Lentils are often mixed with grains, such as rice, which results in a complete protein dish. Lentils also have "anti-nutritional 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. Lentils are a good source of iron.
Red lentils cook up quickly but become soft and do not hold their shape well. They are best used to thicken a dish or in purees. They are most commonly used in Middle Eastern or Indian food dishes. Traditionally, the unhulled (skins on) red lentil, known as the brown massor, and the hulled (skin removed) red lentil, known as the massoor dal is most common for Indian dishes.
With approximately 26% of their calories from protein, lentils, like other legumes, have the third-highest level of protein, by weight, of any plant-based food after soybeans and hemp. Proteins include the essential amino acids isoleucine and lysine, and are an essential source of inexpensive protein in many parts of the world. 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%). Health magazine has selected lentils as one of the five healthiest foods.
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