Senior Health

10/7/2022 | By Lisa Milbrand

Many underestimate the health benefits of lentils, packed with fiber and nutrients, perfect for increasing intake of recommended vitamins and minerals. We look at the benefits and suggest easy ways to add the legume to your diet.

If you’re looking to eat healthier, lentils should be one of the top foods in your meal plan – and, fortunately, learning how to cook lentils isn’t too complicated. Since they’re packed with vitamins, protein, and a whole lot of fiber, you can use the nutritional health benefits of lentils (as with the health benefits of beans) to cover all of your bases.

The benefits of lentils

1. Lentils are rich in fiber.

One of the biggest benefits of lentils is their high levels of fiber, which most people don’t get enough of in their diets. “Lentils are a complex carbohydrate that are super high in fiber, especially soluble fiber,“ says Jennifer Hanway, a nutritionist and certified personal trainer. “Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance that moves through the GI system and can help remove some substances related to high cholesterol.“ In fact, brown lentils can provide nearly a day’s worth of fiber (26 grams) in just a single half-cup serving, according to Hanway.

2. Lentils can help regulate blood sugar.

The fiber can do more than help with digestion. “The soluble fiber in lentils can help balance blood sugar by slowing the glucose release into the bloodstream and preventing spikes in insulin,“ Hanway says. That’s one of the big benefits for people with diabetes, as it helps keep blood sugar levels on an even keel.

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3. Lentils are a good source of protein.

These small legumes pack in more than 20 grams of protein per half-cup serving – about the same amount as 4 ounces of salmon. That makes them a perfect addition to your meatless Monday routine.

4. They boast plenty of vitamins and minerals.

One of the health benefits of lentils is that they’re like a very tasty multivitamin: you can get calcium, potassium, zinc and iron by eating them, along with plenty of B vitamins.

How to eat more and enjoy more of their benefits

1. Swap your starches for lentils.

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“I might replace starchy carbs with lentils, like rice or pasta or potato,“ Hanway says. “You still get the complex carbs but a ton more fiber and protein.“ Alternatively, consider getting the best of both worlds by enjoying the many health benefits of lentils in lentil-based pastas.

2. Get colorful.

Each type of has a slightly different protein, fiber, and vitamin profile, so to get the full benefits, mix it up a little. For instance, black lentils are packed with potent antioxidants. “Black lentils are full of anthocyanin, an antioxidant usually found in purple and blue foods such as berries and red cabbage,“ Hanway says.

Also, they have different textures – yellow and red lentils are more likely to break down and are great for soups, while black lentils hold their shape and are great for lentil burgers.

3. Don’t overcook them.

Hanway recommends turning off the stove a few minutes early when you’re making lentils. “You don’t want to boil them within an inch of their life,“ she says. “Cook two or three minutes less than you think, turn the heat off, leave the lid on, and let steam help cook them through.“

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Lisa Milbrand