Nutritional value of Lentils
Lentil (Lens culinaris Medik.) Is a plant of the Fabaceae family that has been cultivated since ancient times.
The archaeological finds and the representations found tell us that it is one of the first domesticated species: archaeological evidence relating to the Franchthi cave in Greece shows that it was eaten between 13,000 and 11,000 BC. It was one of the first domesticated crops and its consumption it is attested in the biblical episode of Esau, in Genesis.
Lentil is an annual plant, whose fruits are legumes that contain round flattened, edible seeds, rich in protein and iron, known as lentils with different varieties.
It is a herbaceous annual plant, 20cm to 70cm tall. The stems are straight and branched.
The leaves are alternate and compound (imparipinnate with 10-14 oblong leaflets) and terminate with a generally simple or bifid tendril. They are equipped at the base with toothed stipules.
The flowers, with papilionaceous corolla typical of the Faboideae subfamily, are white or pale blue and gathered in clusters of two to four. The calyx is regular, with five thin and relatively long teeth. Flowering occurs between May and July.
The fruits are flattened, short pods containing two seeds with a characteristic slightly rounded lens shape. The color of the seeds varies according to the variety from pale (light green, blond, pink) to darker (dark green, brown, purplish).
Nutritional factsheet –
Like all legumes, lentils are also rich in proteins, fibers, iron, magnesium and potassium; it is thought that its iron content is higher than that of meat, despite the fact that the absorption of iron is almost reduced and the proteins of little biological value. This condition is due to the fact that lentil proteins are deficient in some essential amino acids (cysteine and methionine): it follows an inevitable lower assimilation of all amino acids. To overcome this drawback, it is advisable to associate lentils with pasta or cereals.
However, lentils are very nutritious and energetic; in fact, 100 grams of product provide 291 kcal.
They also consist of approximately 51% carbohydrates, 23% protein, 14% fiber, 1% fat and the remaining 11% water.
Among the most important chemical components, present in lentils, we find:
Isoflavones, powerful antioxidants;
Thiamine, useful for promoting memory and concentration;
Vitamin PP (vitamin B3), important for balancing energy metabolism and reducing triglycerides in the blood; niacin is also a potential antioxidant
The consumption of lentils is particularly indicated for those suffering from anemia, physical and mental fatigue and malnutrition.
Furthermore, being rich in fiber, which facilitates intestinal motility, and antioxidants, they are useful for counteracting the activity of free radicals. It seems that lentils are also suitable for diabetics because they slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, avoiding glycemic peaks.
Last but not least, lentils are attributed galactofore properties: in this regard, they are particularly suitable for mothers who breastfeed their babies because they seem to stimulate milk production and keep it constant over time.
However, lentils are not recommended for gout and uremia sufferers, because they are a source of purines.
Finally, do not forget that lentils should never be eaten raw due to the presence of antidigestive substances, which are destroyed during cooking.