Approximately six million tons of lentils are grown around the world every year, and they're an extremely popular food in many countries. For example, the average person in India eats around 40 pounds of lentils each year. Spaniards eat around 20 pounds annually, but in the United States, the average is in the low teens. In fact, one study cites that just 8 percent of the U.S. population eats lentils on a given day. What are Americans missing out on?
Members of the legume family along with beans and peas, lentils are tiny edible seeds that come in a variety of colors and sizes. Not only are they a great crop for rebuilding degraded soil, but they have incredible health and nutritional benefits. They are packed with protein, with one cup of cooked lentils containing around 18 grams of protein. You'll also get around 6.5 milligrams of iron, which is close to what an adult male needs for an entire day and nearly half of a woman's requirement. Lentils provide approximately 20% of your daily vitamin B6 needs, 17% of your daily magnesium, and about 5% of your daily calcium and vitamin C. Lentils are also full of polyphenols, which are known to have a protective effect against cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
Lentils are also an excellent source of fiber, which is crucial for digestive health. One cup of lentils contains at least 10 grams of fiber, taking care of 20% of your daily fiber requirement. Lentils contain zero saturated fats and zero cholesterol. In fact, studies have identified a link between regularly eating lentils and lower cholesterol. They are also rich in potassium, which is essential for your bone health. So do lentils have any downsides? Well, they are relatively high in complex carbohydrates, making them a good source of "slow burn" energy but not ideal for those following a low-carb diet. The other downside of lentils? Gas. You may want to limit your intake if they cause stomach upset or other digestive discomfort.
Lentils ... they're what's for dinner?
- Archaeological evidence suggests that humans collected wild varieties of lentils over 13,000 years ago.
- Lentils are a great source of folic acid, which is especially beneficial for pregnant women and those hoping to become pregnant soon.
- An allergy to lentils has been reported in certain parts of Europe. In Spain, lentil allergies are more common than peanut allergies.