The Health Benefits of Lentils—Plus How to Eat More of Them

Lentils pack a lot of nutrition into each bite.

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. Packed with vitamins, protein, and lots of fiber, the nutritional benefits of lentils (similarly to the health benefits of beans) cover all your bases.

The Health Benefits of Lentils

Lentils are rich in fiber.

One of the biggest benefits of legumes and lentils is the 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," explains 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." Brown lentils can provide nearly a day's worth of fiber (26 grams) in just a single half-cup serving, says Hanway.

They help regulate blood sugar.

The fiber in lentils 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 significant benefits of lentils for people with diabetes, as it helps keep blood sugar levels on an even keel.

Lentils are a good source of protein.

Lentils pack more than 20 grams of protein per half-cup serving—about the same as 4 ounces of salmon. That makes them a perfect addition to your meatless Monday routine.

They pack plenty of vitamins and minerals.

One of the health benefits of lentils is that they're like a tasty multivitamin: You can get calcium, potassium, zinc, and iron through them, along with plenty of B vitamins.

How to Eat More Lentils (and Enjoy Their Benefits)

Swap starches for lentils.

"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 and enjoy the many health benefits of red lentil pasta or other lentil-based pasta noodles.

Get colorful.

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

Don't overcook them.

Hanway recommends turning the stove off a few minutes early when making lentils. "You don't want to boil them within an inch of their life. 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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