According to NPR, India consumes roughly half of the world’s lentils. They are also the world’s second-largest lentil producer (via Bon Appétit). One reason for the legumes’ popularity might be the prevalence of the dish most commonly referred to as Dal. Dal, and its many variations, are consumed throughout the Indian subcontinent, and lentils are their most essential ingredient (via Bon Appétit).
Another reason might be India’s relatively high population of vegetarians. The most generous estimates of some studies say that close to a third of the country is vegetarian (Pew Research Center). While some estimates lower that number closer to 20% per the BBC, that’s still a significant portion of the world’s second-most populous country that needs to obtain its nutrition through vegetarian foods alone.
According to Healthline, lentils are a great source of B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and potassium. They’re also a great source of protein that can be paired with rice to form complete essential proteins and are versatile enough to be used in various dishes (via America’s Test Kitchen). Cooked brown lentils can be a great base or addition to a salad, the split and hulled red lentils can cook down to help thicken a hearty stew or can be stewed and cooked with some spices and vegetables to top some rice. For more inspiration, check out our recipes for Red Lentil Soup with Lemon and Pasta with Lentils.