A single 1/2 cup (100 grams) serving of cooked lentils is filled with vitamins and minerals (that you get less of–or not at all–from beef), and is very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Lentils are a good source of protein, iron, phosphorus and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, folate and manganese. Combined with brown rice, you get a plant-based protein duo that’s hard to beat. Plus, they taste amazing together! Check out the inexpensive protein powerhouse in this vegan tacos recipe with lentils and brown rice.
Vegan tacos are not only great for vegans, but lentils also are an excellent way to get some different nutrients into the omnivore diet (try it on Meatless Monday). Lentil tacos have numerous advantages over traditional American Tex-Mex ground beef tacos: Eating lentils may lower your risk for cancer, heart disease and diabetes, according to a North Dakota State University paper. Consuming red meat regularly, however, may increase your risk of cancer or heart disease, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Lentils Versus Beef: A Nutrition Breakdown
Macronutrients: That 1/2 cup serving of lentils is 116 calories, 9 grams protein, 0.4 grams fat and 20 grams of carbohydrate, including 8 grams of fiber. A slightly smaller 3-ounce serving (85 grams) of browned 85-percent-lean ground beef has 218 calories, 24 grams of protein and 15 grams of fat, including 5 grams of saturated fat. While beef has nearly triple the protein, it also takes up 25 percent of the Recommended Daily Value (RDV) for saturated fat, 23 percent of the RDV for all fats and has zero fiber.
Vitamins: The lentils trump beef in folate and thiamine content. Lentils provide 181 micrograms of folate, or 45 percent of the RDV, while beef has 8 micrograms, or 2 percent of the DV. Lentils also provide 11 percent of the RDV of thiamine compared to 2 percent in ground beef. Beef does shine in vitamin B-12. Beef has 2.4 micrograms/40 percent RDV while lentils have none. Ground beef also contains more niacin, vitamin B-6 and riboflavin than lentils.
Minerals: Lentils have 3.3 milligrams of iron, 19 percent of the RDV; 36 milligrams of magnesium, 9 percent of the DV; and 369 milligrams of potassium, 11 percent of the DV. Ground beef has less iron, 2.5 milligrams; less magnesium, 21 milligrams; and less potassium, 346 milligrams. Beef does have more phosphorus and zinc. Lentils have much less sodium, with only 2 milligrams per serving compared to beef’s 76 milligrams.
Vegan Tacos Recipe with Lentils and Brown Rice
Serves 2 (4 tacos)
diced fresh jalapenos
cheese and sour cream are options for non-vegans
Place dry lentils, rice, liquid and taco seasoning in your rice cooker and cook on the brown rice setting. Alternatively, you can boil your lentils and rice on the stovetop in broth or water with taco seasoning until tender (about 20 minutes).
Scoop about 1/4 cup of your taco filling into each shell and top as desired.