Originating in the Near East, lentils are among the world’s oldest cultivated crops. It was long regarded as a food for the poor and for livestock. Lately, this type of legume has achieved a certain culinary cachet that chefs are adding to dishes thanks to their beautiful appearance and ability to absorb flavors.
Are there any health benefits? You bet there are. Let’s start with folate. Lentils contain more of this important B vitamin than any other unfortified plant food. Folate protects against cardiovascular disease by lowering levels of homocysteine in the blood. Folate also prevents birth defects. This is especially good for all reproductive and pregnant women. And folate coupled with vitamin B6 (also high in lentils) may help reduce the risk of breast cancer.
One half cup of lentils provides around a third of your daily requirements of fiber. This fiber is soluble which helps lower cholesterol, reduces your risk of heart disease and keeps your digestive system in order. Fiber also helps balance your blood sugars.
Need more reasons to add lentils to your diet? How about the fact that it delivers an impressive amount of iron, especially when paired with Vitamin C such as citrus foods or peppers. Lentils are virtually fat-free and a great source of protein.
So enjoy lentils as a soup or side dish and have fun with all the different color varieties such as black, brown, green, and red. Researchers who studied the elderly found that eating lentils (and other legumes) is the single most important dietary factor in longevity.