Lentils (known in India as Dals) are small lens shaped seeds and belong to the legume family. It is a yearly crop and major producers of different types of lentils are India and Canada. Different types of lentils are available worldwide which come in a variety of colors and shapes and each one of them has its own nutritional value.
What are the health benefits of Lentils?
Due to numerous health benefits of lentils, an Indian thali (plate) is never complete without Dal and it is extremely popular in north as well as south India. Variety of dishes are prepared with different kinds of lentils and all are amazingly delicious. They can be cooked to consume directly, or sprouted (why sprout?) or made into a batter for wraps (recipe for lentil wrap or lentil soup). There are several health benefits of lentils that make them a must-have in your child’s daily diet.
The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA (United States deptt. of agriculture):
For 1 cup (198g) of cooked lentils with no added salt:
Rich in proteins: Amongst various health benefits of lentils, the most important benefit is that it is rich in protein. Protein helps in building muscles & supports generation and regeneration of cells in the body. For kids, protein is a vital nutrient and should be included in their each and every meal. Each 1 cup serving of lentils provides a healthy 18 grams of protein, so it is a boon for vegetarian families and they can depend on lentils for their 90% of daily recommended intake of protein. (Why proteins are important for your kids?)
Aids digestion: Lentils are especially rich in prebiotic fiber which promotes digestive function and fuels the beneficial gut bacteria which are so important for our health. A diet rich in fiber is associated with a number of health benefits. (What is the role of prebiotics for good health?)
Reduces chronic diseases: Lentils have the highest total phenolic content in comparison to other common legumes which helps in reducing chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease. (How to control the weight of the child?)
Supports heart health: Lentils are rich in fiber, folate and potassium making them a great choice for the heart and for managing blood pressure and cholesterol. They are also high in iron and vitamin B1 which helps maintain a steady heartbeat.
What are the different types of lentils?
Lentils come in different colours and slightly different shapes.
Green Moong: Whether you eat them whole, with the skin on, without the skin or split, they are extremely beneficial in providing your body with proteins. Green moong sprouts are a wonderful source of protein. It is high in dietary fiber and also a good source of manganese, potassium, folate, magnesium, copper, zinc, and vitamin B.
Yellow moong dal: In addition to proteins, yellow moong dal is rich in iron and potassium and very easy to digest. It can be easily given to babies as their first solid meal in the form of khichadi combined with rice. (What foods can be given to babies who are starting solids?)
Arhar or toor dal: Arhar dal is packed with all the healthy nutrients and is widely used in North as well as south Indian cuisines. It contains nutrients like iron, folic acid, magnesium, calcium, Vitamin B and potassium making it vital for your child’s proper growth and development. (Nutrition tips for toddlers?)
Urad dal: Urad dal is usually called black dal when whole and white when it is skinned and split. It is great in taste and in nutritional content. Urad dal is one of the best options to improve your digestion. It is a great source of protein and also helps lower your cholesterol levels. Your kids will love urad dal because it has a nice gooey feel and is extremely tasty. Mouth-watering dishes like daal makhni, sambar vada, dahi vada and many more dishes are prepared with it.
Masoor dal: Masoor dal is available in black and orange color. Both are really delicious and rich. This dal is very versatile and can be cooked in different ways. Besides protein, It is one of the best sources of fiber, iron, amino acids, potassium and vitamin B1 for your little one. For adults, masoor dal can be very useful in reducing your cholesterol levels and ensuring that your sugar stays in check. (How can iron deficiency hamper your child’s growth and development?)
Lobia or Black-eyed pea: Lobia is known to have originated from West Africa, but it is widely cultivated in Asia and the US. Lobia is loaded with fiber which helps in keeping your child feeling fuller and also improves digestion considerably. In addition to this, it has high protein content making it an essential part of your child’s diet.
Matar Dal: Matar dal is also one of the most versatile and easy to cook dals available in India. You can use the yellow variety or the green. It can be cooked as an evening snack by simply roasting and seasoning it. Matar dal provides protein and fiber and hence you should definitely include it in your child’s diet. It is also rich in several minerals like manganese, folates, copper and potassium and contains essential vitamins such as vitamin B1 and B5. (Why vitamins are important for kids?)
Chick pea/ Bengal gram/ Chana dal: This dal comes in two forms: a smaller one with a dark skin, which is called kala chana and the larger white one which is known as kabuli chana. It is cooked in different ways and can be sprouted to add to a salad. It has anti-inflammatory qualities, is high on folate, molybdenum, manganese, copper, fiber, protein, iron and zinc. You can give Kabuli chana to your kids in the form of hummus or a more popular form in India is to cook it as a gravy (chhole) and serve with poori. (Pumpkin hummus recipe)
Horse Gram: Horse Gram is one of the best sources of calcium in comparison to other lentils and hence it is good to develop more strength in your lower body. It is also high in protein, low in fat, and in lipid and sodium content, and is good for those who have diabetes or suffer from obesity. In addition to this, it is high in carbohydrates making it very beneficial for kids. (Why is balanced diet important for kids?)
When can we start giving lentils to kids?
Giving different types of lentils to babies and growing children is very important to promote proper growth and development in kids. Lentils can be safely given to a baby when he/she is 6 or 8 months old or when he/she starts taking foods other than milk. At that time, lentils should be given in a very watery/liquid form. Sometimes lentils are gaseous, so you have to watch. To minimize the gas problem, some veggies may be added and a puree can be made. The fiber in lentil helps the child in smooth and regular bowel movements. Gradually, the lentil intake is increased in kids, as a growing child needs a lot more protein and other minerals and fibers. As a child grows, he/she should be introduced with various dishes of lentils to benefit with the healthy nutrients in them.
Recipe of Chana Dal Hummus with hidden herbs
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- 1 cup chana dal
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 4 tbsp Iyurved’s 5 herbs and 7 nuts savoury spread (order here)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
- 2 tbsp Lemon juice
- Salt and pepper for taste
- Coriander chopped for garnish
- Pressure cook chana dal until it is soft.
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- Transfer in a bowl & garnish with olive oil & coriander leaves.
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