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The 10 Healthiest Foods: Red Lentils

By: Caley Walsh

Lentils are handy for vegetarians, but for vegans, they are absolutely essential. Lentils are an excellent source of protein and come well recommended by nutritionists, as a panel for ABC showed. Learn about the health benefits of lentils and our top recipe for quick-cooking red lentils in the form of dal.

Red Lentil by Kilo
                 Photo by ccarlstead

Though all lentils provide fantastic health benefits, red lentils cook more quickly and are considered to be the tastiest of the bunch. While cooking, they usually turn from reddish to a lighter yellow color. Lentils should be rinsed before cooking. Like any legume, soaking lentils overnight and discarding the water helps speed up the cooking process and helps remove impurities.

Here are some of the health benefits of red lentils:

  • Protein- Lentils are rich in protein, which is well known to the vegetarian and vegan communities. In fact, a 1 cup serving of lentils provides nearly 40% of your daily recommended value of protein, and you will only be getting 230 calories for that entire cup!
  • Iron- Often another big problem for vegetarians and vegans is getting enough iron in their diets. Lentils provide iron, without the fat and cholesterol associated with red meat. Women, especially pregnant women, and children should be especially careful to get adequate amounts of iron as their needs are greater.
  • Fiber- Lentils are another great vegetable source of fiber, and their high fiber content helps you to feel full with less food. High fiber legumes like lentils are especially useful for those trying to stabilize blood sugar levels, as your metabolism burns them very slowly over time. The fiber is also effective in lowering blood cholesterol.
  • Anti-oxidants- Lentils contain anti-oxidants similar to those in tea, red wine and other foods.
  • Heart-Healthy- In addition to the fiber, magnesium and folate, a B vitamin, are found in lentils and very important nutrients to heart health.

Red Lentil Dal

Red lentil Dal (also dahl or daal or dhal) is a classic dish in India and many, many different recipes exist. The fragrant spices make cooking dal a delight. Serve dal over brown rice or scoop up with a whole wheat bread such as whole wheat roti/chapatti or whole wheat pita.


1 ½ C. dry red lentils
2 C. vegetable broth
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 red chili peppers, seeds removed and chopped
1 Tbs. freshly grated ginger
(optional) 1 tbs. fresh coriander

spice mixture:

1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground fenugreek
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. turmeric
1 star anise
(optional) 1 tsp. black onion seeds (kalunji)- These are harder to find but worth it!


  1. Sauté onion and garlic until soft in small amount of oil or ghee (clarified butter).
  2. Add tomato, ginger, and spice mixture and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add lentils, broth and chili peppers. Bring to a boil.
  4. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until thickened.
  5. Remove star anise.
  6. Remove from heat and add fresh coriander.

The Next Super-Food: Quinoa

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