Love your lentils: 10 facts & 10 ways to eat more of them

10 ways to eat more of them

A few months ago, I accepted an invitation to Saskatchewan to join the Love your lentils tour, courtesy of Canadian Lentils. They invited dietitians from across the country (and across the border!) for a 2 day tour all about lentils: from farming, to processing, to nutritional merits, to the numerous ways one can enjoy the lovely legume. I returned to Montreal having learned lots and excited to share my favourite facts so that you too, may love lentils.

Learning about lentils

The first day of touring included a visit to a lentil farm in Rosetown, Saskatchewan. We visited Dwayne Moore’s family farm, which really did stretch out as far as the eye can see. Dwayne explained the ins and outs of lentil farming; seeding, desiccation, harvesting, crop rotation along with the perks and pitfalls of the business. For instance, lentils are a drought resistant crop, which is why they pair well with Saskatchewan’s usually dry conditions. But this year’s very wet weather has been out of the ordinary and has negatively affected lentil yield. But I’m hopeful the hot weather we experienced on our trip will give those little lentils a push so they can catch-up!

After visiting the farm, we toured Saskcan Pulse‘s lentil processing facility where we learned the steps involved in bringing lentils from farm to plate: Cleaning, Sorting, Dehulling (Peeling)/Splitting, Grading, Bagging and Shipping.

Dwayne Moore showing us a lentil plant from his family farm.
Lentils as far as the eye can see

 

10 facts about lentils

  1. Canada is the world’s leading exporter of lentils
  2. Saskatchewan produces 97% of Canada’s lentils
  3. Lentils are a nitrogen-fixing crop
  4. Lentils can be bought whole, peeled or split, each step reducing cooking time: Whole  25-30 mins > Peeled 20-25 mins > Split 10-12 mins
  5. Lentils do not require any soaking! That’s right, just cook until tender and add to your favourite dish.
  6. Because lentils are grown in rotation with durum wheat they may come into contact with wheat at harvest. But the meticulous processing at the facility makes for a completely gluten-free product.
  7. Lentils are an excellent source of fibre with almost 16g per cup.
  8. Lentils have a very low glycemic index, which means the rise in blood sugar after eating them will be moderate and steady
  9. 3/4 cup cooked lentils provides more potassium than a large banana along with 13g of protein
  10. Lentils provide more folate than any other plant food
  11. Bonus food fact: The word lens (as in contact lens) was actually inspired by the shape of the split lentil (Who knew?…)

 

Eating (lots of) lentils

I expected to learn loads about lentils on this trip, and I sure did. But I never expected to be eating lentils morning, noon and night. And it’s probably a good thing too, because had they shown me the menu ahead of time I would have been pretty intimidated (if you know what I mean). Just to give you an idea, here are some of the ways I enjoyed lentils over my 2 day trip I enjoyed:

Lentil frittata, lentil salads, lentil cupcakes, lentil cookies, lentil granola bars, chocolate covered lentils, lentil puffs, lentil energy bites and lentil cheese sticks. And just when you thought I would have had my fill, I crunched on roasted lentils on the plane ride home.

One of the highlights of the trip was definitely the cooking challenge. And as a food network addict, I was so looking forward to it. We were put in teams of 3 and were required to showcase lentils in a creative way, with 25$  for groceries and 60 minutes to cook. Here are a few of my colleagues’ creations:

  • Grilled cheese with mushrooms and beluga lentils
  • Roasted tomato soup made with red lentils
  • Parmesan tuile with roasted lentils
  • Seasonal greek-style lentil lettuce wraps
  • Shepard’s pie featuring lentils 3 ways
  • Red curry lentils and seafood over rice

 

Seasonal lentil lettuce wrap

 

10 ways to eat more lentils

  1. Add cooked lentils to your favourite salad
  2. Add them to sauces in place of/or in addition to minced meat
  3. Form into lentil patties and enjoy as summer sliders
  4. Give dips a boost by adding red lentils to salsa or green lentils to guacamole
  5. Purée into soups for a thick, creamy consistency
  6. Use as a filling for tacos, lettuce wraps or fajitas
  7. Add puréed lentils to baked goods
  8. Enjoy roasted lentils as a snack
  9. Add lentils to homemade granola bars
  10. My favourite way: Stew lentils simply with garlic, onion, celery, tomatoes and bay leaf and enjoy as a side dish, as a main or with crusty bread


In brief, lentils are a very important pulse crop in Western Canada, are easy to prepare, versatile and are a great example of nutrient dense foods we should be loving a little more.

 

Do you love lentils? Were you surprised by any of these facts? What has been your most creative use of lentils in the kitchen?

Photo: Lovelentils.ca 

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15 Responses to Love your lentils: 10 facts & 10 ways to eat more of them

    • That sounds delicious! I’ve never put them together with cauliflower before…but since I’m on a roll I just might try it!

  1. My mom served us lentils all the time while growing up, but I kinda got away from them.
    Now, my son began eating them and says he prefers them to all other foods. Yes,
    he eats them all the time. I was in bad health so I wanted to see why he liked them so.
    I bought several bags and began cooking and eating them. Immediately I found myself
    feeling stronger and a lot of the aches and pains I was experiencing began to subside.
    I eat them daily now and after reading up on them, I see why. God has given this tiny
    plant amazing abilities to help sustain life and health. I like to cook the lentils in a
    soup/stew. I add onions, garlic (cut into chunks), olive oil and imitation bacon bits.
    DE-LI-SHUSH!

    • Lentils are just such a nutritious food, I’m happy to hear they had a healing effect on you as well. I also love eating lentils stewed, simple but delicious!

  2. I looove lentils! 🙂

    My husband makes a red lentil soup with potatoes… I make an awesome lentil curry with coconut milk.

    They’re so tasty and so easy to cook.

    • They are easy! I don’t think people realize just how easy and delicious they could be. Your curry sounds great.

  3. I worked for greek family had green lentils once a week, cooked onion ,bay leaves garlic then pored lentils and water but was told to add salt at the end. is folate a precursor to iron, I hv chronic fatigue and very badly managed hypothyroidism which affects absortion of nutrients, how many bowls of lentils should I eat to get my energy levels up, can a human being be healthy living on lentils alone? is there as much iron in the orange lentils and ive made home made soup and stews and frozen them in microwavable pots ,is it true u kill all the enzymes using the microwave, wt if I took frozen pot out night before and warmed it gently in a pot , would it be as destructive on the nutrients. I suffer from chronic fatigue and fibromyagia and am desperate to loose weight would a pure lentil diet be good idea, or r there too many carbohydrates in lentils? marydee

    • Folate and iron are two distinct essential nutrients, both found in lentils. Lentils are very nutrient dense and you can surely have a bowl every day if you’d like, but I would never recommend a diet of any single food alone. With regards to energy levels, lentils do provide carbohydrates but along with protein and fiber which is key for stabilizing energy levels. So enjoy them, along with plenty other whole foods!

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