Types of Lentils

lentils varieties

 

The lentils you purchase in your local grocery store have a long shelf life and are inexpensive. Regardless of the type or color, their nutritional content remains consistent with the different varieties of lentils. They are low in sodium and cholesterol, yet high in thiamin, Vitamin C, phosphorus, copper, folate, iron, manganese, and dietary fiber. Lentils do NOT contain sulfur, thus they do not cause gastrointestinal distress like many beans.

Here’s a quick description of some lentil varieties:Chana Dahl lentil pic

Chana Dahl – This lentil is a staple of India, resembles a yellow split pea and is really a skinless relative of the chickpea. It has a mild, sweet flavor and a firm texture.

unhulled - dahl - lentils picDahlThis lentil is an Indian term for split legumes which are usually unhulled. They have a mild, earthy flavor.

French Lentils These lentils are also knownfrench lentils pic as lentils du Puy. They are small, dark and stronger flavor than other lentils. They do well in salads because they keep their shape well.

green lentils picGreen Lentils – These lentils are also referred to as brown lentils. They are khaki-colored legumes and are the lentil used in most American lentil soups.

Red Lentils – These lentils in their dried form are salmon red lentils picpink in color, but when cooked turn golden. With a little red onion and balsamic vinegar, they are delicious as a side dish to chicken.

lentil soup picYou can make a delicious lentil soup by cooking the dried split variety, add diced onion, garlic, diced carrots, seasoning with salt/pepper to taste, and you have a delicious and healthy meal in one bowl.

Here’s to lentils and your health!

 

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Lentils

lentils one color

 

Most people in the know believe that lentils originated in central Asia, and were one of the first foods that were ever cultivated. At archeological sites in lentil-soup-150x150the Middle East, lentil seeds were found, dating back thousands of years. Lentils are mentioned in the Bible  (Genesis 25) as what Jacob traded Esau for his birthright (lentil stew). Also, during the Babylonian captivity of the Jewish people, a  bread was made with lentils.

lentil loaf picBefore the 1st century AD, lentils were introduced into India, and the spiced lentil dish known as dal has been part of India’s traditional cuisine. Leading commercial packaged lentils picproducers of lentils include India, Turkey, Canada, China and Syria. You can find them in your local grocery store on the aisle with other dried beans or peas.

What are lentils? They are legumes, the seeds of bean plants. The most common type and color of lentils in the United States is either green or brown, but you can also find them in black, yellow, red and orange colors. Their shape is either round, oval or heart-shaped and is small in size.

multi-colored lentils-1Like other beans, lentils are rich in dietary fiber but also contain significant amounts of folate and magnesium. They also help lower cholesterol since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rapidly rising after a meal. Lentils also contain several B-vitamins, other minerals, are low in calories and are a good source of protein.

 

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Bean Stalks and Such

bean stalks

Without the stem or stalk of a bean plant or any plant for that matter, you won’t be able to enjoy what it produces. Since we’re still talking ‘beans, the bean stalk is obviously necessary. artichokes on stalk growingBesides the bean stalk that produces bean pods from which we enjoy green or snap beans, artichokes also grow on a stalky plant producing the ‘fruit’. On some plants, the stalks themselves are edible. Celery and asparagus are vegetables that are eaten stem and all. Cruciferous plants feature several vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts to name a few, that grow on stalks or include edible stalks. Rhubarb rhubarb stalk plant picgrows as stalks but only the stalks are edible and used in many desserts; however, its leaves are not to be eaten.

If planting your own bean garden, keep beans 2 inches apart and in multiple rows 18 inches apart. As with any vegetable garden, water after planting and sprinkle with mulch to help waterJacks Beanstalk from evaporating from the ground and seeds. You can help germinate new growth by removing the pods once they are firm and dry to the touch.

Now as far as the English folklore of “Jack and The Bean Stalk” goes—I’m sure you’re familiar with the story—there’s no ‘magic beans’ by the way, and I wouldn’t suggest tossing out green bean seeds and bean bags pichoping for a giant beanstalk.

With or without a bean stalk, dried beans can be used in making bean bags providing your family with hours of fun and entertainment.

 

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Beans Notes

bean note

I would say beans are worth their weight in health! Yet there are those who would say otherwise….

full of beans sign picI’m sure you’ve heard people say “you’re full of beans”. In American English “full of beans” means that someone is not to be believed. It can as well mean the person is talking nonsense, which would be the same as saying “they are full of hot air“. Here’s a different slant from the American English meaning. In both British English and Australia, the term “full of beans” means to be full of life, energy, and enthusiasm and vigor.

Even a popular singer, Bobby Darin, was quoted as saying “I could have a roomful of awards and it wouldn’t mean beans”.

