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Learn to Love Lentils

Lentils are among Mother Nature?s most nutritious plant foods.? They are packed with nutrients, low in calories and fat, easy on the budget, and quick to prepare.? A half-cup serving provides ample amounts of protein and other important nutrients and costs only pennies a serving.? Let?s take a closer look at these amazing little legumes.

Lentils offer numerous health benefits:

  • High in complex carbohydrates for energy.
  • High in protein for growth and repair of body tissues.
  • High in fiber for regularity and control of blood glucose and cholesterol.
  • High in folic acid for the prevention of neural tube defect in infants; may help prevent heart disease and cancer.
  • High in iron for carrying oxygen through the bloodstream to the cells of the body.
  • High in phytochemicals which may help prevent heart disease and some forms of cancer.
  • Low in fat and sodium; no saturated fat or cholesterol for the prevention or management of heart disease.
  • Low in calories for weight management.

Cheap Eats
Of all the protein foods, dry legumes provide the most protein per dollar.? Though a package of lentils may not look like much, keep in mind that when cooked, they more than double in volume.? Other high protein foods shrink during cooking due to moisture loss.
Cooking With Lentils:
* Unlike other legumes, lentils don?t need to be soaked before cooking.
* Use 2 cups of liquid per 1 cup of lentils.? Lentils can be cooked in water, stock, broth or almost any other liquid.
* Always use unsalted water.? Salt will toughen lentils as they cook.
* Add acid ingredients (such as tomatoes) late in cooking as they slow cooking time.
* Lentils can used in soups, stews, sauces, stuffings, salads, sandwiches, appetizers, or dips.
* Serve lentils as a bed for wild game, a garnish for seafood, or serve pureed as a side dish.
* Dress boiled lentils with vinaigrette for a cool salad.
* Add a squeeze of lemon to cooked lentils to lighten the taste.

There?s More Than One Kind...
* Green lentils are the kind most commonly found in the grocery store.? They hold their shape well after cooking, but take a little longer to cook.
* Brown lentils are small and have a nutty flavor.? They hold their shape well after cooking, but can easily turn mushy if overcooked.
* Red lentils are smaller than the others.? Because the outer skin is removed, they take less time to cook, but they lose their shape easily.

Nutrition Facts:
One-half cup of cooked lentils contains:
95 calories
5 grams fiber
< 1 gram of fat
9 grams of protein
0 mg cholesterol
179 mcg folate
5 grams sodium
3 mg iron
19 mg calcium

Honey Baked Lentils
1 lb. lentils
1 small bay leaf
5 cups water
1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
1 T. soy sauce
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 cup water
1/3 cup honey

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a Dutch oven.? Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.? Add the rest of the ingredients to the lentils.? Cover tightly and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.?? Remove the bay leaf before serving. Serves 6. Each serving 1 cup.

By:? Beth Fontenot, MS, LDN, RD

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