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In the quest for a cost-efficient and nutritious food, you’d be hard pressed to find something better than the lentil. A lentil is a legume, and it grows in a pod similarly to a pea or a bean. However, compared to beans, lentils are relatively fast-cooking and therefore easy to prepare. Additionally, they are easy to store, with a long shelf life. Lentils are even a versatile main ingredient, as they are fairly absent of flavor, and are ready to soak up the flavoring of other savory ingredients.

One of the most beneficial aspects of the lentil is its protein content. The lentil is 26% protein, and therefore second only to the soybean in vegetable protein content. Lentils also contain eight essential amino acids, as well as vitamins C and B, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and antioxidants. An entire cup of lentils contains only about 200 calories. Truly, this makes them a nutritional powerhouse.

When consumed, lentils can be helpful in preventing a variety of different ailments. Due to their high dietary fiber content, they are beneficial in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. Studies at the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health have also suggested that the high level of flavones in lentils are helpful in reducing the risk of breast cancer. For those who are diabetic, lentils can be a great choice as well. The soluble fiber that lentils contain helps to trap carbohydrates, which in turn slows digestion and absorption, and helps to prevent fluctuations in blood sugar levels throughout the day.

Because of their high protein and iron content, lentils are an excellent choice for vegetarians, as a no-meat diet often lacks these two essentials. Omnivores will enjoy this legume as well when it is used to prepare a warming and filling casserole. Try out the following easy recipe for a delicious introduction to lentils.

Vegetarian Baked Lentil Casserole:
(makes about 6 servings)

Ingredients-
1 and cups of dry, uncooked lentils
2 and cups of vegetable broth
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cans of diced tomatoes, 14.5 ounces each
3 carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
teaspoon pepper
teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 bay leaves (make sure to remove them before serving)
Shredded cheddar or swiss cheese (or vegan soy cheese)

Directions-
Pour the lentils into a colander in order to thoroughly rinse them. Sort through them to make sure there are no small rocks present, (which does happen sometimes.)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a 9 by 13 inch ungreased glass baking dish, combine the lentils, vegetable broth, garlic, onion, tomatoes, and spices. Cover this tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove from the dish from the oven, carefully uncover it, and stir in the carrots, celery, and green pepper. Recover, and bake this for another 40 minutes.
Finally, uncover the dish and sprinkle the top with cheese. Bake this for just a few additional minutes, until the cheese becomes melted and bubbly.
Initially, the casserole will be a little bit liquidy. However, upon sitting for a couple hours (or in the fridge in a Tupperware) all of the remaining vegetable broth will be absorbed by the lentils, so don’t dump out the excess.

Enjoy the deliciously nutritional benefits of lentils!

Source:

  1. 7 Health Benefits of Lentils – mindbodygreen.com
  2. Is Sucralose Safe
  3. Health Benefits of Lentils | Organic Facts

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