Looking at yet another attribute of beans, we add this stomach discomfort pic‘bean note’ which deals with the result of eating beans: Flatulence. If you’ve eaten beans, you know the danger that lies ahead of you with possible intestine or stomach distress, substantial gas, and bloating. For many people dietary fiber and raffinose are not broken down during digestion but instead stay intact and enter the large intestine. This is when the discomfort of fermentation begins resulting in flatulence for many.

One blogger said that beans are the musical fruit. There are ways to help eliminate this musical-fruit-picture-1-150x43embarrassing situation when eating beans. Taking  a dietary enzyme containing alpha-galactosidase, such as Beano or Bean-zyme is most helpful. Hopefully you can enjoy adding a variety of beans to your healthy diet without stomach distress.

 

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Unusual Beans

variety of beans

The unique and interesting assortment of beans has crossed oceans and circled the globe. corona-bean-picture-jpg-150x150Here are some of the interesting varieties you can find in other countries.

CORONA BEAN – This bean is common to Italy, and is a large, broad white bean similar in appearance to a large lima bean. You won’t find it grown in other regions throughout the world.

cranberry-beans-picture-150x150CRANBERRY BEAN– A dusty pink bean, and either streaked or marked with red strips. It is used in Italian cuisine and known as the Borlotti Bean in Italy. More recently introduced to North America, it is grown in Vermont as well as California.

flageolet-beans-picture-150x150

FLAGEOLET BEANS – This is a popular French shell bean with an inedible green pod and small light-green, kidney-shaped seeds. Braised flageolets are the traditional French accompaniment to leg of lamb, and they can also be added to soups and stews or in salads. If using dried beans, they must be soaked before they are prepared.

marrow-beans-picture-150x150MARROW BEANS – This is the largest of ‘white’ beans. It is also the roundest of white beans. Marrow beans are often grown in the eastern United States and considered field beans.

A most unique bean is the SNAKE BEAN and you can imagine what it looks like just from its name. The snake bean is widely grown in snake-beans-150x150Southeastern Asia, Southern China, and Thailand. They are a climbing plant with long pods ranging from 14 to 30+ inches and usually hanging together in groups of two or more. It is probably better known as the yardlong bean, the Chinese long bean, or asparagus bean.

These beans are usually cooked like common green beans and cut into shorter sections or pieces. It is often used in stir-fry dishes, but you can also enjoy them added to any omelet.

 

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Yellow Beans

yellow wax bean

 

Yellow Beans are nearly identical to green beans in all aspects except for color. They are part of the “common beans” family, and you’ll often see them referred to as yellow wax beans.

The pod itself is light yellow; the bean is “stringless” with translucent yellow flesh that tightly clings to the small lime green seeds (legumes) inside. yellow bean pod with green seed picThese beans either have a matte or satin finish with a faint hint of wax in their texture.

Yellow beans are crisp, tender firm, and succulent when harvested young. They are similar in taste to string or green beans, and are enjoyed cooked or raw. Yellow wax beans are harvested in late spring and early summer.

yellow beans growingAs with green beans, yellow wax beans contain Vitamins A and C, folate, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, manganese, niacin, and are low in sodium. These beans add not only flavor but color to your meals.

There are many ways to enjoy yellow beans as a healthy vegetable addition to your meals, and they’re only 34 calories per one-cup serving. You can also combine them with green beans, kidney beans, and you’ve got a great 3-Bean salad.

 

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Green Beans

cut green beans

 

Green beans are most commonly referred to as string beans because of the ‘string’ running lengthwise down the seam of the pod, although there are varieties that are stringless.  String beans are also often referred to as “snap beans” because they are picked in the immature stage and can be literally snapped in half easily. Green beans or, string beans or snap beans, however you call them, are bright green and crunchy when picked, and are typically eaten in fresh versus dried, including the pod. They are in season from summer through early fall, so you should still be able to find them in your local grocery stores soon. It’s interesting that green beans belong to the same family as shell beans—pinto beans, black beans, and kidney beans—and often referred to as part of the common beans.

Green-beans-fresh-pic1-150x134Even though green beans are green in color, they also have other carotenoids like those in other carotenoid-rich vegetables (tomatoes and carrots): lutein, beta-carotene, violaxanthin, and neoxanthin in green beans. Because of the concentrated chlorophyll content of green beans you don’t see these other carotenoids; but they contain health-supportive antioxidant properties, essential vitamins, and minerals.

Green beans are also a very good source of enzyme-supportive manganese, molybdenum, heart-healthy dietary fiber, folate, vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin C. And if you didn’t think that was enough—green beans also have a good source of energy-producing iron, vitamin B1, niacin; bone-building calcium, phosphorus, and copper; muscle-enhancing protein; and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, and direct cardiovascular benefits. Sounds like this is one great vegetable to add to your healthy meals.

