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 the 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.
Before 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 producers 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.
Like 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.