What are Lentils?

Dried Red Lentils
Photo by Jules,
Wikimedia Commons
As a vegetarian, I'm often asked, "So, what do you actually eat?"

Usually my response includes a list of what I've eaten recently such as chickpeas, lentils and whole grain pasta. Lentils almost always make the list because I absolutely love them. Not surprisingly, I am usually faced with a blank stare.

When a friend recently told me her only experience with lentils was watching her friend's pet ferret use them as bedding in a playpen, I knew it was time to write a post about my favorite protein-packed food.

Lentil Nutritional Information
I usually start my response with something like, "Well, they look like a tiny flat bean. But, they're a legume." Lentils come in several colorful varieties including brown, green and red.

This whole food provides a great source of protein, B vitamins, magnesium, iron and folate. Lentils can help lower cholesterol and regulate blood-sugar levels. Plus lentils are nearly fat-free and low in calories. One cup of cooked lentils contains just 229 calories, according to the World's Healthiest Foods.

Boil green lentils to soften.
Photo by Alvimann,
Cooking with Lentils
I use lentils in everything. They thicken soups and stews, mash into a fabulous meatloaf or burger-like structure and toss well in a salad. I've even found a brownie recipe using lentils that I'm dying to try.

Next time you want to try a meatless meal, use cooked lentils in lieu of ground beef. The tiny little legumes tend to take on the flavor of other foods in the dish, making them a filling way to bulk up any recipe.

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!