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Try Saskatchewan Lentils
Add This Unexpected Recovery Food to Your Diet! 

This delicious food, grown almost exclusively in a particular province of the Pacific Northwest, provides some incredible health benefits and is especially great for runners. 

I was recently having dinner with my friend Janet, who was in town from Canada. Over curried lentils at an Indian restaurant, she told me that her dad actually grows lentils in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Lentils, she said, have been a huge crop in Canada since the 70s, when wheat was saturating the market and farmers had to switch crops to make a living. At around the same time, Dr. Al Slinkard and colleagues at the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre developed new varieties of lentils that were well-adapted to the growing conditions in the area. Now Canada is the largest exporter of lentils worldwide, with 99% being grown in Saskatchewan. 

Janet told me that lentils are a staple in her family, as they can be prepared in many interesting ways. Some common and simple ways to cook them are with rice or in soups and stews, but you can use them in everything from brownies (!) to hamburgers to up the nutritional value without drastically altering taste. 

Since Janet seemed to be a lentil expert, I asked what exactly what lentils are so good for you. As it turns out, they provide a host of health benefits thanks to the following nutrients. 

  • Protein: With 30% of total calories coming from protein, lentils boast the third highest protein content of all plant foods. In fact, lentils are a crucial protein source for many worldwide, since they are vegetarian and much less expensive than meat.
  • Folate: This reduces the risk of heart disease, aids in the production of red blood cells and promotes healthy neurological function.
  • Iron: Iron carries oxygen to blood cells, is necessary to production of red blood cells and is crucial to metabolic function. 
  • Magnesium: This mineral plays a role in detoxification, produces energy and promotes healthy bones and teeth. 
  • Dietary Fiber: Fiber slows digestion, helps the body to absorb vitamins and minerals and helps you to feel full longer. Fiber also works with protein to lower the Glycemic Index (G.I.) of carbohydrates, which allows them to be steadily distributed to blood stream and muscles in action over long periods. This keeps muscles fueled and blood sugar levels stabilized. 

Aside from the overall health benefits, lentils are an amazing food for runners. The high protein content makes them an awesome recovery food, and they contain vitamins and amino acids that enhance performance. Lentils contain thiamin (Vitamin B1), which converts protein and carbohydrates to energy and improves muscle tone. Amino acids L-Lysine & Isoleucine work as “building blocks” of protein and are essential to growth and repair of every cell in the body, including muscle tissue. And the low G.I. status of lentils means that they provide a “slow-burning fuel source for extended runs,” according to Bobbi Barbarich of Canadian Running magazine. 

After dinner with Janet, I vowed to give lentils a regular spot on my grocery list. I was surprised to find that most of the world’s lentils came from Saskatchewan and even more surprised to learn how healthy they are, especially for runners like myself. I have started cooking with them regularly and am looking forward to trying them in different ways-especially in lentil brownies! 

Check out our Recipes section for a hearty autumn lentil stew!
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