With about 30% of their calories from protein, lentils have the third-highest level of protein, by weight, of any legume or nut, after soybeans and hemp. Proteins include the essential amino acids isoleucine and lysine, and lentils are an essential source of inexpensive protein in many parts of the world, especially in West Asia and the Indian subcontinent, which have large vegetarian populations. Lentils are deficient in two essential amino acids, methionine and cysteine. However, sprouted lentils contain sufficient levels of all essential amino acids, including methionine and cysteine.
Lentils also contain dietary fiber, folate, vitamin B1, and minerals. Red (or pink) lentils contain a lower concentration of fiber than green lentils (11% rather than 31%). Lentils are often mixed with grains, such as rice, which results in a complete protein dish.
Lentils also have antinutritional factors, such as trypsin inhibitors and relatively high phytate content. Trypsin is an enzyme involved in digestion, and phytates reduce the bioavailability of dietary minerals. The phytates can be reduced by soaking the lentils in warm water overnight.
The following recipe is an easy salad recipe that is wholesome, delicious, and the colors make you want to dig your fork right in.
Here is what I used for the salad:
1 cup brown lentils
2 cups of diced mixed veggies (I used purple cabbage, red pepper, cucumber, radish, tomatoes, scallions)
1 jalapeno – finely diced (optional or according to your taste)
¼ cup finely minced fresh herbs (I used parsley and mint)
Mix together 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 2 garlic cloves – finely crushed, salt and freshly ground pepper.
Optional – Olives, capers, feta cheese, grilled veggies or grilled chicken.
How I made the lentil salad:
1. I soaked the lentils for about two hours, then drained and rinsed it. Boiled the lentils for about 20 minutes until done – do not overcook the lentils.
2. Drained and rinsed the lentils with cold water.
3. Add the vegetables, jalapeno, and herbs to the lentils and gently stirred it to blend. While the lentils were cooking, I made the dressing.
4. Then added the dressing to the lentil/vegetable mixture and tossed it altogether.
5. I added some olives and capers to the salad.
6. Tasted for salt and pepper, and just added a pinch of salt and pepper. Because I had added the olives, the salad needed very little salt.
7. Drizzled a little extra virgin olive oil and tossed again.
8. The salad was delicious at room temperature, and the leftovers made a delicious weekday lunch.