By now you probably have realized we’re major fans of lentils over here at Meaning Full Living! Lentils are a powerhouse food for all age groups. Cooked lentils are packed with plant-based protein and iron: in one cup, there are 18 grams of protein and 6.6 mg of iron!
Written by: Jessica Diamond MPH, RDN
By now you probably have realized we’re major fans of lentils over here at Meaning Full Living! Lentils are a powerhouse food for all age groups. Cooked lentils are packed with plant-based protein and iron: in one cup, there are 18 grams of protein and 6.6 mg of iron! They’re also filled with lots of other nutrients such as folate, fiber (about 15g per cup), potassium, thiamine, and polyphenols that are known to benefit our health. These nutrients are essential for everyone, no matter our age, but they are especially important for growing kids as well as women pregnant, postpartum, or trying to conceive.
Here are the benefits of lentils for each life stage:
Babies & Children: Kids need protein, iron, and fiber for growth and development, and lentils deliver ample amounts of each. Iron is especially important because it increases immunity, improves energy function, and transports oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body and cells. Iron stores from birth begin to run out around 6 months old for breastfed babies, and for formula-fed babies, iron stores run out around 12 months when they are no longer getting iron from formula. Not getting enough iron can lead to iron-deficiency anemia, the most common nutrient deficiency in children. Enter lentils, which can help your kiddos get adequate iron.
Fertility: Because of their fiber and folate content, lentils are an excellent way to boost fertility. Their combination of fiber and folate help maintain healthy hormonal balance, and folate in particular has been shown to decrease the risk of neural tube defects in pregnancy, reduce the risk of infertility and pregnancy loss, and lead to better IVF outcomes. Women trying to conceive should shoot for adding more lentils and other legumes into their diet to stay on top of their fiber and folate intake.
Pregnancy, Lactation, and Postpartum: Women are always told what not to have when pregnant and lactating, but we’re here to tell you what you can have: lentils! Lentils are filled with fiber, iron, and folate, all of which are critical during pregnancy. As your blood volume increases during pregnancy, so does your need for iron, and cooked lentils have an impressive amount of 6.6 mg per cup! They are an excellent source of plant-based protein, which helps with tissue repair, and their folate content decreases the risk of neural tube defects, as mentioned above. The fiber in lentils is key for bowel regularity and gut health, which we know can get quite off balance during pregnancy and early postpartum. Nutrients found in lentils have been linked to improved maternal health and birth outcomes. With this in mind, pregnant, lactating, and postpartum mamas should aim to add more lentils and legumes into their diet.
Adults: In addition to a bunch of important vitamins and minerals like folate, B vitamins and zinc, lentils are filled with fiber and polyphenols that are generally under-consumed but needed for overall health and well-being. One cup of cooked lentils provides 15g of fiber per cup.
Basically, what we are saying is: add lentils to your family meals whenever you can! Here are our favorite lentil-based recipes for the entire family:
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