Lentils like beans are incredibly nutritious and versatile to add to any diet.  They are high in fiber and protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants just to name a few of their health benefits.  studies have shown that people who eat more lentils in their diet have smaller waistlines and have a 22% lower risk of obesity.  They have been shown to lower cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease.  They are a great source of plant based protein and are often a large part of a vegan's diet, but that shouldn't stop the rest of us from indulging. 

lentils

But, first, what are lentils and what is the difference between the colors? 

Lentils are legumes, a cousin to beans.  They have been used in cooking for hundreds of years in many parts of the world.  You can find lentils in traditional dishes for almost every cuisine.  The most common types of lentils you will find today are green, red, yellow, black, and brown, but there are so many more. If you ever go to an Indian market you will really see all the possibilities.  

The green French lentils and the small black lentils are very small and sturdy, they don't mush after cooking making them particularly well suited to salads. 

Red and yellow lentils are a bit sweeter and quicker to lose their shape. They are better suited for soups and sauces.  

The most common lentil in the US is the brown lentil.  It is mild and can hold its shape after cooking.  It works well as a meat substitute in veggie burgers and chili. 

The best part about lentils is that they don't take as long as beans to cook and they don't need to be soaked (although if you do soak them it will cut the cooking time more).  They can be mixed with rice as a side or served on their own. They can sit in for ground meat in sloppy joe's and meatloaf and they can be made into all sorts of delicious soups and stews.  Now, time to get cooking, here are some of our favorite recipes with lentils.