Lentils, which belong to the same legume family as beans and chickpeas, are often a dietary afterthought. But it’s about time that changed.
See, one cup of those little suckers packs in 18 grams of protein and 37% of your daily value of iron, but just 1 gram of fat—making them a lean-and-mean substitute for meat dishes, says Heather R. Mangieri, MS, RD, owner of Nutrition CheckUp, LLC and a Spokesperson for The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Plus, you’re going to get 16 grams of filling fiber per serving and a hearty dose of essential disease-fighting nutrients, like folate, potassium, and magnesium. Not too shabby, huh?
Here are a few things you need to know before you embrace this little legume: Lentils come in different shapes and colors, and once cooked, offer a variety of textures, which means the lentils you’re looking for are going to depend on the dish, says Mangieri. And you don’t need to pre-rinse lentils, like you do with beans, but they still take a bit of time to whip up—probably about 20-30 minutes, depending on the type. (Tip: If you're in a hurry, buy them frozen or canned; just wash them off first to wipe any excess sodium.)
So are you finally ready to give lentils the attention they deserve? Here are five easy ways to add them to your diet.