Lentils are a rich source of fiber, protein, and minerals, but as nutritious as they are, lentils are a gas (vata) producing food. Not fun for the digestive process nor for those with vata imbalances. According to Ayurveda, healthy digestion is essential for balanced health. If we are unable to digest, we’re likely not absorbing or assimilating our meal’s nutrients. Over time, indigestion can lead to the accumulation of ama or toxins. Which then begins the process of dis-ease in the mind-body. To prevent ama or toxins from undigested food, one thing we can do is ensure our food, in this case, lentils, are made to support the digestive process.
Lentils are astringent in taste and are primarily comprised of the air + earth. The combination of these two elements makes lentils heavy, cold and dry. However, when cooked properly and combined with digestive spices, we can reap the nutritional benefits of lentils without the digestive issues like flatulence, bloating, or constipation.
Here are 6 tips on how to make your favorite lentil dishes digestion-friendly
#1 Rinse and soak. Ideally, you want to soak lentils for a few hours. If they are heavier lentils like chana, split pea, garbanzo then soaking overnight is ideal. However, if you don’t have the time, a couple rinses will help remove micro dust and hard protein. In engaging lentils with the element of water, the hard quality begins to soften. It also helps reduce the cooking time. Remember to discard the water the lentils were soaked in before cooking. If you are using canned lentils, rinse, rinse, rinse before using.
#2 Remove the foam that rises to the top when boiling lentils. Skim the foam off the top with a slotted spoon and then add your spices. The foam is a type of protein that can be hard on the digestion system. If digestion is hindered—are we really absorbing the nutrients? Focus on digestion—the better we can digest the more we can absorb.
#3 Cook lentils thoroughly. Al dente is for pasta—not lentils. Ensure the lentils are cooked thoroughly. Do the index finger and thumb test by pressing a cooked lentil or two between both fingers. It doesn’t have to be mushy, just soft. If it’s tough for your fingers to crush the lentil, imagine how long it will take for your digestion to break it down. Use your sense of touch, it’s a great tool. And p.s. add the salt after the lentils are cooked.
#4 Spice it up! Add digestive boosting and carminative spices like ginger, cumin, coriander, fennel, thyme, rosemary, etc.. spices are nature’s Tums, the digestive aides that will keep your digestive fire kindling. Not only will they enhance the flavor profile, but spices also bring lightness. Balancing lentil’s heavy quality.
#5 Add a sour element. A big squeeze of lemon or lime to finish the dish will add an energizing aroma, while also energizing the digestive enzymes we need to process our meal.
#6 Avoid cold lentils. Cold food is not a friend to the digestive fire. Instead of igniting the fire and allowing it to kindle, cold food is constricting. We need the transformative power that comes with the fire element. Always warm your lentils, you don’t have to eat it hot, but opt for room temperature. Since lentils have an inherent cold quality, they need a little heat to bring balance. Eating food that has been transformed by the touch of fire, will support the food in transforming within you.
BONUS | use a pressure cooker.
Looking for some digestive friendly lentil recipes? Happy eating! Happy digesting!