Did you know that lentils, edible seeds from the legume family, are enveloped within pods, much like their legume counterparts?
These legumes boast swift preparation and are economically sustainable, being always a good investment. But here’s the real secret: Have you ever explored the astonishing nutritional wealth lentils hold within? They are an abundant source of protein and fibre, and have multitudes of essential minerals. But that’s not all.
Nutritionally rich and dietary inclusive
Lentils offer a remarkable nutrient profile, making them a valuable source of sustenance for both human consumption and animal feed. These versatile legumes are rich in plant-based protein, providing essential amino acids for muscle growth and repair. They are also abundant in dietary fibre, promoting healthy digestion and aiding in weight management. Lentils are packed with various vitamins, including folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin C, contributing to optimal cellular function and immune support. Furthermore, lentils contain an array of essential minerals such as iron, magnesium, and potassium, vital for overall health and well-being. Incorporating lentils into food and feed not only ensures a balanced nutritional intake but also offers a sustainable and wholesome protein option. They are naturally gluten-free, making them suitable for individuals with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. According to BBC Good Food, studies demonstrate that regularly eating lentils reduces your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease. This is thanks to their rich content of protective plant compounds called phenols – lentils being amongst the top-ranked legumes for phenolic content. It is also heart-healthy and helps manage blood sugar levels.
Economically sustainable and cost-effective
According to Future Market Insights, the global lentil market is expected to reach a market valuation of US $ 208,3 million by 2023, accelerating with a CAGR of 5.1 % by 2023. New opportunities for lentil protein-based food products have arisen due to increased demand for allergen-free ingredients, supported by environmental and nutritional concerns. Overall, lentils offer favourable economic prospects due to their increasing demand, export opportunities, price stability, diverse applications, alignment with health and sustainability trends, and government support. They are affordable, widely available, and have a long shelf life, making them a reliable food source, particularly in regions with limited access to diverse food options. Europe is a substantial consumer of lentils, with a growing demand for plant-based protein sources and healthy food options. Demand for quality livestock feed opens up profitable avenues for growth and further development.
Lentils have a rich cultural heritage and are deeply rooted in the culinary traditions of many countries and people groups. Their consumption fosters a sense of cultural identity, promotes traditional cooking practices, and preserves culinary heritage within communities.
Lentils offer a multitude of environmental benefits that contribute to sustainable agricultural practices and ecosystem preservation. Firstly, lentils have the remarkable ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen through a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria. This eliminates the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilisers. In return, that reduces the environmental impact associated with the production and application of chemical fertilisers, including greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution. Additionally, compared to other crops, lentils require less water, making them suitable for regions facing water scarcity or drought conditions. Their efficient water usage helps conserve water resources and alleviates pressure on freshwater ecosystems. Furthermore, lentils play a role in soil health and erosion prevention. The dense vegetation and root systems of lentil plants protect the soil from erosion caused by wind and water, preserving soil structure and nutrient content. By improving soil fertility and reducing erosion, lentils contribute to sustainable land management practices. Moreover, lentil crops act as carbon sinks, sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. This aids in mitigating climate change by reducing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. Additionally, lentil cultivation promotes biodiversity by providing a habitat for beneficial insects and other wildlife species. The avoidance of harmful pesticides and the adoption of organic farming methods in lentil production further enhance ecological balance and protect pollinators. Overall, lentils offer a holistic environmental package, conserving resources, mitigating climate change, promoting biodiversity, and supporting sustainable agriculture for a greener and more sustainable future.
The VALPRO Path project, amidst various protein crops, will prioritise lentils in order to augment plant protein production in Europe. In order to create value for all food-chain actors and enhance plant protein production in Europe, VALPRO Path will launch five large-scale pilots (Innovative Production Systems) in Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Denmark. Covering 5 pedo-climatic areas and protein crops with the highest value potential like pea, lupin, chickpea, faba bean and lentils, VALPRO Path will ensure sustainable growth of protein crops through variety selection of nutritionally best plant- protein sources and their combinations.