The United Nations declared 2013 the "International Year of Quinoa".
Hailed by endurance athletes for improving performance, with tall tails of how just one handful of the ancient grain can propel you for hours, as it did the Inca's. Not really.. as one handful of quinoa is about 90 calories (depending on how big your hand is). That's enough calories to get me about ½ a kilometre (0.8 miles). So, not a miracle endurance food.. such a thing doesn't exist.
It's easy to cook, tastes great, and goes with pretty much everything.
Ok. What about lentils? I haven't seen any advertising for lentils, the "superfood".
The hipsters and "clean eaters" aren't into lentils like they are quinoa. Poor lentils, they're just not hip enough. At a mere one tenth the cost of quinoa they're just not expensive enough to be posh like quinoa.
With archaeological evidence showing lentils were part of the human diet nearly 13,000 years ago (about 6000 years before quinoa shows up in our diet), it looks like these little pulses could be assigned even more "ancient" mythical greatness than quinoa. Looks like the soothsayers who push the idea of "superfoods" magical powers missed an opportunity to bamboozle folks with how lentils are even more ancient that quinoa.
Apparently lentils are blessed by seventy prophets of varying religions, including the big two; Jesus and Mohammed. Can I get a hallelujah or a Allahu Akbar? How about a praise Saturn, ancient Roman god of a bunch of stuff, including agriculture.
Take that, quinoa.
Cooking time is similar between quinoa and lentils (about 10 - 15 minutes), even less for red lentils.
Witticisms aside, quinoa and lentils are great choices for easily prepared very nutrient dense foods. Don't let the hype behind quinoa convince you it's something it can't be (magical), and don't let the lack of attention to lentils prevent you from adding them to your healthy diet.
I buy both, and use them interchangeably. I definitely like the price of lentils more. Lentils can go a long way to providing you and your family with good wholesome nutrition while costing literally pennies per serving.
According to wikipedia, Canada is the number one lentil producing country in the world, most of which is exported.
Support Canada! Eat lentils.
Or maybe eat lentils because they're an inexpensive, very nutrient dense, great tasting and versatile food.
The amino acid score for quinoa is slightly better than for lentils, but lentils have about twice the total protein. If your diet is balanced and you have good variety, you won't be depending on any one food to meet all your protein or other nutrient needs anyway, so nit picking at specific nutrient strengths and weaknesses between comparable foods is a waste of time.
Take a look for yourself.. Lentils come out very favourably. Don't like the price of quinoa? Buy lentils. You won't be selling yourself short.
Below are the calories and nutrients in one cup of cooked lentils and quinoa. Data from nutritiondata.com. Links to nutrition data full page below as well.
Claims of quinoa being a super endurance energy food are totally false. Any starch carbohydrate source will provide an energy source. Sweet potato, potato, rice, pasta, beans, oatmeal.. take your pick. The lentils and quinoa deliver more vitamins and minerals per serving, but the others also have nutritional strengths, and energy density is very similar between all of them. Mix it up.
Whenever I hear claims for tremendous health or performance outcomes from eating "superfoods", I have a cough reflex. You know, where you muffle saying "bullshit!" while coughing?
In my view the phrase "superfood" is sensationalism, marketing puffery, and typically used by self-proclaimed guru's and diet experts who are ultimately trying to sell some kind of diet or supplement, or food product, or just trying to sell themselves as having extra special insightful secrets that others "don't want you to know".
Nutrient dense foods have enough going for them that's legitimate, no need to make exaggerated claims. It's true that making the switch from a chronically poor diet to a healthy diet can make a very significant difference in the health and wellbeing of an individual, but it's not true that eating quinoa instead of lentils (or the other way around) will make a significant difference in ones health. Or eating kale instead of spinach for that matter. If you already eat healthy and cover all your nutrient needs through a variety of whole foods, having a kale and blueberry smoothie will not give more energy than something else of equivalent calorie value, and won't cause you to sleep better, or run further, nor will it prevent disease.
I'm not saying never drink a kale - blueberry smoothie. . . I'm saying don't put misguided faith into such things delivering a special and significant health or performance benefit that is better than an otherwise already healthy diet.
The better quality of life comes from the combination of good sleep, varied diet (we need the variety because no single food covers all our needs), and healthy exercise, not from a single "superfood" or super smoothie or whatever.
Don't feel torn between posh quinoa and street-cred lentils. There is no real dichotomy, no special reason to choose one over the other (unless you have an allergy to one).
Lentils and quinoa are better choices than junk food though.