Lentils are a very complete plant food.
Lentils are foods that we must learn to take advantage of. They are low in lipids and, instead, have almost complete plant proteins, fiber and slow-absorbing carbohydrates , which provide long-lasting energy. They also provide B group vitamins such as B1, B3 and B6, and minerals such as zinc, selenium and iron, although the latter is absorbed in less quantity than that from foods of animal origin. The availability of iron can increase if a raw food rich in vitamin C is eaten afterwards, such as a citrus fruit.
- Season: Lentil is a winter crop.
- Benefits: they are satiating, rich in fiber, proteins and slow-absorbing carbohydrates.
- Ideal in: cases of constipation, weight loss diets, etc.
Legumes are classified according to color . We find a good range of shades but Spanish gastronomy mainly uses the blonde or queen lentil, among which we find the Castilian blonde and the Armuña. The brown lentil is also widely used, which as its name suggests is darker and smaller. Another option is green or verdina lentils, small in size and yellowish-green in color with darker spots. Less common are yellow lentils, red lentils (highly appreciated for making purees and creams) and blue lentils that grow in volcanic areas.
How to take them
Salads, purees, sautéed … Cold can be eaten as part of salads in combination with rice or in the form of creams, accompanied by green leafy vegetables, bean sprouts, tomato, onion , asparagus …
When hot, we can opt for the helpful stew that we will preferably prepare based on vegetables, accompanied by a cereal and adding little fat. If we incorporate some protein food we can choose eggs or lean meats, avoiding preparations with bacon, sausages or fatty meats. In addition, they can also be prepared in stir-fries with vegetables, cereals, chopped or shredded lean meats …
Lentils are plant foods rich in protein but they do not provide us with all the essential amino acids in sufficient quantity to be considered a complete protein source because they are poor in metheonin. However, we can get vegetable dishes that provide us with good amounts of all essential amino acids if we combine legumes with cereals since the latter are rich in metheonin. On the other hand, cereals are lacking in lysine, an amino acid that legumes contain in sufficient quantity to counteract the deficit of cereals. Thus, legumes and cereals complement each other from a nutritional point of view .
Who are they suitable for and who are not?
Lentils are interesting foods from a nutritional point of view and, except in certain cases, they are advisable for all types of people.
They are recommended for:
- Control weight: they provide a feeling of satiety and, contrary to what is believed, they are not very energetic foods, but it depends on the way of preparation.
- Constipation : the fiber contained in lentils will contribute to the regulation of intestinal transit, favoring a greater volume of stool and avoiding constipation.
- Diabetes: they are foods rich in slow absorption carbohydrates and have a high fiber content that slows their assimilation and produces a slow and sustained increase in blood glucose, a fact that makes them interesting for people with diabetes.
They are not suitable in case:
- Flatulence : people prone to flatulence should consume lentils in small quantities and opt for preparations that cause less gas, such as creams, especially if they have gone through the Chinese strainer that will have removed a good part of the fiber.
Buying and conservation advice
Lentils can be purchased mainly in two presentations, dry or cooked , and in the latter case they are sold in bulk or canned. In addition, we have made them part of prepared dishes. In the case of dry lentils, we must check the integrity of the container, the expiration date and the quality of the lentils that are offered to us (red label, highest quality; green, good quality and yellow, lower quality). We can also check its visual appearance and if there are many split units. When we buy cooked lentils in bulk, in addition to their appearance, we can assess their smell. Regarding canned food, we will check the containers and reject those that are bumpy or bulging.
Dried lentils have a long shelf life as they are not very perishable as they contain very little water. Canned lentils can also be stored for long periods of time, because being in vacuum packaging they maintain their integrity and nutritional characteristics well. If we buy them in bulk, we must consume them in a shorter period of time, about 4-5 days, and it is advisable to keep them refrigerated.
If you don’t digest lentils well because of the flatulence that the fiber they contain can cause, you can choose to puree and strain it. In this way, we lose fiber and nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, but it is a good way to start introducing legumes to people who are not used to them. Another option is to add spices and / or carminative plants to the cooking water, such as cumin or fennel.
Pardin lentil cream with crunchy ham
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 250 g of brown lentils.
- 1 onion.
- 1 leek
- 1 teaspoon of paprika.
- Extra virgin olive oil.
Heat a drizzle of oil in a deep saucepan and sauté the onion and leek previously chopped. Add the lentils and a pinch of salt, if desired, and fry. Then cover with water and cook for about 20-25 minutes. Blend until you get a fine cream. In a separate bowl, mix the paprika with the oil. To finish, make the crispy ham: cut the ham into thin strips and place them on greaseproof paper or absorbent paper. On the ham, place another paper and press. Heat for a minute in the microwave. The first time it is important to check and add seconds according to the microwave power and the thickness. Present the cream in a deep plate or in a bowl, season with the paprika oil and serve the crunchy ham in the center.