The lentil (Lens culinaris) is an edible pulse. It is a bushy annual plant of the legume family, known for its lens-shaped seeds. It is about 40 cm (16 in) tall, and the seeds grow in pods, usually with two seeds in each.
In South Asian cuisine, split lentils (often with their hulls removed) are known as lentils. Usually eaten with rice or rotis, the lentil is a dietary staple throughout regions of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. As a food crop, the majority of world production comes from Canada, India and Australia.
Lentils, a small but nutritionally mighty member of the legume family, are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Not only do lentils help lower cholesterol, they are of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. But this is far from all lentils have to offer. Lentils also provide good to excellent amounts of seven important minerals, our B-vitamins, and protein—all with virtually no fat. The calorie cost of all this nutrition? Just 230 calories for a whole cup of cooked lentils. This tiny nutritional giant fills you up—not out.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, 100 g of raw lentils (variety unspecified) provide 353 calories; the same weight of cooked lentils provides 116 kcal. Raw lentils are 8% water, 63% carbohydrates including 11% dietary fiber, 25% protein and 1% fat(table). Lentils are a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of numerous essential nutrients, including folate (120% DV), thiamin (76% DV), pantothenic acid (43% DV), vitamin B6 (42% DV), phosphorus (40% DV), iron (50% DV) and zinc (35%), among others (table). When lentils are cooked by boiling, protein content declines to 9% of total composition, and B vitamins and minerals decrease due to the overall water content increasing (protein itself isn't lost).
Lentils have the second-highest ratio of protein per calorie of any legume, after soybeans.
The low levels of readily digestible starch (5%), and high levels of slowly digested starch, make lentils of potential value to people with diabetes. The remaining 65% of the starch is a resistant starch classified as RS1. A minimum of 10% in starch from lentils escapes digestion and absorption in the small intestine (therefore called "resistant starch").
Lentils also have anti-nutrient factors, such as trypsin inhibitors and a relatively high phytate content. Trypsin is an enzyme involved in digestion, and phytates reduce the bioavailability of dietary minerals. The phytates can be reduced by prolonged soaking and fermentation or sprouting.