The list of reasons to include lentils in your diet is a long one. Lentils are high in protein and fiber, and offer many vitamins and minerals. Unlike other beans, lentils do not contain gas-producing substances, such as sulfur. Additionally, they do not have to be soaked before cooking, and because of their small size, they cook more quickly than other beans. Incorporate lentils into your meals to reap the many benefits.
Why to Soak Beans
Cooks soak beans for two reasons. The water penetrates the outer wall of the bean during soaking, softening the bean to reduce cooking time. Soaking also helps eliminate gas-producing compounds. This can alleviate bloating and flatulence, common side effects of consuming beans. Because lentils are small with tender skins, they cook quickly without soaking. Lentils also lack sulfur, so you do not need to soak them before cooking to eliminate gas.
Spill the Beans
Although you do not need to soak lentils, you must thoroughly inspect and rinse them before cooking. Spread them onto a cookie sheet or pour them into a large bowl. Check them carefully for wrinkled or darkened beans and foreign matter, such as small rocks. You certainly don't want to find something hard and indigestible in your soup or lentil burger. Once you have a clean batch of lentils, rinse them thoroughly to remove dirt.
Fast and Easy
Because you don't need to soak lentils, cooking them takes very little time. Brown and green lentils, found in most U.S. supermarkets, are ready in 20 to 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, lift several beans from the pot, rinse them under cold water and test for doneness. They should be completely tender when you bite into them. Cook them as an ingredient in lentil burgers or as additions to a variety of meals, such as mixed with rice or vegetables. Or add uncooked lentils directly to vegetable soups, where they will cook in about the same time as carrots and potatoes.
Delicious in Soup
Lentils can star in a variety of dishes, but you can never go wrong with the simplicity and deliciousness of a hearty, rustic lentil soup. Start by sauteing onions and garlic in a Dutch oven or non-stick pot. Add vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes or diced squash. Add clean lentils and sufficient water or broth. Cook the ingredients for 20 to 45 minutes, until all of the vegetables and lentils are soft. Add kale or other greens, if desired, and cook until the greens are wilted and bright green. Add in seasonings, such as parsley, thyme, cumin, salt and pepper, to taste.
- The Oxford Companion to Food; Alan Davidson
- The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth about What You Should Eat and Why; Jonny Bowden
- My Recipes: Lentil Soup With Chard
- Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images