Green, black, brown or red… lentils come in many different colours and flavours. Lentils are lovely – a cheap, healthy food and very easy to prepare.
The humble pulse is often absent from our menus, including the lentil. And what an error! Lentils are low in fat and a wonderful source of protein and minerals. Nutritionist Véronique Liégeois tells us how to get the best of what lentils have to offer, and how to cook them.
Lentils’ numerous nutritional benefits
“Lentils are interesting for their low GI complex carbohydrates,” says Véronique Liégeois. “Lentils are rich in vegetal protein, which is often lacking from our Western diet,” she adds. Only 200g of lentils provides 16g of protein, equal to that of a serving of meat, without the fat.
“Lentils are also a good source of fibre,” says the nutritionist. In that same 200g of cooked lentils, there’s 10g of fibre, almost half of our daily dietary requirement. And what about iron? Well, there’s 3mg of iron in 100g of lentils. "But it’s vegetal iron, so not so well assimilated,” explains Véronique Liégeois. "To better absorption of vegetal iron, you should also get Vitamin C at the same time,” she adds. To do this, eat your lentils accompanied by a raw vegetable and apple salad.
And finally, the lentil contains a good level of minerals – magnesium (50mg for a 200g serving), calcium and vitamins – particularly the B group. That being said, due to the long cooking times, vitamin and mineral content does diminish once the lentils are cooked.
Lentils of all colours!
There are a number of different coloured lentils – black, brown, green, red – each with a distinctive flavour.
- The green lentil traditionally comes from the French region of Puy, is rich in minerals and oligo-elements and relatively rapid to cook.
- Enjoy a different flavour with the black or Beluga lentil. It’s slightly floury texture makes this lentil ideal for purées and sauces. The same goes for the brown lentil, but with a gentler flavour.
- The red lentil is great as it has a very short cooking time of around 10-15 minutes. It is also without an outer skin, making it easy to digest. These lovely coloured lentils are the richest in anti-oxidants, yet another reason to eat them regularly.
The many ways to cook lentils
Many people are at a bit of a loss when it comes to cooking lentils, but there are many tasty ways to cook them. The nutritionist suggests not combining lentils with other products that are too fatty so as not to lose their good nutritional value. Wonderful for vegetarian dishes, you can cook them in water, "with herbs and spices such as thyme, onion, bay leaves, parsley, or with finely diced vegetables..." suggests Véronique Liégeois.
For something a little more exotic, try making traditional Indian dal – a mix of lentils and spices (curry, coriander, turmeric…). "Due to the spices’ anti-oxidant properties, dhal is a healthy dish,” explains the nutritionist. And don’t hesitate to spice your lentils up with a spot of chilli.
With leftover cooked lentils, you can make a purée, soup or use them in a salad. “Lentils are also excellent mixed with bulgur or other cereals,” says Véronique Liégeois.
And a last tip from the nutritionist… "Don’t add salt to the lentils while cooking them as the salt will harden their outer skin and they’ll take even longer to cook."
Lovely lentil recipes:
- Lentil soup (red lentils)
- Spanish lentils (brown lentils)
- Lentil salad with lemon and almonds (Puy lentils)
Source: Louis Bonduelle Foundation
Copyright © 2012 Doctissimo
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