Red lentils are a nutritious food legume. The primary product is the seed of the plant. Generally the seeds are canned or packaged, whole or split, for retail sale, or processed into flour. Lentils are then used in soups, stews, salads, casseroles, snack food and vegetarian dishes. In southern Asia, split red lentils are used in curries. Lentil flour is added to cereal flour to make breads, cakes and baby foods. Lentils are often used as a meat extender or substitute because of the high protein content and quality. Lentils have a shorter cooking time than other pulses and do not need to be pre-soaked.
Pulses, including lentils, are increasingly being used in health-conscious diets to promote general well-being and reduce the risk of illness. They are low in fat, high in protein and are an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fibre, complex carbohydrates, vitamins (especially B vitamins) and minerals (Especially potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc). Lentils are an inexpensive, high quality source of protein. Since lentils are high in fibre, low in fat and are cholesterol free, they are an excellent heart healthy food that may be beneficial to the prevention of coronary and cardiovascular disease.