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Benefits of lentils, how to cook them + 5 easy recipes

by tamarajune
Published: Last Updated on

Lentils are a part of the legume family and don’t get nearly as much attention as they deserve. While they may seem small and plain, they are incredibly versatile and a great source of many health-promoting nutrients. Thus, in this post, you’ll learn about the benefits of lentils and how to cook them. I’ll also share my favorite 5 lentil recipes and give you some tips for incorporating more lentils into your diet. 

What variety of lentils are there?

Red, beluga and brown lentils spilling out of a glass jar

There are many different kinds of lentils available, so we’ll focus on the most common ones here. 

Brown lentils are used the most often. They taste earthy and are popular in stews. 

Puy lentils tend to be the most expensive, but many claim that they have the best texture and flavor (peppery). They look like green lentils just smaller. 

Green lentils are very similar to puy lentils, except for the more affordable price tag and larger size. 

Yellow and red lentils are split, so they cook quicker. Their flavor is sweet and nutty. They are popular for dal recipes. 

Beluga lentils are small black lentils that are perfect for(warm) salads.  

[su_highlight]Summary: There are many different lentil varieties. The most common ones are brown lentils, puy lentils, and beluga lentils, as well as green, yellow, and red lentils.[/su_highlight]

What are the benefits of lentils 

  • Lentils are inexpensive and easy to prepare
  • Though the nutritional composition varies depending on the kind you use, lentils generally are a good source of 
    • iron
    • zinc 
    • magnesium
    • protein
    • potassium
    • folate
    • vitamin B2
    • vitamin B5
    • vitamin B6
    • antioxidants
  • Because of the high fiber content, eating lentils promotes healthy digestion and regular bowel movement
  • Lentils are a great source of phytochemicals, which are plant compounds that can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases 
  • The consumption of lentils may have a positive impact on blood sugar levels. 
  • Lentils promote heart health, as they can help lower high blood pressure, prevent atherosclerosis as well as reduce LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol
  • Eating lentils supports maintaining/achieving a healthy weight
  • Lentils support healthy bones, skin, hair, and nails. 

[su_highlight]Summary: Eating lentils regularly offers a variety of health benefits. Among others, lentils are easy to prepare and affordable. Further, they are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Moreover, lentils promote heart health and may positively impact blood sugar. Plus, lentils support healthy weight as well as foster bone, skin, hair, and nail health.[/su_highlight]

Can you eat lentils raw?

Eating raw lentils leads to a variety of toxic reactions in the body, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea. The only time you can eat lentils raw is when they are sprouted. Nevertheless, it’s recommended to heat the sprouted lentils briefly before consumption. 

[su_highlight]Summary: Eating raw lentils is toxic, so cooking them is necessary. The only exception are sprouted lentils. Still, it’s a good idea to heat them briefly before consumption.[/su_highlight]

How to cook lentils 

  1. Soak the lentils overnight. Although this is not necessary, doing so is recommended because it increases nutrient absorption. Therefore, it’s best to place the lentils in a bowl and cover them with water overnight. In the morning, discard the water and continue with the next step.
  2. Put the lentils in a colander and give them a good rinse. Do this even if you did not soak the lentils prior. 
  3. Place the lentils in a pot with water or vegetable broth. Use 1 part lentils to 4 parts water/vegetable broth.
  4. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 15-20 minutes 
  5. Discard the cooking water and rinse in cold water.  

Eat right away, incorporate them into another dish or store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Note: These are general instructions and may vary depending on the kind of lentils you use. So, always check the instructions on the packaging. 

[su_highlight]Summary: How to cook lentils: 1) Soak overnight 2) Rinse 3) Place 1 part lentils to 4 parts water in a pot 4) bring to boil, then let simmer for 15-20 minutes 5) discard cooking water and rinse 6) enjoy.[/su_highlight]

How to add lentils to your diet

Lentils are super versatile, and you can use them in a variety of ways. Here are just some examples. 

  • You can easily add lentils to warm and cold salads to make them more filling and nutritious. 
  • They are great for soups and stews. 
  • Further, they can serve as a healthier substitute for beef, f.e. in burgers, tacos, or Bolognese sauce. 

Here are 5 of my favorite easy lentils recipes 

Lentil Bolognese

Vegan Sloppy Joes

Lentil Soup

Lentil Curry

Tasty Lentil Tacos Recipe

How to make lentils more digestible

Red, beluga and brown lentils in small wooden bowls as an example of what to eat to experience the benefits of lentils

There are many benefits of lentils, so adding them to your diet more frequently is a great idea. However, if you are not used to eating them regularly, you may experience digestive issues, such as bloating, in the beginning. However, there is no need for concern, and with time the problems will decrease Plus, implementing the following tips will help reduce this discomfort.  

  • Slowly increase your intake to allow your digestive system to get used to lentils.
  • Drink plenty of water to reduce bloating, discomfort, and allow the full benefits of fiber to unfold.
  • Make sure to cook the lentils thoroughly (but try not to overcook them either).
  • Incorporate spices that promote digestion, such as turmeric, cumin, and caraway seeds.

[su_highlight]Summary: If you are not used to eating lentils regularly, quickly increasing your intake may cause you to experience digestive issues such as bloating. To reduce this discomfort, it helps to increase your intake slowly and drink plenty of water. Further, you can incorporate digestive spices (turmeric, cumin, caraway seeds), and cook the lentils thoroughly. [/su_highlight]

Summary: Benefits of lentils + how to cook them

Large infographic summarizing the benefits of lentils and how to cook them

How often are you currently eating lentils? 

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