Lentils are often overlooked, but few superfoods compare to them. Let’s get down to the lentil basics. The lentil is a cousin to the bean, related to legumes like chickpeas and soybeans. Lentils are never eaten off the vine though, they are always dried first.

You’re probably most familiar with green or brown lentil varieties. Those are the ones you find in lentil soup. There are several other lentils that all fall under the “specialty” lentil category. While they all have different cooking times and uses, they all proudly boast superfood levels of nutrients and protein. Here are the benefits of loving lentils:

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan and aren’t eating lentils, you’re definitely missing out. Lentils are a great source of protein for vegetarians, especially combined with grain. A half-cup of cooked lentils contains about 12 grams of protein. That is some serious gym-gains protein levels.

Here’s a word that takes concentration to pronounce: do you know how much molybdenum you get in your diet? We don’t, but we know lentils are a great way to make sure you do. Lentils have the highest molybdenum content of any food. Nuts and seeds also contain healthy amounts. Molybdenum is an essential element in your diet; it helps remove toxins, activate antioxidants, and increases energy production. Sounds good to us.

That half-cup serving we mentioned earlier? It supplies almost a third of your total fiber intake for the day. Just another reason to become a lentil-lover.

Lentils are the leading source of folate in plant foods, which is an essential B vitamin. Folate helps in red-blood-cell formations.

The Good Carbs
Simple carbs like sugars give you a quick spike of energy but also spike your glucose levels. That’s not ideal because it can lead to diabetes. Even healthy foods like potatoes and fruits high in fructose can quickly increase glucose levels, but not the mighty lentil. Lentils are a complex carbohydrate — the body uses them slowly, so you have steady energy longer and maintain proper blood sugar levels.

How to Use Lentils
Now to the good stuff. One of my favorite ways to use lentils is in the Indian dish, dahl. This dish is versatile, filling, and just makes you feel good. Try this Morning Breakfast Dahl with an egg on top, or a Spicy Vegan Lentil Dahl. Don’t want to cook dahl? Try this Zucchini-Lentil Fritter for the perfect snack food.

You can also make Lentil Burgers at home. Store-bought, non-meat “burgers” can be expensive, but these are easy to make and just as tasty as the ones you buy at the store. If you’re looking for a light salad but high in protein, try this Lentil Salad with French lentils.

You can find tons of lentil recipes online. Get creative. Go lentil wild. Your body will thank you.