This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker January 2010 edition
We have been eating the lentil for over 8000 years and it even makes an Old Testament Appearance when Esau gives up his birthright for a bowl of lentils and some bread. The lentil is a pulse, growing two to a pod in a bushy legume plant that is resistant to drought and easily cultivated in a variety of conditions. The world's largest producer is India, with most of its production used domestically. The second largest producer is Canada, with most coming from the province of Saskatchewan.
You can expect any food that has been cultivated for thousands of years to be a nutritional heavyweight, and the lentil is no exception. It has the third highest protein content of any plant based food; only hemp and soybean have more, and is very low in fat. Consumed as seeds, lentils contain 6 of the 8 essential amino acids, missing only methionine and cysteine, however, once sprouted they contain all 8. In 100g of boiled seeds you get approx 9g of protein, 20g of carbohydrate, less than ½g of fat along with 10g of fiber. Not only do lentils have an outstanding macronutrient profile, they back this up by being excellent sources of potassium, thaimin, folate, manganese, molybdenum, tryptophan and phosphorus; all while being one of the best plant sources of iron around.
The lentil is established as a staple food for vegetarians in many parts of the world, and, as you can see from its nutritional profile, it is worthy of a place on any athlete's plate. Add to their great nutritional profile the fact that lentils are cheap, easily prepared and as dried seed do not spoil, the lentil is an almost perfect food.
Although there are thousands of varieties of lentil you are most likely to see 3: brown, red and green. Brown lentils have their seed coat in place and hold their shape when cooked, red, yellow or orange lentils have their coats removed and have been split. Brown lentils are the least expensive variety. Red lentils cook quickly but do not hold their shape well and are therefore well suited to soups and purée dishes. Finally green, French or Puy lentils: these are the gourmet's lentil and therefore the most expensive. Like the brown lentil they hold their shape well when cooked, they also tend to have the richest and strongest taste of the lentil family. In general lentils have a mild earthy flavour and are well suited to rich flavoursome dishes.
Because lentils are supplied dried they should be easy to buy in perfect condition; firm, dry, clean and unshrivelled. You can buy lentils in a can, but there is no need because they do not require soaking and are so easy to prepare. Dried lentils will fade with age, but their flavour is not noticeably affected; for best results keep in an airtight container and eat within the year. Cooked lentils may be refrigerated up to one week in a sealed container. Cooked lentils can also be frozen up to six months; however cooked lentils tend to disintegrate when reheated.
Before cooking it is advised to check dried lentils for foreign objects and to rinse them till the water runs clear because they are not necessarily washed in production. As a guide brown lentils take 35 minutes to boil, green lentils 20 and red 10-15 minutes and should be cooked 3 parts water to 1 part lentils, and they may require more water depending on the required consistency. Lentils that have not been split can be sprouted at home and added to salads and other dishes.
Packing a healthy nutritional punch, easy to cook and store, it's time to give our hearty lentil curry recipe
a try and put the lentil on your menu.Leave a comment