Lentils are a type of legume that is native to North America and Western Asia. Having been part of ancient Roman and Egyptian diets, lentils are one of the earliest domesticated crops.
One cup of cooked lentils provides approximately 18 grams of protein, 40 grams of carbohydrates and 0.8 grams of fat. They are also a good source of protein, folate, iron, potassium and zinc. Second to black beans, lentils have the highest antioxidant content of all legumes.
Studies indicate that lentils may improve cholesterol levels in people with diabetes and may even protect women against breast cancer. Lentils may also assist in moderating blood sugar levels, and its resistant starch content may help to prevent the build-up of hydrogen sulfide, which is linked to irritable bowel disease.
Since lentils cook fast, no pre-soaking is required. Simply add one cup of dried lentils to three cups of water, bring to the boil, and then simmer for 20-30 minutes. Red lentils tend to cook down to a mushy, pureed texture, and might be best used to thicken stews and soups, while green and black lentils retain their shape and can be served in salads or with grains.