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Lentils are a part of the edible legume family. Legumes differ with other legumes like beans in that they are never consumed fresh but only after being dried after ripening. Lentils are one of the great “high yield but low cost” foods. Lentils are a great source of healthy protein, also packing in high amounts of iron and zinc and are often used as vegans and vegetarians as one of their prime protein sources. Lentils are one of the most versatile foods. They can be used to male stews, soups, dips, and salads, all while being a very low-cost option. Lentils come in a few varieties and they are different in their looks as well as in how they cook as well.
Lentils vary greatly in color, shape, size, texture, and taste. Picking the right lentil for the right job could mean the difference between a creamy and smooth soup over one with hard grains and mushy lentils in your salad where you want them to have a nice bite and hold their shape.
The most common type of lentils are brown lentils (also referred to as European lentils. The average cook time for these lentils is about 20 to 30 minutes and are they are ideal for use in soups and stews.
For brown lentils, you’d want to use three parts water to one part lentils if you want a soupy consistency or you can reduce the water to two parts if you want a thicker, creamier consistency.
Red lentils (aka split lentils or Egyptian lentils) are actually orange in color. Red lentils have had their seed coat removed so they can be cooked in about a third of the time it takes for brown lentils. They tend to be mushy and seldom hold their shape which makes them ideal for soups and curry dishes and of course “daal” (Indian Lentil Soup).
Green lentils have a similar shape and size as brown lentils but with a glossier surface. They are slow cooking, averaging about 45 minutes but they hold their shape well after cooking, which means that they are the ideal choice for salads. Green lentils have an earthy taste.
French lentils are French green lentils or du Puy lentils: small, slate-gray or green lentils with a peppery taste. They cook in 15 to 20 minutes and hold their shape very well, thus they are the first choice for salads.
Black lentils are small and sort of look like caviar. About the size of a peppercorn, black lentils are similar to texture as green lentils and hold their shape well making them also ideal for salads.
Yellow lentils cook in 15 to 20 minutes and are mainly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. They ten to turn mushy so are best for soups, stews and curries.
Consuming all types of plant-based foods has associations with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.
A 2019 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that people who eat more healthful plant foods have a lower chance of dying from cardiovascular disease and all causes.
Plant-based foods often provide a wide range of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and may contain antioxidant properties. Antioxidants work against free radicals, which are compounds in the body that may contribute to inflammation and cancer.
Lentils are a plentiful source of fiber, folic acid, and potassium. These nutrients all support heart health.According to the American Heart Association (AHA), increased fiber intake can reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or bad cholesterol.
Not only does fiber have links to a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, but it might slow the progression of the disease in high-risk individuals.
Lentils add essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber to the diet. They also provide protein and are an excellent replacement for meat in meals.
Lentils provide a large amount of folate.
Folate is critical for preventing neural tube defects in newborns.
This essential vitamin can also reduce the risk of gestational diabetes. A 2019 study of 14,553 pregnant women found that those who took more folate during pregnancy were less likely to develop gestational diabetes.
Adequate fiber intake serves as an important factor in weight loss by functioning as a “bulking agent” in the digestive system.
Fiber in the diet helps to increase the feeling of fullness and reduce appetite. This can reduce a person’s overall calorie intake.
The high fiber content in lentils also helps keep the digestive tract healthy, which in turn, prevents constipation and promotes regular bowel movements.
As we’ve already mentioned, lentils are a highly nutritious food.
100 grams (g) of cooked lentils contains:
Lentils also provide good amounts of folate, iron, manganese, phosphorus, thiamin, potassium, vitamin B-6, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium
Now that you’ve learned a bit about the wonderful world of lentils, why not try a recipe or two? Here’s a simple one to get started:
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