In fact, they come close to being the perfect food – nourishing, inexpensive, and low in calories, fat and cholesterol.
Lentils contain good amounts of phosphorus, magnesium, zinc,
thiamine, copper, niacin and Vitamin B6. They’re an important source of potassium and a good source of iron.
Eating lentils with foods rich in Vitamin C, such as bell peppers,
tomatoes and citrus fruits or juices, helps the body absorb its iron more efficiently.
And lentils provide more folic acid than any other unfortified food.
Your body needs folic acid (Vitamin B9) to produce red blood cells as well as norepinephrine and serotonin (chemical components of the nervous system).
Though rich in protein, lentils lack one: methionine. Serve or cook lentils with grains, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat or dairy products for complete protein.
The most common kinds of lentils found in Western-style supermarkets are unhusked green or brown ones. The smaller, rounder, husked red or Egyptian lentil is also widely available.
Verte du puy lentils are named for Le Puy in Auvergne, France. With a delicate taste and fine, green skin, these lentils are excellent in salads and vegetable dishes, and the favorite of gourmet chefs. They are also the most costly lentils around – about $5 to $6 a pound (Cdn) versus about $1 a pound for common green or brown lentils.
Lentils can also be yellow, pink, white, black and orange, but to find these varieties you might have to visit an East Indian-style market or well-stocked health food store.
Before cooking, rinse the lentils well in a few changes of cold water. Pick out and discard stones, other debris and
damaged lentils. If time allows, I often give them a soak for an hour or so after rinsing; it seems to give the lentils a fresher taste.
Lentils cook more slowly if cooked with salt, so add it when they’re done. The bigger the lentil, the longer it will take to cook.
Lentils have a mild, earthy flavor and are best when cooked with assertive ingredients, such as aromatic, taste-bud-tingling spices.