Health Benefits of Lentils

Lentils are legumes that are related to beans, soybeans, peanuts, and chickpeas. They come in various colors, including brown, red, yellow, green, orange, and black. While each type of lentil may have some unique antioxidants, all lentils contain many helpful nutrients. 

Lentils are enjoyed in various cuisines around the world. Lentils are typically cheap to buy, can be stored for long periods, are easy to cook with, and provide numerous essential nutrients, making it an ideal part of your diet. 

Health Benefits

The nutritional and health benefits of lentils have been studied for years. Lentils provide a variety of health benefits and may play a role in helping people reduce or manage diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and some cancers. The polyphenols (a type of antioxidants) and lectins in lentils have anticancer properties, which may help decrease tumor growth.  

In addition, lentils can provide other health benefits like:

Heart Health

The polyphenols in lentils may help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, helping your heart and cardiovascular system. A review of eight trials found that individuals who ate about a cup of legumes every day for ten weeks experienced a decrease in their blood pressure.

An analysis of 26 randomized controlled trials found that diets containing legumes like lentils can lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Too much LDL cholesterol buildup in your body can lead to a heart attack or stroke

Weight Management

Eating more lentils may help people maintain a healthy weight or lose weight. Replacing energy-dense (or high calorie) foods with legumes such as lentils can help people prevent or manage obesity and lose weight. 

Diabetes

Research suggests that regularly eating lentils may help with the management and prevention of diabetes. Lentils may help improve blood sugar levels and lipid metabolism in both diabetic and healthy individuals. The high fiber, manganese, and flavonoid content may play an important role in why lentils help people with diabetes.

Nutrition

Lentils contain various essential nutrients such as dietary fiber, lectins, and polyphenols that help reduce the risk of conditions like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and some cancers.

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It’s also an excellent source of:

Nutrients per Serving

One cup of cooked lentils contains:

Portion Sizes

Eating half a cup of cooked lentils gives you lots of essential nutrients and their high fiber content makes you feel full. However, the fiber in lentils can be hard for your body to break down. Eating too many lentils can cause gas, bloating, and cramping.

How to Prepare Lentils

You can find lentils at grocery stores and online. You can buy them dried or in ready-to-eat packaged forms. If you buy them ready-to-eat, read the food label to see if fats, salts, and artificial ingredients have been added. 

Dried lentils are easy to cook in water or a low-sodium broth. First, you’ll want to sort through the lentils to pick out any debris and then rinse them. You don’t have to pre soak them. Place your prepared lentils into a pot and cover them with water or broth, so the liquid is about half an inch above the lentils.

Bring the lentils to a boil, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Your lentils will need to cook for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the type of lentil you’re using. You can flavor lentils with your favorite spices, such as garlic, thyme, or cumin.  

Lentils are commonly used in vegetarian and vegan cooking, as they are a good source of protein. Lentils taste delicious in soups and stews. They are often served over rice. For the most health benefits, select brown rice for added fiber and nutrients. 

Here are some ways to use lentils in recipes:

  • Use lentils in an Indian-inspired lentil dal
  • Substitute lentils for the meat in your favorite shepherd’s pie
  • Incorporate it into your salad for a protein boost
  • Use lentils to make meatballs or a non-meat burger patty instead of ground beef or turkey
  • Add lentils to a whole-grain tortilla wrap with crunchy vegetables like carrots and lettuce 
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 14, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Journal of Hypertension: “Effect of Dietary Pulses on Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Controlled Feeding Trials.”

Canadian Medical Association Journal: “Effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.”

Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: “Lectins as bioactive plant proteins: a potential in cancer treatment.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Beans, lentils, mature, cooked/boiled; 1 cup.”

Harvard School of Public Health: “Lentils.”

Health Promotions Perspectives: “Lentil Sprouts Effect On Serum Lipids of Overweight and Obese Patients with Type 2 Diabetes.”

International Journal of Molecular Sciences: “Polyphenol-Rich Lentils and Their Health Promoting Effects.”

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: “Phenolic substance characterization and chemical and cell-based antioxidant activities of 11 lentils grown in the northern United States.”

Mayo Clinic: “High Cholesterol.”

Journal of Food Science: Satiety Effects of Lentils in a Calories Matched Fruit Smoothie.”

Nutrition Reviews: “Enhancing nutrition with pulses: defining a recommended serving size for adults.”

Obesity Reviews: “A review of the nutritional value of legumes and their effects on obesity and its related co-morbidities.”

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