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Lentils are quickly cooked and loaded with nutrition

If you're looking for a hearty but low-fat lunch, try lentils. They're a modern miracle health food as old as the hills.

Probably the first cultivated legume, lentils have been grown for food since 7000 B.C., according to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking.

Lentils are the most digestible of all the legumes, and the easiest to prepare. Unlike most beans, lentils don't have to be presoaked, and can be cooked in 15 to 20 minutes.

Health benefits abound. One cup of cooked lentils provides 232 calories, 18 grams of protein, 40 grams of carbohydrate, 8 grams of fiber and only a trace of fat and sodium.

Lentils come in many colors (green, yellow, red and brown) with slight flavor variations.

When cooking lentils, go bold by adding Mexican spices such as cilantro, cumin, diced chilies and red pepper flakes.

In the Mediterranean mood? Make a salad. Mix cold cooked lentils with red, green and yellow bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, black olives, fresh basil and oregano.

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