Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Article # 392. Health Benefits of Lentils

Health Benefits of Lentils:

Lentils fall into the category of legumes, and have a row of seeds enclosed by a fibrous shell. Whole grain rice is rice that has the germ, endosperm and bran intact, and as a result is considered a whole grain. Lentils and whole grain rice are nutritious alone. By pairing them together, you get a healthy, nutrient-packed side dish.

Digestive Health
Legumes such as lentils are high in dietary fiber at 16 grams per cup; whole grain brown rice contains just 2 grams in a cup. Fiber is either soluble of insoluble. Lentils contain a higher amount of insoluble than soluble fiber, and whole grain rice contains more soluble than insoluble. Eating the two together gives you a good balance of each. Soluble fiber forms a gel in the stomach, helps reduce cholesterol and promotes stable blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber creates bulk in stool, which helps it pass easily and prevents constipation and other intestinal disturbances.
Stable Blood Sugar Levels
The glycemic index, or GI, is a chart that ranks how fast a carb-containing food elevates blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods cause a slow increase in blood sugar, which, in turn, gives you stable energy levels. High-GI foods cause a fast spike in blood sugar, which leads to a fast rise in energy, usually followed by a sudden "crash," or dip in energy. High-fiber complex carbs, such as lentils and whole grain rice, rank low on the glycemic index. Low-GI foods have been shown to help keep type 2 diabetes under control and they also aid weight loss. A ranking of 55 or less out of 100 is considered low. Lentils have a GI ranking of 29 and brown rice comes in right at 55.
Stronger Integumentary System
The integumentary system consists of the skin, hair and nails. Protein is a key macronutrient needed for integumentary strength, and it also helps with immune function and muscle growth. Amino acids are known as the building blocks of protein. Foods that have all the essential amino acids present are called complete proteins. Foods that lack one or more essential aminos are called incomplete. Pairing two incomplete protein foods together, such as lentils and whole grain rice, will form a complete protein. This is important if you happen to be a vegan or strict vegetarian. Even if you were to eat lentils and brown rice at different times of day, they still help build protein in the body. The key is to consume them within a 24-hour time frame.
Energy Production
Lentils and whole grain rice contain moderately high amounts of B vitamins. These water-soluble vitamins help break down fat, carbs and protein into usable energy. They are particularly high in B-6, thiamin and niacin. Each one has 10 percent or more of the daily recommended value per cup. Lentils also have a high folate content. The B vitamins also play a pivotal role in red blood cell formation, nerve function and digestion.
Reduced Disease Risk
Lentils and whole grain rice both contain high amounts of an antioxidant called manganese. The main benefit of manganese is it helps absorb renegade cells called free radicals. These are responsible for causing chronic conditions like cancer and heart disease, and they also accelerate the aging process according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Manganese also plays a role in connective tissue strength, sex hormone production and blood clotting.
Heart Health
Several studies have shown that eating high fiber foods like lentils reduces your risk of heart disease. Lentils are also a great source of folate and magnesium, which are big contributors to heart health. Folate lowers your homocysteine levels, a serious risk factor for heart disease. Magnesium improves blood flow, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Low levels of magnesium have been directly associated with heart disease, so eating lentils will keep your heart happy.