Lentils are cheap and easy to prepare while providing a nutritional bounty for a low caloric cost, yet they are not quite a common ingredient in the average American diet. Two new studies suggest this humble legume could be an ally in the battle against diabetes. Researchers reported in the journal Clinical Nutrition that among 3,349 participants, those who consumed the most lentils over 4 years had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who ate the least. Replacing half a serving each day of eggs, bread, rice or baked potato with legumes was also linked to a lower chance of developing diabetes.
In a separate lentil study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Canadian food scientists gave 24 adults a few different dishes—white rice only, half white rice and half lentils, white potato only, and half white potato and half lentils—and measured blood glucose levels before food consumption and two hours afterward. The outcome was that swapping half a serving of rice with lentils caused blood glucose levels to drop by up to 20%. Replacing potatoes with lentils led glucose levels to plunge by about 35%.
It’s likely that the payload of fiber and plant-based protein in lentils slows digestion, tempering the release of sugar into the bloodstream; this may help to fend off metabolic conditions like diabetes that are associated with poor blood sugar control.
One way to get people excited about lentils is to work them into familiar dishes such as this hearty vegetarian riff on sloppy Joes. On top of delivering crucial nutritional value, it makes for excellent leftovers. Serves 6.
Lentil Sloppy Joes
1 C dried green or brown lentils
1 C long-grain brown rice
2 t canola or grapeseed oil
1 yellow onion, diced
½ t salt
2 C diced eggplant
1 large carrot, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (26-ounce) jar tomato sauce
1 T dry mustard powder
1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1 t dried oregano
¼ t black pepper
2 T balsamic vinegar
6 whole-grain bun bottoms parsley or basil, for garnish
Place lentils, brown rice and 5 cups of water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until lentils and rice are tender, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and salt; cook 4 minutes. Add carrot and eggplant; cook 3 minutes. Add bell pepper and garlic; cook 2 minutes. Place tomato sauce, mustard powder, chipotle pepper, oregano and black pepper in the skillet, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Drain lentils and rice. Take 2 cups of the cooked lentils and rice and place them in a food processor or blender container. Blend into a pastelike consistency. Stir the lentil paste and the remaining lentils and rice into the tomato sauce mixture and heat for 5 minutes. Place the lentil mixture on bun halves and garnish with parsley or basil.