Lentils are considered pulses (the edible seed from legume pods) that are easy to prepare, inexpensive and provide many nutrients such as protein, fibre, vitamin and minerals. Lentils come in many varieties that differ in colour, texture, taste, and uses. They are also commonly sold in grocery stores, where they can be found in whole or split form, and packaged as dried or canned.
Unlike other legumes, lentils do not require overnight soaking. Cook times range from 10-45 minutes, making it an ideal ingredient for quick dishes. Lentils are also perfect for vegetarian and vegan meals, and can be easily used as a substitute for meat.
Brown lentils are the most commonly used type of lentil. They have a mild, earthy taste and a creamy texture. These lentils maintain their shape while cooking and are often used in warm salads, soups and stews. They can also be used to make vegetarian versions of meat-like dishes such as burgers and meatloaf. [1-2,4]
Green lentils are also often used and appear very similar to brown lentils, but are larger in size and contain a slight peppery flavour. They remain firm when cooking and are used in salads and side dishes. [1-2,4]
Red lentils can include a variety of colours ranging from red to orange and yellow. These lentils are often sold in “split” form and contain a slight sweet and nutty flavour. As red lentils lose their shape upon cooking, they help to thicken dishes and are used in soups and stews as well as Indian daals and Middle Eastern cuisine. [1-2,4]
Check out our Daal Masoor recipe that uses red lentils.
Beluga lentils are tiny, black lentils that become shiny when cooked. They consist of a rich, earthy flavour and soft texture. Since they retain their shape when cooked and contrast most foods, they are added to pasta, rice and vegetables. [1-2,4]
Try our Mahn Di Daal recipe that uses black lentils.
Urad Lentils are dehulled (skinned) black lentils. They are pale yellow on the inside and contain a mild, earthy flavour. When cooked, these lentils become soft and glutinous. We have a recipe for this as well - check out our Suki Mahn Daal recipe.
Vitamins and Minerals
Various components within our bodies require nutrients to function optimally. As most foods are unable to provide us with complete nutritional requirements when eaten alone, combining certain foods can offer additional nutrients and health benefits. Below is one of many food combinations. [8,9]
The human body uses a total of 20 amino acids to make protein, 10 of which are known as “essential amino acids”. These amino acids are regarded as essential because our bodies are unable to make them, which mean they are only available to us through consuming foods. [8,9]
Our daily energy intake should consist of 10-35% protein. Animal-based sources of protein provide us with complete protein. However, plant-based protein such as beans, peas, lentils and grains contain incomplete amino acids and must be combined with other complementary food in order to provide all amino acids and complete protein. For example, pairing lentils with a grain like rice, offers complete protein. [8,9]
Combinations of Complementary Protein: