Last week I had the pleasure of dining at the notorious Lentils As Anything Restaurant in Melbourne, Australia. Since I got wind of this eatery’s concept some 10 years ago, I’d been looking forward to the day I finally got to try it out. It was amazing. The philosophy behind Lentils As Anything is that you pay what you feel the food is worth, and with this you are given the opportunity to contribute towards a world where respect, generosity, trust, equality, freedom and kindness rule. This not-for-profit organization has been successfully working for over 13 years; when diners such as myself can afford to pay the proper price of the meal plus a few dollars more, it allows those that are less fortunate to be able to dine out and be social, regardless of their financial situation. Lentils are in my opinion the superfood of all superfoods. Now let me tell you why lentils should be allowed centre stage at your next meal. I’ve included a simple prep guide on how to cook lentils and my top 5 reasons why you should be eat lentils.
Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Eat Lentils
- Lentils are able to “fix” nitrogen. This allows plant nutrients to be recycled and protects the soil from erosion. It also decreases our dependence on conventional synthetic nitrogen based fertilizers which can pollute waterways and reduce the soils ability to retain nutrients,
- Lentils are a great source of protein and iron, and contain some essential fatty acids, soluble and insoluble fibre, micronutrients and phytonutrients. To better absorb the iron in lentils, add some vitamin C to the meal. For better access to the zinc try sprouting your lentils – see Why You Might Be At Risk For Zinc Deficiency for more details,
- Lentils are very cost effective. Many populations in developing countries rely on lentils and other legumes as a cheap source of protein; think dhal in India, tempeh in Indonesia, hummus in the Middle East, tofu in Japan or refried beans in Latin America. One serving of lentils can cost you less than $1, whereas the same portion of meat can cost upwards of $4. See the below table for a good breakdown on the cost of protein from legumes compared with meat,
- Beef is one of the highest emitters of greenhouse gasses and produces 13 times more carbon dioxide equivalents than legumes. By replacing one meat dish with one lentil dish per week we could drastically reduce our carbon footprint,
- Lentils are very versatile and taste delicious. They are great in soups in the winter, and salads in the summer. Here are a few of my favourite (and simple) lentil dishes;
- Vegetarian Greek Lentil Soup with Lemon and Feta
- All Seasons Lentil Salad with Fresh Herbs and Basil Vinaigrette
- Mixed Lentil and Bean Winter Warming Soup
- Weeknight Favourite – Ginger and Lentil Stew with Couscous
- Quick and Delicious Curried Pumpkin (or Squash) Lentil Soup
A Simple Prep Guide For How To Cook Lentils
- All dry lentils and split peas do NOT need to be soaked*. They just need a good rinse to ensure there are no hidden tiny pebbles or dirt,
- Lentils will cook in approximately 20 minutes (red lentils) to 30 minutes (all other lentils),
- For plain cooked lentils, add one cup of lentils to 3 cups of water, bring to a boil and let simmer for 20-30 minutes. These lentils can be pureed and used in hummus, or if you have boiled some brown lentils they can be added to a salad once cooled,
- When preparing a soup, stew or spaghetti bolognaise the lentils can be added straight into the recipe. Let the lentils cook for 20-30 minutes in whichever dish you have added them to, or until they are soft and ready to eat,
- Cooked lentils can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months. Store dried lentils in an airtight container in a cool and dry place.
- Lentils can also be sprouted. This is helps provide better access to the minerals including zinc. See my post The How To and Health Benefits of Sprouting Foods for more details.
*If lentils are your main source of protein it is good practice to always soak your lentils prior to using to reduce the phytate content. Phytate can bind to important minerals and make them less absorbable by the body. Soak lentils in water for up to 12 hours.
There is absolutely nothing to lose from trying to add lentils into your diet, but there is so much to gain. I would suggest a soup that incorporates red lentils for your first lentil excursion, the red lentils break apart and are almost unnoticeable. Lentils can also now be purchased locally – see Saanichton Farms for more details if you live in Victoria. Good luck all your future lentil endeavours!
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.