Lentil (Lens culinaris Medikus): a whole food rich in prebiotic carbohydrates to combat global obesity
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Lentil (Lens culinaris Medik.) is a cool season food legume that is high in protein (20–30%) and in a range of micronutrients (e.g., minerals, carotenoids,folates) but very low in phytic acid. Recent research indicates that lentil contains a wide array of low-molecular weight carbohydrates (LMWC) or prebiotic carbohydrates, such as mono- and disaccharides, raffinose-family oligosaccharides (RFO), fructooligosaccharides (FOS), and sugar alcohols, and high-molecular weight resistant starches. Lentil provides more than 13 g of prebiotic carbohydrates per 100 g serving, and this level increases almost two-fold upon cooking, cooling, and reheating. In addition, prebiotic carbohydrate levels vary with lentil genotype and growing location/country. Intestinal microbiome and prebiotic studies suggest a prebiotic-rich, low-calorie diet can reduce the prevalence of obesity and related non-communicable diseases. Lentil thus represents a whole food source of prebiotics that can play a role in efforts to reduce obesity and non-communicable diseases. This chapter provides an overview of the current obesity-related health issues, holistic approaches to reduce obesity, worldwide lentil production, and the promise of pulses, mainly lentil, to be a whole food solution to combat global obesity. In addition, lentil’s superior LMWC profile and the genetic potential for further enrichment of prebiotic carbohydrates are briefly discussed.