AICR Health Talk
Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: How do lentils compare nutritionally to dried beans like kidney beans, black beans and chickpeas?
A: Like all pulses (a term that includes dried beans, dried peas and lentils) lentils are a great source of fiber. Just a half-cup of cooked lentils provides nearly as much fiber as two cups of cooked oatmeal, and much of it is the type of fiber that helps lower blood cholesterol. Iron and the B vitamin folate that is so important for maintaining healthy DNA are high in all pulses. As do other pulses, lentils provide both protein and health-protective phytochemicals like flavonoids. Lentils’ easy preparation requires no soaking like other dried beans, so you can go from pantry to table in about 20 minutes. Pulses are similar in nutrition, but you can enjoy exploring the many types for a variety of flavors.
Cook brown lentils until tender but not mushy, holding salt and any acid ingredients (such as lemon or tomatoes) until the end to avoid toughening the lentils and increasing cooking time. Brown lentils are part of renowned dishes all around the world. They can serve as a meat replacement or extender in your favorite stew, soup, chili, or rice- or vegetable-based mixed entrée. The little red lentils and yellow lentils dissolve into sort of a purée, so they’re great for thickening soups and stews, or mashed as in some Indian dal recipes.
You may also see French lentils, which are smaller than more common types, but these take longer to cook. French lentils retain their shape and firmness and add a peppery flavor, making them a great choice for salads. Whatever your choice, enjoy lentils as a quick and easy way to work more legumes into your eating habits.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF).