 Interesting Facts About Lentils

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Introduction

Lentils are one of the most nutritious, affordable, and versatile food ingredients available. These tiny lens-shaped legumes come in a variety of colors and sizes and pack a nutritional punch. Lentils have been an important part of diets around the world for thousands of years, but many people still don’t know much about them.

14 Interesting Facts About Lentils

  1. Lentils are loaded with protein. One cup of cooked lentils contains about 18 grams of protein, making them an excellent meat alternative. The protein in lentils includes essential amino acids like lysine and isoleucine.
  2. They’re full of key nutrients. In addition to their stellar protein content, lentils provide good amounts of iron, zinc, folate, magnesium, and potassium. They’re also an excellent source of dietary fiber. Just one cup of lentils delivers over half the recommended daily fiber intake.
  3. They support heart health. The fiber, minerals, protein, and antioxidants in lentils all help reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies show that eating more lentils is associated with improved cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure.
  4. Lentils keep blood sugar stable. Despite containing complex carbs, lentils have a low glycemic index, meaning they help prevent unhealthy spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels. The fiber and protein in lentils helps slow the digestion and absorption of sugars.
  5. They aid digestion and gut health. As a prebiotic food, the resistant starch and fiber in lentils feeds healthy gut bacteria. The microbes ferment lentils and produce beneficial short-chain fatty acids that reduce inflammation and improve digestion.
  6. Lentils are budget-friendly. As one of the most affordable sources of protein around, lentils provide substantial nutritional and health value at a fraction of the cost of meat. Their low cost makes them a staple food for many cultures around the world.
  7. They have an excellent environmental footprint. Unlike beef production, growing lentils doesn’t require large amounts of land, water, or pesticides. And because lentils fix nitrogen in soil, they can actually improve soil quality for future crops. Their sustainability makes them an eco-friendly choice.
  8. Lentils are incredibly versatile. From stews to salads, tacos to curries, lentils adapt well to a wide range of cuisines and dishes. They work well when paired with grains like rice or used in veggie burgers. Split red lentils transform into a thick, nutrient-dense dal when simmered.
  9. Many varieties are available. While green and brown are the most common, lentils also come in shades of black, red, yellow, and orange. Flavors and textures vary slightly among types, but all provide outstanding nutrition. Popular varieties include green Le Puy, brown, red split, black beluga, and yellow.
  10. Lentils have an ancient history. Archaeologists have uncovered lentil seeds in Egyptian pyramids dating back as far as 2500 BC. References to lentils are also found in early Indian and Hebrew literature. Their long shelf life and health benefits made them ideal for ancient explorers and travelers.
  11. They originated in the Middle East. Lentil cultivation began in the eastern Mediterranean regions and ancient Iran about 10,000 years ago. Lentils became a dietary staple throughout the Middle East and Asia and eventually spread to Europe, Africa, and the Americas.
  12. Lentils once were revered as symbols of fertility. Ancient Egyptians and Romans would scatter lentils on the ground during wedding ceremonies to represent productivity and prosperity for newlyweds. It was also tradition for friends to place necklaces made of lentils around a Egyptian bride’s neck.
  13. The name “lentil” possibly derives from “lens.” The Latin word lens led to the Old French lentille, meaning “lens” or “lentil,” which referred to the legume’s bi-convex shape that resembles an optical lens. Their name also relates to the diminutive leg shape of the plant.
  14. Monday is National Lentil Day.┬áMark your calendars for the first Monday of April each year to celebrate one of the world’s most nutritious and sustainable foods, the incredible lentil! This little legume has been fueling people’s health around the globe for over 10,000 years.
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the botanical description of the lentil plant?

The lentil plant, scientifically known as Vicia lens or Lens culinaris, is an annual plant with lens-shaped seeds that grow in pods. It is about 40 cm tall and belongs to the family Fabaceae. The plant has many hairy branches and its stem is slender and angular. The flowers are small and can be white, pink, purple, pale purple, or pale blue in color.

Where are lentils commonly used for culinary purposes?

Lentils are used around the world for culinary purposes. In cuisines of the Indian subcontinent, lentils are a staple and are often cooked into a thick curry known as dal, which is usually eaten with rice or roti. Lentils are also commonly used in stews and soups.

What are the different types of lentils?

Lentils can be classified according to their size, whether they are split or whole, or shelled or unshelled. They can also have different seed coat colors, ranging from light green to deep purple, as well as tan, grey, brown, black, or mottled.

Which countries are the largest producers of lentils?

In 2021, the largest producers of lentils were Canada and India, contributing 29% and 27% of the world’s total lentil production, respectively. Other significant producers include Australia, Turkey, and Nepal.

What is the nutritional value of lentils?

Cooked lentils are a rich source of various nutrients, including folate, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. They also contain carbohydrates, dietary fiber, protein, and small amounts of fat. Lentils have low levels of readily digestible starch and high levels of slowly digested starch, making them potentially valuable for people with diabetes.

Conclusion

As one of the oldest cultivated crops globally, the unassuming lentil has sustained civilizations for millennia thanks to its incredible nutrition, affordability, and eco-friendly nature. These versatile legumes pack protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and more while having a low environmental impact.

Hopefully these interesting facts shed new light on the incredible health and environmental benefits of lentils. Their many varieties can be used in diverse cuisines, so don’t be afraid to get creative with them! Incorporating more lentils into your diet is an easy way to improve your overall wellbeing while also being kind to the planet.


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