As a plant eater, I am beyond used to the standard “Where do you get your protein?” question. And while, yes, tofu, tempeh, and other processed soy foods have a high amount of plant protein per serving, I prefer to stick to whole food sources, including nuts, seeds, vegetables, and legumes. Yes, legumes. Peas, beans, and lentils are nutrient dense powerhouses, loaded with not only protein, but also a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
Sometimes I forget about the versatility of lentils. They are an easy way to substitute meat in a traditional recipe, but they are also fantastic in salads, soups, and dips. And they are also perfect on their own, which I recently rediscovered when I came across a few dal recipes recently.
There are many varieties of lentils, differentiated by color. Black lentils are small. Green or brown lentils are the most common. And red lentils break down very quickly, making them ideal in soups and stews.
One cup of cooked lentils contains about 18 grams of protein and 40 grams of carbohydrates. They are also a rich source of non-heme iron, at over 35% DV per cup, and folate, at almost 90% DV per cup. Potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, and zinc round out the significant minerals found in these little nutrient-dense legumes.
The high folate content in lentils aids in prevention of heart disease and birth defects. Their high fiber content helps to keep you full longer, aiding in weight loss and maintenance. As a low glycemic-index food, lentils keep blood sugar low, which also helps in keeping hunger at bay.
Add lentils to a meal with one of these flavor-packed recipes: