Lentils are a source of iron, but depending on what foods you eat with them, you will get more or less of this mineral.
Although lentils are a dish that raises passions in Spain, summer is not its best time. As they are usually served hot, these legumes have usually been associated with cold winter days. However, lentils are a very healthy delicacy that we should not limit to a single season of the year. In this sense, the summer holidays can also be a good opportunity to enjoy them.
These legumes are very cheap, but they offer a large amount of energy: according to the Spanish Nutrition Foundation (FEN), lentils contain 351 kilocalories per 100 grams. But the most important thing is that this food is loaded with nutrients. In its composition stand out proteins, which form almost 24% of the composition, and dietary fiber, which occupies almost 12%. Also, lentils contain various minerals.
Without a doubt, the most famous mineral that lentils contain is iron. It is true that these legumes are a source of this mineral, but in a somewhat special variant. The iron contained in lentils is known as no hemo Y the body finds it more difficult to absorb it than the iron that comes from animal meat. In any case, there is a way to make the most of the iron in lentils.
If iron from plant foods is less well absorbed than that present in animals, it is due to its molecular structure. The iron hemo is contained within hemoglobin and, thanks to this structure, it is more protected against other elements that can block its absorption. The iron no hemo, on the contrary, is more unprotected: in the end, only between 2% and 5% of the total is absorbed.
Phosphates, phytates or tannins are some of the substances that block the absorption of iron when they are in the digestive system. The contribution of iron that we obtain after a meal, in this sense, will also depend on the foods with which we accompany the lentils. As explained in this EL ESPAÑOL article, drinking tea after lentils can reduce iron intake by 60%.
However, we can also take certain foods that they allow us to take advantage of a greater amount of the iron that lentils contain. In this sense, we must accompany this meal with foods that contain a good supply of vitamin C. The combination of this substance and iron no hemo it allows the latter not to be blocked by phosphates, phytates and tannins and, moreover, keeps the molecule in its reduced form.
The most common recommendation to increase iron intake when we eat lentils is to eat them for dessert a citrus fruit such as a tangerine, an orange, a kiwi or even some strawberries. “There are studies that indicate that with 25 milligrams of ascorbic acid [otro nombre para la vitamina C] in two meals a day the absorption of iron would be doubled”, explains the pharmacist Marián García on her blog Boticaria García.
In any case, there are other foods that are a source of vitamin C and that even contain more of this substance. One of the most common in our kitchens is the pepper. In fact, while an orange typically has 53.2 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams, the pepper has no less than 127.7 milligrams in the same weight. Of course, vitamin C is reduced if we cook them.
For this reason, accompany some lentils with a glass of fresh gazpacho in summer it provides a large amount of vitamin C. Although it is beaten, the pepper that contains the gazpacho that we have made at home has not been subjected to heat and, for this reason, it contains a large amount of vitamin C. Thanks to it, we will be able to make better use of the iron in the lentils.