Lentils are the perfect slow-acting food, with an ideal mix of slow-digesting protein and complex carbohydrates. And since they cook quickly — no presoaking required — there’s little excuse not to use them in soups, salads, and main dishes even on weeknights. If you add them to rice dishes, you’ll be able to use less rice and significantly lower the GL of the dish.
Their secret weapon against blood sugar spikes is soluble fiber, and plenty of it. A cup of cooked lentils carries a whopping 16 grams of fiber, most of it the soluble type. Of course, soluble fiber is also the stuff that lowers cholesterol. It’s little wonder that lentils are a staple in the Mediterranean diet, famous for protecting the heart.
Lentils are also a good source of protein (18 grams per cup, cooked), which makes them wonderfully filling and weight-loss friendly.
One recent study found that women who included lentils or beans in their diets at least twice a week had a 25 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who ate them less than once a month. Lentils are also unusually rich in folacin, a B vitamin proven to lower blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked with an increased risk of heart disease and dementia. The fiber in lentils also helps keep you regular.
Glycemic Load: Very low
Stored in a cool, dry, dark place, lentils will keep for up to six months. Hang on to them any longer, and they’ll dry out. Don’t mix new lentils with older ones, since the older ones will take longer to cook.
- Add cooked lentils to green salads or pasta dishes.
- Mash cooked lentils and blend with fresh salsa or with garlic, yogurt, and lemon juice for an easy and terrifically healthy dip or spread.
- Cook a pot — or open a can — of lentil soup. Interesting options include red lentil and tomato soup, lentil-barley soup, lentil and Swiss chard soup with lemon (chock full of Magic foods!), and chicken and lentil stew.
- Make lentils a main dish by cooking them with smoked turkey sausage, onion, tomatoes, and herbs.
- Reinvent rice by adding lentils. Cook and season a variety of colored lentils and serve over brown or converted rice.
Perfect Portion: 1/2 cup
Since the GL is very low, and lentils are among the most nutritious plant foods around, you can enjoy a bit more.