Lentils, they have the distinction of being the oldest legumes exploited in the food sector: there are archaeological remains dating back to the prehistoric age that tell how this food was already very popular in those times.
In history it has not lost its charm, together with beans and broad beans, it has earned the name of meat of the poor. Generations and generations they have been fed by lentils in times and situations in which their absence would have been fatal. The Bible also mentions this legume in Genesis [25,29-34]: Esau, in exchange for a plate of lentils, would have given up his firstborn daughter. Let's see what they have so special to justify this gesture.
Lentils: the plant
The lentil plant is called Ervum lens, belong to the family of Legumes and it is cultivated in all areas with a warm temperate climate, even in Italy which is confirmed as a modest producer of this legume. The fruits of Ervum lens are therefore our lentils, semi-round, flat in the shape of a lens - hence the name - and very energetic.
The size of each seed can vary from type to type, from 2mm to 9mm but to distinguish them lentils colors that are cooked and grown all over the world: from dark yellow to orange, but also greenish, black, red. We will see specifically some varieties.
Perfect for those suffering from anemia, physical and mental fatigue and malnutrition, the lentils are among the most recommended legumes for the protein and iron content but also because they are rich in fiber. One of their sought-after properties is to facilitate intestinal transit, for example, and being also antioxidants, they are useful for fighting free radicals.
As if that weren't enough, many studies recommend diabetics this legume which would also have milk-producing properties and stimulate the production of milk, keeping it constant over time.
No doubt about it, they don't deserve to be confined to the superstitious New Year's Eve dinner, lentils: they have all the features to be able to attend our tables more often. This is true for everyone, not only for anemic or breastfeeding mothers, the only ones who have to stay away are those suffering from gout and uremia. , because it is a source of purines.
Lentils: nutritional values
Like other legumes, even the lentils they are considered a valuable source of protein, fiber, iron, magnesium and potassium. Iron in particular characterizes them unlike other colleagues, it seems that they contain an even greater quantity of meat. It is then to be seen how much it can be absorbed, due to the proteins that everyone has in legumes low biological value.
That's right: there are proteins and proteins and those contained in these lens-shaped seeds are deficient in some essential amino acids such as cysteine and methionine, the only way to remedy this lack is to associate lentils with pasta or cereals. The result is an excellent opportunity for tasty recipes.
Nutritious and energetic, they have 291 kcal per 100 grams and are made up of approximately 51% carbohydrates, 23% protein, 14% fiber, 1% fat and the remaining 11% water. Lentils, entering into the specifics of the chemical components, they possess isoflavones, important antioxidants, thiamine, useful for promoting memory and concentration, and vitamin PP which helps to balance energy metabolism and reduce triglycerides in the blood.
Between many varieties of lentils, often distinguishable by color, there are also those of Onano (Viterbo) and Villalba (Caltanissetta). The black ones are the first that in fact show a color that goes from very dark gray to black, to be associated with an unexpectedly particularly delicate flavor.
The other lentils that I wanted to mention, of Villalba, instead they have very high protein inputs but not only. Thanks to their nitrogen-fixing properties they are also able to improve the fertility of the soil in which they are grown.
They should never be eaten raw, because they contain antidigestive substances which are destroyed during cooking. It is therefore logical to understand how it is easier to prepare them and what is the most appetizing result. A simple way but also appreciated by almost all palates, is that of stewed lentils.
To prepare them it takes an hour, including cooking, and more than anything else, just cooking. In fact, they must be soaked previously, in water for at least 24 hours, then they can be added in a saucepan to a sautéed oil then stewed in the broth to obtain a tasty dish. Even tastier, for non-vegetarians, with the addition of bacon.
Among all the lentils the red ones they are the most whimsical, first of all because they do not require soaking. That's why they are quick to cook and more easy to digest compared to other legumes. It also seems that, while providing us with an excellent dose of vegetable proteins, they do not create intestinal problems such as fermentation, swelling, pain. Being low in fat, they limit glycemic peaks, having a high iron content, they fight anemia.
I recommend choosing the l. red peeled, easy to find even in supermarkets. To cook them, skip the soaking phase and rinse them under running water and then cook them in cold water for about 15 minutes, without being “scared” if they tend to fall apart. Red lentils are an excellent ingredient for soups, soups, or meatballs burger vegetables, even for celiacs.
Lentils: how to cook them
The most practical on the market are certainly the canned lentils, but they are also dry, to be soaked before boiling them. A tip, in order not to destroy the vitamins and minerals present, is to use water to cover them just barely in the pot and do not submerge them excessively. For other valuable tips, I refer you to our article "How to cook lentils”
The particular shape of this legume, which recalls that of a coin, has condemned it to be the food of the New Year. Celebrate with us but then often get overlooked when it should instead, for the properties it shows, be among the top foods of a healthy and balanced diet. Let's see some recipes different from the classic New Year's one to convince us better. For example, and by clicking you will have the recipe, the "Velvety and red lentil soup”.
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