1 July 2011

Get the Scoop with Emma Stirling

The scoop on low GI lentils

Emma Stirling
Emma Stirling APD
It’s easy to forget about the little guy at times. Fora little legume, lentils pack as powerful a nutrition punch (and are more convenient) as bigger members of their family like beans and chickpeas.

If you have diabetes, back this little guy. Rich in protein, high in fibre and packed with nutrients like B vitamins, folate and minerals, all fresh and canned lentils have a low GI. Although opting for handy canned convenience increases the GI somewhat, lentils are still a very smart carb choice ... just take a look:

  • GI26 (red, home cooked)
  • GI30 (green, home cooked)
  • GI52 (green, canned)
A serving is ¾ cup cooked lentils.

How to prep and dress? So you like the idea of backing the little guy, but you’re really not sure how to get dried lentils ready for action? Shop around for a variety of colours from red, orange, green and brown. You can purchase lentils whole, split or skinned depending on variety. Whole lentils lend themselves better to salads and sides, whereas split are commonly used in soups, but there are no hard and fast rules and all are easy on the budget.

Measure out your required quantity of dry lentils – as a rule of thumb they will more than double in volume once cooked as they soak up liquid from the cooking broth, water or dish. Wash your lentils well to remove dirt and check that there are no little stones hiding in your measured serve. Laying washed lentils on a clean tea towel is an easy way to check for grit. Dried lentils will keep fresh in an airtight container for months.

Easy as peasy meal ideas The best thing lentils have going for them is that they do not require soaking overnight like many other pulses and are quicker to cook, within 15–30 minutes and your done (just check the cooking time on the pack). Adding lentils is as easy as adding frozen peas to a dish during the cooking process (you just have to allow a bit more time). There are many authentic recipes and side dishes designed around lentils, like Indian dhal, but you can simply keep them on hand and toss in to your existing recipes. You may like to give the little guy a go and:
  • Transform a simple pot of vegetable soup into something substantial by adding a cup or two of lentils.
  • Extend a stew or casserole with a cup or two of lentils. Great to help the leftovers feed the whole family.
  • Add a sprinkle of canned lentils into your meat ball or burger base to up the dietary fibre.
  • Thicken sauces and salsas with pureed lentils. If it’s a new taste sensation for your family, add just a little for starters until their palates adjust to the slightly earthier flavour.
Once you start searching around you’ll uncover more about this little guy than you ever imagined. Lentils really are the quiet achiever, just like in this stunning recipe for Ocean Trout with Lentils. We know you’ll soon be a lentil lover too, or perhaps you already are? Love to hear your tips and recipe links below.

Emma Stirling is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and health writer with over ten years experience writing for major publications. She is editor of The Scoop on Nutrition – a blog by expert dietitians. Check it out for hot news bites and a healthy serve of what’s in flavour.

3 comments:

Christie @ Fig and Cherry said...

Great advice Emma! I love adding lentils to bolognese to make it go further (and add fibre). They also go beautifully with beetroot and goats cheese in a warm salad - perfect for Winter!

Emma said...

Thanks Christie. I bet you have some wonderful recipes to share. Feel free to add a link?

Lynne from Canberra said...

I love the blue or Pye lentils best. They keep their shape in lentil soups and makes the soup a delicious meal in a dish. Available dried from Asian spice shops and some healthfood shops.