February 26, 2023 - Shelly Jones
Updated Version - July 12, 2023
Lentils are a type of legume known to have many health benefits. Pulses are a good source of plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Lentils are one of the oldest cultivated crops, dating back more than 9,000 years to ancient Greece and the Middle East. Lentils come in a variety of colors, including green, brown, yellow, red and black.
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Let us look at the top 5 health benefits of eating lentils.
Top 5 Health Benefits of Lentils
1. Improves Heart Health
Lentils are low in fat and high in fiber, which may help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Lentils contain compounds called phytosterols, which have cholesterol-lowering properties. Studies have shown that consumption of pulses can reduce the level of LDL or bad cholesterol by up to 20%. Studies have also shown that consuming lentils as part of a healthy diet for up to eight weeks can significantly lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
2. Helps with Managing Diabetes
Lentils have a low glycemic index, which means they digest slowly and can help stabilize blood sugar levels. It may be helpful in the management and prevention of type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that eating lentils for three months can lower fasting blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
3. Improves Digestive Health
The high fiber in lentils may promote digestive health and help prevent constipation and other digestive issues. Lentils are a good source of prebiotics, a type of fiber that increases the beneficial bacteria in your pet and promotes digestive health.
4. Prevents Cancer
Some studies have shown that consuming lentils may have cancer-preventive effects, possibly due to their high content of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds. Lentils are rich in antioxidants like polyphenols, flavonoids and carotenoids, which protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Lentils contain compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties, such as saponins, which help reduce inflammation and prevent the growth of cancer cells. Lentils contain phytochemicals such as lignans and phytosterols, which have been shown to have anticancer properties. Lignans, for example, have been found to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.
5. Helps with Weight Management
The protein and fiber in lentils can help to promote feelings of fullness and satisfaction, which can be helpful in managing weight. Lentils are rich in nutrients such as iron, folate, and potassium, which are important for overall health. Consuming nutrient-dense foods can help to improve energy levels and reduce the risk of nutrient deficiencies, which can interfere with weight loss efforts.
Lentils can cause gas and bloating in some people due to the high fiber content. To reduce these symptoms, start by eating smaller portions of lentils and gradually increase your intake over time. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water and chew your food thoroughly.
What are the key nutritional components of lentils?
Lentils are packed with nutrients. They're an excellent source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. They're also rich in dietary fiber and protein, and they have virtually no fat.
How do lentils contribute to heart health?
The high fiber content in lentils can help lower LDL cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease. Lentils also contain folic acid and potassium, which are known to support heart health.
Can lentils aid in weight loss?
Yes, the high fiber and protein content in lentils can help you feel full and satisfied without consuming too many calories, aiding in weight loss. They also have a low glycemic index, which means they cause a slower, more sustained increase in blood sugar levels, which can help with weight control.
How do lentils help in managing diabetes?
The fiber in lentils helps to slow digestion and promotes a steady, gradual rise in blood sugar, instead of a sudden spike. This makes them a good choice for people with diabetes.
What are the benefits of lentils for digestion?
Lentils are rich in dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble. This fiber aids digestion by adding bulk to your stool, which can help prevent constipation and other digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.
Are lentils a good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans?
Absolutely, lentils are one of the best plant-based sources of protein, making them an essential part of a vegetarian or vegan diet. One cup of cooked lentils provides about 18 grams of protein.
Can lentils help in increasing energy levels?
Lentils can indeed boost energy levels, thanks to their fiber and complex carbohydrates. They are also an excellent source of iron, a nutrient that helps prevent fatigue and promotes good energy levels.
Do lentils contribute to bone health?
Lentils are a good source of several minerals, including magnesium and phosphorus, which are important for bone health. Additionally, lentils are high in protein, which also plays a crucial role in maintaining bone health.
How can lentils improve the health of our skin?
Lentils are rich in essential nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which contribute to healthy skin. For example, the B vitamins in lentils can help with cell regeneration and rejuvenation.
Can lentils help prevent certain types of cancer?
While no single food can prevent cancer, a diet rich in plant foods like lentils can help reduce the risk of cancer. Lentils contain polyphenols, which are plant compounds that are known to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects.
What is the role of lentils in maintaining a healthy nervous system?
The B vitamins in lentils, particularly B6, support the health of the nervous system by helping with the production of signaling molecules in the nervous system known as neurotransmitters.
Are lentils safe to eat for people with kidney disease?
Lentils contain high amounts of protein and potassium, which might need to be limited in people with kidney disease. Therefore, if you have kidney disease, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider or a dietitian before including lentils in your diet.
How can eating lentils benefit our immune system?
Lentils are rich in zinc and other minerals, which are essential for a well-functioning immune system. They also contain polyphenols that exhibit antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, further supporting immune health.
Do lentils aid in muscle generation?
Yes, lentils are a good source of plant-based protein, an essential nutrient for muscle growth and repair.
Can lentils help in managing blood pressure?
Lentils are high in potassium and low in sodium, which can help lower blood pressure. The fiber and magnesium in lentils also contribute to maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.
Can lentils help in the prevention of anemia?
Yes, lentils are a good source of iron, a mineral that helps prevent anemia caused by iron deficiency. They are especially important for those who do not eat meat, a major source of iron.
How are lentils beneficial for pregnant women?
Lentils are rich in folate, a B-vitamin that's important for the healthy development of the fetus and preventing birth defects. They also provide other essential nutrients like iron and protein, which are beneficial during pregnancy.
What is the difference in nutritional value between red, green, and brown lentils?
All lentils are nutrient-dense, but there are slight differences. Green lentils generally have a slightly higher fiber content and a more robust flavor than red or brown lentils. Red lentils cook faster and are often used in soups and purees, while brown lentils hold their shape well and are ideal for salads and side dishes.
Can lentils help in reducing cholesterol?
Yes, the soluble fiber in lentils binds with cholesterol in the digestive system, causing it to be excreted by the body. As a result, eating lentils can help lower high cholesterol levels.
Are lentils gluten-free?
Yes, lentils are naturally gluten-free, making them a safe choice for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. However, cross-contamination can occur if lentils are processed in facilities that also process gluten-containing grains, so always check packaging if you need to avoid gluten.