Chewy, nutty little discs of goodness; lentils are a versatile and nutritious addition to your dietary repertoire.

lentilsI like lentils and find them interesting additions to my plate, mostly because their texture compels me to slow down and chew each one individually. Sometimes it makes for a very long meal.

Lentils are considered a pulse, which is a plant in the legume family that is harvested for the dry seed. While green beans and peas are in the legume family a well, they are not considered pulses because they are consumed fresh. Lentils have been part of the human diet for thousands of years and have made their way into most cuisines around the world in some shape or form. Lentils grow in a pod with about two or three seeds per pod. The seeds are harvested and dried before they make their way out into the market and to your table. Lentils are beneficial not only to your body but also to the planet.  They contribute to healthy soil and are a low impact crop, so much so, that the United Nations has declared 2016 the year of pulses in an attempt to bring more awareness to the value of pulse to the human diet and to the planet. 

From a culinary perspective, lentils are versatile and easily added to a variety of dishes. There are a few different varieties of lentils, give them each a different shape, size, color, texture and even flavor. French green lentils, split yellow, petite red, they all have their own personality to add to a given dish. My favorite ways to enjoy lentils are either made into a lentil loaf and then baked and eaten much like meatloaf or added to soups and stews. If you keep a small jar of them prepared and in the fridge, you will have them handy to just add to any number of dishes with ease.

lentilkalesquashFrom a nutritional perspective, lentils are seriously nutritious little treasures. They are a fantastic source of protein and fiber as well as a multitude of minerals and vitamins. Research demonstrates that the high mineral content and combination of minerals helps decrease things like heart disease, systemic inflammation and oxidative stress. They can also help manage insulin fluctuation, decreasing the potential for diabetes and other glucose related issues. Lentils are also a great source of iron.