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Learn to Love: Lentils

With this economy, we're all looking for ways to save money. Since animal sources of protein can be pricey, why not opt to have at least one meal a week focused on plant-based proteins? I'm talking about lentils. They're a type of legume, and have the third highest level of vegetarian protein after soybeans and hemp. There are a huge variety of lentils, ranging in size and color from brown, to black, tan, green, red, and yellow.

Aside from being a great Winter comfort food because of their soft texture, lentils are one of the best vegetarian sources of iron, and have high levels of the amino acids isoleucine and lysine. Lentils are also excellent sources of cholesterol-lowering fiber, and folate, which is needed during pregnancy. Since they're low on the glycemic index, they may also help you lose weight. Add them to soups, stews, or use them to make a cold salad. They're quick and easy to make since lentils don't need to be pre-soaked like other beans.

To see how lentils compare nutritionally to other legumes


Here's the nutritional info for half a cup of dry beans.

Lentils Black beans Kidney beans
Calories 339 331 310
Total Fat (g) 1 1.4 1
Saturated Fat (g) .1 .4 .1
Sodium (mg) 6 mg 4.9 11
Potassium (mg) 917 1,439 1,251
Iron (mg) 7.2 4.9 6.2
Calcium (mg) 54 119.5 76.5
Folate (mcg) 460 430.5 362.5
Carbs (g) 57.7 60.5 56.4
Fiber (g) 29.3 15 14
Sugars (g) 2 2 2
Protein (g) 25 21 21

Check out all that iron, potassium, and calcium. Compared to black and kidney beans, lentils are loaded with fiber and protein. Who knew such a little bean could be so healthy? If lentils have never made it into your kitchen, it's time to pick up a bag. If you're not sure how to prepare them, make some Lentil Tomato Soup, Indian Lentils and Rice, or Lemony Lentil-Spinach Stew.


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