Nutritional Information for Lentils

Lentils, categorized as legumes with peas and beans, are a nutrient-dense food that is commonly used in many parts of the world. Lentils are high in protein, fiber, and a number of vitamins and minerals. Notably, lentils are high in potassium, a mineral often deficient in the standard American diet. Swapping in lentils and other plant-based foods in place of meat and animal products can have significant benefits for cancer prevention, as well as heart disease and diabetes prevention. Research has found that for every 2 tablespoons of legumes eaten per day, risk of death decreases by 8%.

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Benefits of Lentils

Cancer Prevention Benefits

In a prospective study following men for an average of 12.6 years, men eating legumes had reduced prostate cancer risk. Total dietary fiber and insoluble fiber intake were also associated with a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Legumes are high in fiber, specifically insoluble fiber which may help explain the association of eating legumes and reduced risk of developing prostate cancer.

Furthermore, a study following men with nonmetastatic (cancer that has not spread) prostate cancer after diagnosis found that men eating a Westernized diet (higher in red meat, processed meat, high-fat dairy, and refined grains) had a significantly higher risk of dying from prostate cancer and all-cause mortality. Whereas, men following a more prudent diet (higher intake of vegetables, fruits, fish, legumes, and whole grain) had lower risk of all cause mortality. The researchers noted that there was an inverse relationship with prostate cancer death and a prudent diet, but the data was not statistically significant. In a separate study, following a strict plant-based diet (vegan) was found to lower risk of prostate cancer by 35%.

Men's Health Benefits

Lentils have been found to have a “second meal effect”, meaning they lower blood glucose response in the meal several hours after they were eaten. Due to the high fiber in lentils, carbohydrates are released slowly into the bloodstream creating more stable blood glucose levels. For people with diabetes, eating lentils and other beans can help control blood glucose levels. In fact, people with diabetes that replace more than 35% of their animal protein with plant-based sources of protein may improve their A1c levels, fasting glucose, and fasting insulin in as little as 8 weeks. Vegetarian diets, including vegan, lacto ovo vegetarian, and semi- vegetarian diets, are associated with reduced incidences of Type 2 diabetes. Various kinds of plant-based diets seem to be protective against chronic diseases. 

Ways to Use Lentils

  • Make lentil curries or lentil soups.  
  • Prepare lentil salads by adding vegetables and spices to cooked lentils.
  • Make a lentil loaf rather than meatloaf by swapping in cooked lentils for beef.
  • Use lentils in place of beef in tacos, burritos, pasta dishes, sloppy joes, burgers, and more.
  • Eat cooked lentils for breakfast! Try adding cinnamon, apples, and dates to jazz it up!
  • Try lentil pasta noodles in place of white or whole wheat noodles.
Resources for Lentils

American Institute for Cancer Research:

“Foods that Fight Cancer” from AICR: Dry Beans and Peas

Nutrition Facts: 

USDA Nutrient Database: Lentils

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