Add Lentils to Your Family's Diet for a Quick Fibre Boost

Filed under: Nutrition: Health, Mealtime

There's a whole lot to love about lentils. These small, lens-like seeds are often referred to as a type of pulse or dal. They're packed full of protein and fibre, and are a great source of plant protein for many diets. Ancient Greeks included lentils in the process of bread making, and Catholics who could not afford fish during lent chose lentils instead. These little seeds are very cost-effective in hard times, as they provide great nutritional value for the pennies that you pay.

One reason lentils are so popular is that they take very little time to prepare and cook. These little seeds absorb water fairly quickly, and require no pre-soaking prior to cooking. Because they take about twenty minutes to cook in total, lentils make great additions to soups and stews.

More health benefits of lentils, after the jump...
Lentils deliver a high dose of fibre in just a small amount of seeds. Half a cup of cooked lentils provide 4.5 grams of fibre, which includes a blend of both the soluble and insoluble kind. Fibre has shown in countless studies to calm the appetite, which is ideal for those who want to maintain a healthy body weight. One study showed that fibre can even prevent heart disease. People eating 21 grams per day had 12 percent less coronary heart disease and 11 percent less cardiovascular disease, compared to those eating five grams of fibre daily. The results were even greater in those who ate more water-soluble fibre, which (as I previously mentioned) is found in lentils.

Lentils are also great if you're trying to keep your family's blood sugar under control. One report gives lentils a glycemic index (GI) value of 21 for red and 30 for green. Any number below 55 is considered a low GI food, as it has little impact on your blood sugar. This is partly due to the makeup of lentils -- fibre acts to slow the absorption of natural sugars into the blood, and the protein content does, too. With 9.5 grams of plant protein per half cup, lentils can balance blood sugar, as well as provide energy for your body. And foods that release energy slowly are ones will help keep your appetite down, meaning fewer trips to the snack drawer.

One important mineral that sometimes gets forgotten about is blood-building iron. Lentils provide 3.5 mg of iron in only a few heaping tablespoons, which is half the daily recommended amount for preschoolers, and almost 20 percent of the daily value for adult women. Since iron plays a big role in regulating the amount of oxygen carried in red blood cells, eating iron-rich food items can help you to ward off tiredness and weakened immunity.

Here are some simple ways you can add lentils to your day:
  • Add to any soup broth as your protein base (Wild rice and pot barley cooks well with it, too).
  • Sprinkle cooked lentils over a garden salad.
  • Short on time? Mix cooked, cold lentils with chopped peppers and peas, and pour on some of your favorite salad dressing.
  • Mash lentils and use as a base for any cracker dip.
  • Lentils can be used in lasagnas and other hot casserole items, too.
Looking for more healthy food items to add to your family's diet? Check out these posts from ParentDishBlog.ca:

What You Should Know About Sprouted Grains
What Kind of Chocolate is the Healthiest?
How to Add Tofu to a School Lunch
Iron-Rich Beets to Boost Your Family's Health
Is Honey Safe for Kids?


Karla Heintz, B.Sc., is a nutrition educator and author of Picky? Not Me, Mom! A Parents' Guide to Children's Nutrition. If you have a question you would like answered please leave it in the comment section below. Thanks!

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