A word of caution, though—some studies show that people with already existing and pole-beans-picture-121x150untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating green beans due to the oxalates contained in beans that may interfere with the absorption of calcium from the body. 

You can grow green beans in linear rows as a bushy plant (thus called bush beans), or planted against a trellis where they will climb (thus pole beans). No matter what they’re called at your grocery store, you can enjoy green beans.

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Mung Bean

mung beans

The Mung Bean is a small, green oval-shaped bean. an egg). It is a small bean native to India but its cultivation has spread to China and other Southeast Asia cultures and gradually gained popularity in the United States. Mung Beans are a great protein source with a crunchy texture and a delicate hint of sweetness. Some say they taste like lentils. They can be ground into flour and made into noodles, custards, Chinese mooncakes, mung bean noodlesand even used in the base for ice cream.

Mung beans are low in cholesterol, high in soluble fiber, low on the glycemic index, and are a good source of protein. According to ancient Chinese records, mung beans can be used to help dispel heat and detoxify the body. These beans also contain isoflavone nutrients which help regulate hormonal activity. The mung beans as well as other type of beans contain protease inhibitors which are known to block and prevent formation of tumor cells slowing the replication of certain cancer cells including mung-bean-sprouts-pic-150x150those found in breast cancer. It’s interesting that these beans can also help regulate hormonal activity for women in post menopause.

You’re probably more familiar with them as bean sprouts which are really germinated mung beans. Once the Mung bean seed germinates, they become the bean sprouts you see in your local grocery stores, and are widely used in Chop Suey or other stir-fry dishes.  Season with a little garlic, ginger, onions, add some chicken, and you’ve got a flavorful and healthy meal.

 

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Broad Beans

broad beans

Broad Beans are also known as fava beans, sometimes field beans, bell beans, or tic beans, and are native to north Africa and southwest Asia, but are cultivated in other locales. In English-speaking countries and the US, the bean is referred to as “Fava”, which is Italian for “broad bean”; however, in the United Kingdom broad bean pods picit is commonly called “broad beans”. Whichever way you call it, it refers to the same oval-shaped, light brown bean with an earthy flavor and creamy texture. Fresh broad beans are sweet and delicious, and are an excellent source of folate and fiber.

Broad beans / Fava Beans are rich in L-dopa, a substance medically used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, and could help in controlling hypertension. Because broad beans are rich in tyramine, they should be avoided by those taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors.

broad beans groupVarious cultures have included the broad bean in their philosophy of life. In other parts of the world some people carry a broad bean for good luck believing by carrying it with you, you will never be without the essentials of life. In Russia, a particular Ubykh culture uses beans as a common method of divination by throwing them on the ground and interpreting the pattern. In fact, the word for “bean-thrower” in that language has become a generic term for seers and soothsayers in general.

It was Pliny the Elder, a Roman naturalist, who claimed that broad beans acted as a laxative long before doctors and nutritionists claimed the high fiber content within beans. Today, Fava Beans can be purchased fresh or dried. As with any type of dried bean, soaking is required to re-hydrate the beans before they are cooked.

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Soybeans

soybeans-pic 700x400

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about this next particular bean. It’s raved about in many health sites, and vegetarians use it for more protein in their diets. It is the Soybean. China has cultivated soybeans for thousands of years, and are included in their diet. In the States you are more familiar with them in two particular forms: tofu, and edamame.

Soybeans have folate, calcium, fiber, iron,  phosphorus, high protein, and are low in carbohydrates. As a plant food throughout history and even soybean plant pictoday they are known as “meat of the field” or “meat without bones.”

These particular beans come in different colors and hull/seed sizes that include black, brown, blue, yellow, green, and mottled. The soybeans you find in your grocery stores have already been removed from the pod and dried out, and will be a light tan or pale yellow color. The mature dried soybeans are black, brown, or blue in color. Fresh soybeans that haven’t been dried are always green in color, becoming a brighter shade of green when cooked. These are the ones most people are more familiar with seeing at their local grocery or health food stores. Overall, soybeans are basically bland, no matter what color they are, can be added to many dishes.

soybean colors picSome folks like them and eat them often; others don’t, and won’t. Just Google ‘soybean controversy’ on the internet and you’ll be able to read lots of related information. There are many people who are allergic to soybeans, and not know it until you’ve consumed them. I know some people who had various health-related problems because of their consumption of soybeans. I personally experienced horrible stomach cramps when we had “healthy” smoothies with a soybean base. As soon as I stopped drinking the smoothies, I felt 100% better. No more soybeans for me, no matter what form they take. 

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