Home Health What you (maybe) don’t know about lentils

What you (maybe) don’t know about lentils

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Better a plate of lentils than a ham sandwich, says the saying. Could it be true? If from the point of view of taste everyone could give their own answer, as far as health is concerned, yes, it is true. Lentils are one of the healthiest and nutritious foods available, and scientists all agree on that. Warning: they are also healthy for the environment, as well as costing less than many other products. In short: promotion with flying colors for a legume that we have been dishing up on our plates for several millennia.

Lentils are probably the first cooked food we know of: they are even mentioned in the Bible and there are recipes for soups, soups and salads that date back centuries and centuries ago. They are also a typical food of half the world, because they are eaten in Asia, Africa and Europe. Everywhere and always obtaining from the plate in a few spoons almost all the essential nutrients.

Best with cereals. Like all legumes, in fact, lentils are rich in proteins, more than cereals, fruits and vegetables. And these proteins contain all the essential amino acids for our body with the exception of a small group, the sulfur amino acids, which are abundant in cereals such as rice, wheat and corn. So just combine them with cereals, for example in a soup. There are also oligosaccharides that nourish the intestinal flora and keep it healthy.

Latest discovery, they are rich in polyphenols, molecules that researchers began to study at the end of the last century and which have recently been indicated as important preventive factors for many diseases (the intake of many polyphenols leads to a reduction in the mortality rate. up to 30% compared to those who have a poor diet of these substances).

Icing on the cake: lentils are excellent allies in weight loss diets because they are rich in insoluble fiber, which is not absorbed by the intestine but fill it. Add to this that, as research by the Canadian University of Guelph in 2018 showed, replacing rice with lentils reduces blood sugar by 20%, and compared to potatoes by as much as 35%. Also for this reason, the consumption of lentils is associated with a lower cardiovascular risk in general, with a lower risk of diabetes, obesity and cancer.

Sugars. No contraindication then? Perhaps only one: the sugars they contain make the intestines produce more gas. “But in much lower quantities than other legumes,” explains Renato Bruni, professor at the Department of Food and Drug Sciences at the University of Parma. “And then the abdominal swelling occurs until the intestinal flora is” accustomed “to digesting these sugars, then they decrease a lot”.

It is also true that lentils contain phytoestrogens, that is, compounds similar to estrogens, which on the one hand prevent the growth of tumors, but on the other hand can interfere with normal hormonal functioning. But these substances go away with cooking. Finally, a final advantage: «The lentil plant returns nitrogen to the soil which may have lost it, for example in the cultivation of wheat. In the long term, this means less use of fertilizers ”, adds Bruni. And consequently benefits for the environment.

Article by Silvia Bencivelli, taken from Focus 315 (January 2019).

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