The Reason Lentils Are Often Used As A Meat Substitute

Whether you're considering going vegan, need a heart-healthy meat substitute, or just want to change things up in the kitchen, it's never a bad idea to work more vegetables into your diet. One of the most challenging aspects of this is to swap out meat for a vegetarian-friendly alternative. Luckily, lentils can help you make a seamless transition.

Lentils are a pulse, or legume, that has been cultivated since the Biblical Age (via NPR). They are most popular in India, where nearly half of the world's lentils are consumed. This is likely due to the nation's heavily vegetarian past, and also because of lentils' presence in the ubiquitous dal, a kind of lentil stew that can be found throughout the Indian subcontinent in a variety of different forms. According to the BBC, lentils are highly nutritious. They have been shown to improve heart health, manage blood sugar levels, and support digestion. Lentils have plenty of other great qualities too that make them perfect to use in place of meat.

Lentils are a great source of protein

One of the reasons that lentils are great meat substitutes is that they have a high protein content. According to NPR, lentils are the second-most protein-packed legumes (soybeans are the first). Healthline reports that 1 cup of lentils has about 17 grams of protein. This means that you can easily swap out lentils for your preferred meat and not worry about missing out on your proteins.

Lentils also do a great job of absorbing flavors and creating a texture similar to ground meat. VeryMeaty notes that lentils can be substituted any time you would use ground beef or turkey in a recipe. 1 cup of uncooked lentils is equal to approximately 1 pound of ground beef. Lentils are a great option when making vegetarian meatballs or hamburger patties because of their texture. Their flavor is also gentle enough that it won't overshadow any of the other flavors or spices used in the dish.