India’s Meatloaf

A Top 5 Power Food

Some believe lentils originated in Asia. They were one of the first foods cultivated and have been eaten since prehistoric times. Today, lentils are produced primarily in India, Canada, and the United States. There are literally hundreds of varieties of lentils and they come in various colors from red, green, brown, orange and black to yellow. They are a legume and grow in a pod much like peas do.

Lentils were once considered a poor mans food because of how cheap they were and even today they are inexpensive. Lentils are considered by many to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. They were often used as a supplement for meat considering the amount of fiber and protein they contained, and are still today a great source of protein for vegetarians. Lentils are also high in folic acid, iron and Vitamins B & C.

Very simply, lentils are a power food.  1 cup of lentils has the following: 1 gram of fat (1% of Daily Value), 16 grams of fiber (63% of Daily Value), 18 grams of protein, 37% of our Daily Value of Iron, almost no salt or sugar, and no cholesterol. You’d be hard pressed to find a healthier food.

Reduced Risk for Heart Disease
A mere half-cup of lentils contains about a third of your daily requirement of fiber and about a quarter of this fiber is soluble. Soluble fiber has been proven to reduce your bad cholesterol (LDL’s). This occurs because soluble fiber (versus insoluable) can be dissolved in water and forms into a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. This gel attaches to bile acids and cholesterol and helps remove them from the body.

Digestion and Colon Cancer
Since a quarter of the fiber in lentils is soluble, the other three-quarters is insoluble. Insoluble fiber, different than soluble, cannot be dissolved in water and passes through the digestive tract nearly in tact. This promotes the quick movement of any materials in the digestive track and helps normalize bowel movements and maintain health of the digestive tract. Another benefit of a healthy digestive tract is a reduced risk of cancer in those areas.

Notice how lots of fruit makes you have to go to the bathroom? That’s because the skin on most fruit is made up of mostly insoluble fiber, so it moves through us quickly.

Weight Control
The fiber in lentils helps us to feel full sooner, which controls our desire for excess food each meal.  Particularly, the soluble fiber in lentils is digested more slowly, as already mentioned, and this helps us stay full longer. Not to mention, there are 0 grams of saturated fat in lentils. There really couldn’t be a better food in your diet to help you control your weight.

Iron Source
Non-vegetarians usually get most of their daily iron intake from beef, poultry, eggs and other animal products.  Since vegetarians obviously don’t eat any of these products, finding iron in other sources is necessary. Lentils can provide up to 40% of our daily intake of iron, and iron has a number of benefits to our health. Probably the most important benefit is that it acts as an oxygen carrier and, therefore, helps keep our cells oxygenated. Having well-oxygenated cells is vital to avoid general fatigue, and helps keep our muscles and brain functioning properly. It also provides an important role in strengthening our immune system.

Clearly, getting our daily intake of iron is extremely important, and lentils are one of the best and healthiest sources available.

We typically use the pre-cooked lentil packets at Trader Joes. You can find them in the salad section. We’ll throw them in our salads or stir fry, and even sometimes use them as a substitute for meat in our tacos!  They are a good addition and mix well with just about everything. Honestly, it’s rare we won’t go a day without eating lentils in some way.

You can sub lentils for pretty much any protein or bean. You can make soup, lentil burgers, toss them into some mashed sweet potatoes, etc.