The Mighty Lentil

December 04, 2014

Low in calories and high in nutrition, lentils are an excellent item to include in your diet on a regular basis. Easy and quick to prepare, they're perfect for those of us with busy schedules and are simple to include in seasonal diets, whether on a fresh garden salad in summer, or in a hearty soup on a cold winter's day. Lentils are  healthy powerhouses whose huge benefits are are often overshadowed by their small size and humble place in our diets. Consider these benefits:
  • A single cup of cooked lentils contains 16 grams of dietary fiber, or 63 percent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommended daily allowance of fiber for adults who consume a 2,000-calorie diet. The Cancer Project states that a diet high in insoluble fiber can regulate bowel movements, promote digestive system health and may significantly decrease the risk of colon, breast, throat and esophageal cancer.
  • Cooked lentils provide 18 grams of protein per cup, with less than 1 gram of fat, and no cholesterol. In 2012 the Archives of Internal Medicine published a study that found substituting red meat with legumes such as lentils can lower the overall risk of dying from many diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
  • Each cup of cooked lentils has 358 micrograms of folate, almost 100 percent of the 400-microgram daily requirement of folate for adults. Also known as folic acid or vitamin B-9, folate supports a healthy nervous system health, regulates energy metabolism and is necessary for the production of DNA, RNA and red blood cells.
  • A cup of lentils offers 87 percent of the daily requirement of iron for men and 38 percent for women. Iron is needed to produce red blood cells and adenosine triphosphate, an energy-carrying molecule found in the cells of all living things.
  • Lentils are also considered a good source of potassium, calcium, zinc, niacin and vitamin K.
All that goodness comes with some great health benefits including:
  • Lentils help to reduce blood cholesterol with their high levels of soluble fiber. Canadian researchers studied 26 U.S. and Canadian studies that included a total of more than 1,000 people and found that a daily serving of three-fourths a cup of legumes, such as lentils, is linked to a five percent reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 5 percent. The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
  • The Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto found that the 5 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol also points to a potential 5 percent lower risk of heart disease. Not surprising, as several studies have shown that eating high fiber foods like lentils reduces your risk of heart disease. The folate in lentils lower your homocysteine levels, while magnesium improves blood flow, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.
  • Researchers from the University of Manitoba recently presented their findings at the American Heart Association’s conference. One study was clinical trial which demonstrated that eating legumes – specifically a mixture of beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas – improves blood flow to the legs of people with peripheral artery disease, which is linked to coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease. In the other study, researchers found that lentils in particular are effective in not only blocking high blood pressure, they can alter the physical properties of blood vessels to resemble of healthy animals.
  • In 2012, another study carried out at the University of Toronto eating more beans, chickpeas and lentils can reduce the risk of heart disease by stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Lentils are also known to increase energy and aid in your weight loss goals! Lentils - small in size, but mighty giants in a healthy diet!

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