Dr Libby on lentils
Lentils are a type of legume and they come in different shapes and sizes. They are favoured for their quick cooking time and ability to absorb flavours.
Lentils are a good vegetarian source of protein. Dietary protein is critical for the formation of body proteins, including the cells of your immune system that help defend you from infection and the neurotransmitters in your gut and brain that influence your mood.
Lentils contain significant amounts of the amino acids isoleucine and lysine, as well as a smaller amount of other essential amino acids. Plant sources of protein do not contain all essential amino acids that humans need, so it is important to combine plant proteins from different botanical families. Combine them with grains, nuts and/or seeds to ensure you are getting the full range of amino acids from plant sources. This is of particular importance for vegetarians and vegans. Amino acids are the building blocks of our body proteins.
Lentils are rich sources of both soluble and insoluble fibre. Insoluble fibre has the ability to form a gel-like substance to trap cholesterol as it travels through the digestive tract, preventing it from being absorbed. A 25-year-long study found that regular consumption of lentils can reduce the risk of heart disease by 82 per cent. The range of vitamins and minerals in lentils are also believed to be responsible for helping protect the heart, as these nutrients are able to convert artery-damaging homocysteine into useful amino acids.
Use lentils as a base for stews and curries, as a replacement for meat in patties or mixed into leafy green salads for one-bowl meals, like this lentil and quinoa salad.