Food - Drink
Why Americans Started Eating More Lentils After WWII
By AUTUMN SWIERS
Lentils are a healthy, nutrient-dense, and malleable meat substitute, with uses from lentil burgers to lentil-based seafood options. They also have 25% protein and are rich in iron -– both of which are often lacking in vegetarian diets. Despite the current counterculture, lentils got their start in the U.S. during World War II.
On Jan. 30, 1942, the U.S. enacted the Emergency Price Control Act to ration food supplies — like sugar, meat, cheese, or canned milk — using government-issued vouchers. However, as rationing heavily limited access to staple foods, without meat as the focal point, lentils became great alternatives.
Lentils gained their enduring popularity thanks to their ready availability, low price, and high nutritional benefits. Food historian Dr. Annie Gray explains that WWII ushered in an era in which everyday consumers learned about nutritional science, leading them to include more lentils in their diet.