One Country Consumes Nearly Half Of The World's Lentils

Lentils are not only one of the world's oldest cultivated foods, but they are also a nutritious powerhouse. They remain a staple food around the globe for many cultures, but one country eats more than any other.

Lentils have been a common food for humans since prehistoric times. According to America's Test Kitchen, there is evidence that early hunter-gatherers foraged for a form of wild lentils around 13,000 years ago. Traces of lentils were also found in archeological sites along the Euphrates River in Northern Syria that date back to 8000 B.C. (via NPR). The simple legumes were also a staple food for Romans and Egyptians, and are even recorded in the Bible.

Lentils' constant presence in human civilizations might be one of the reasons that cultures and peoples around the globe adore them so well, but no country eats more Lentils than India (via NPR). In fact, Indians eat more lentils than the rest of the world combined.

India incorporates lentils into a popular dish

According to NPR, India consumes roughly half of the world's lentils. They are also the world's second-largest lentil producer (via Bon Appétit). One reason for the legumes' popularity might be the prevalence of the dish most commonly referred to as Dal. Dal, and its many variations, are consumed throughout the Indian subcontinent, and lentils are their most essential ingredient (via Bon Appétit).

Another reason might be India's relatively high population of vegetarians. The most generous estimates of some studies say that close to a third of the country is vegetarian (Pew Research Center). While some estimates lower that number closer to 20% per the BBC, that's still a significant portion of the world's second-most populous country that needs to obtain its nutrition through vegetarian foods alone.

According to Healthline, lentils are a great source of B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and potassium. They're also a great source of protein that can be paired with rice to form complete essential proteins and are versatile enough to be used in various dishes (via America's Test Kitchen). Cooked brown lentils can be a great base or addition to a salad, the split and hulled red lentils can cook down to help thicken a hearty stew or can be stewed and cooked with some spices and vegetables to top some rice. For more inspiration, check out our recipes for Red Lentil Soup with Lemon and Pasta with Lentils.