Are Lentils Good for Weight Loss?

Lentils in a spoon

Losing weight can often seem like a complicated subject. After all, if you Google weight loss, you’ll get millions of hits, all of them promising to reveal the secret of easy fat loss and weight management.

The reality is that there is only one “secret” to weight loss – you need to consume fewer calories than you burn. This will create a negative energy balance or calorie deficit. Faced with an energy shortage, your body will have no option but to burn fat for fuel.

Every diet on the planet works the same way; by reducing your food intake. This can be done by skipping meals (intermittent fasting), banning certain food groups (keto), eliminating processed foods (paleo), or simply managing the size of your meals (calorie counting). The end result is the same – a calorie deficit and weight loss.

Some people are convinced that certain foods cause weight loss, but that’s not true either. You can lose weight eating candy or carrots. It’s the amount you eat that matters.

So, are lentils good for weight loss? The answer is yes. Eating lentils could help you lose weight because they are nutritious, low in calories, high in protein, and contain a lot of fiber.

In this article, we explain how lentils could help you lose weight and the added benefits of eating this versatile food.

Are Lentils Good for Weight Loss

What Are Lentils?

Assorted Lentils in a bowl

Lentils are a variety of seeds from the legume family. They typically have a lens-like shape and are a staple in African and Asian cooking.

Lentils are also popular with vegetarians as they’re high in protein.

There are lots of different varieties of lentils, and they’re generally named by their color. The most common lentil varieties are:

  • Yellow
  • Red
  • Green
  • Brown
  • Black

Lentils are generally sold dry and need to be rehydrated before eating. This usually involves simmering in water for 20-30 minutes. Unlike a lot of legumes, lentils do not need to be soaked before use, but they should be rinsed with plenty of fresh water to remove impurities.

That doesn’t mean soaking is a waste of time; it can help make them easier to digest and may remove anti-nutrients – more on that later.

Nutritional Information

Lentils are very nutritious. In fact, they’re something of a powerhouse health food. One cup (200 grams) of cooked lentils provides the following:

  • Calories: 230
  • Carbs: 39.9 grams
  • Protein: 17.9 grams
  • Fat: 0.8 grams
  • Fiber: 15.6 grams

In addition to these macronutrients, lentils contain the following vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients:

  • Copper
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Niacin
  • Pantothenic acid
  • Phosphorous
  • Potassium
  • Thiamine
  • Vitamin B6
  • Zinc

Lentils also contain several beneficial plant compounds, including polyphenols, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, all of which have proven health-boosting effects.

Benefits of Eating Lentils

Red Lentil soup

There are several compelling reasons to start adding lentils to your meals…

Weight Loss

Eating lentils could help you lose weight and keep it off. Lentils are low in calories but, because of their fiber and protein content, are very filling.

Replacing high-calorie ingredients like meat with lower-calorie lentils will reduce your overall calorie intake while maintaining the size and appetite-suppressing effect of your meals.

Better Digestive Health

One serving of lentils contains 50% of your daily fiber requirement. Fiber is essential for better digestive health. Eating fiber helps reduce constipation, speeds up the removal of waste materials from your body, and reduces the risk of diverticular disease.

In addition, high-fiber foods like lentils help increase concentrations of good intestinal bacteria, which are critical to gut health, immunity, and weight loss.

Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Eating lentils has been shown to lower bad LDL cholesterol levels while raising good HDL cholesterol. A low LDL/high HDL ratio is linked to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

CHD is the leading cause of death in most developed countries and is characterized by a reduction in blood flow to the heart. 

More Stable Blood Glucose

The fiber in lentils inhibits gastric emptying, which means it keeps food in your stomach for longer. This not only increases satiety but also stops your blood glucose from rising too fast.

High levels of blood glucose are linked to an increased risk of type II diabetes and weight gain. Low, more stable blood glucose levels cause less hunger and also create a better internal environment for fat burning and weight loss.

Reduced Cancer Risk

Eating lentils may reduce your risk of certain cancers, particularly stomach and colorectal. This is partly due to their high fiber content and folate and polyphenols, which are two powerful anti-cancer nutrients.

Recovery From Exercise

Lentils contain about 50% of the protein of meat, fish, and eggs. However, they cost a fraction of the price. Eating lentils after exercise could speed up your recovery. Protein is vital for muscle repair and growth.

Downsides

Lentils are a very healthy, nutritious, and beneficial food that is also cheap and easy to prepare. They usually need seasoning; otherwise, they can be a little bland, but most people tend to use them as part of their meals rather than eating them alone.

However, before you add lentils to your diet, consider the following potential downsides:

Anti-Nutrients

Lentils contain several anti-nutrients, which are substances that block the absorption of some vitamins and minerals. The main anti-nutrients in lentils are trypsin inhibitors, lectins, tannins, and phytic acid.

Rinsing your lentils before cooking helps remove some of these anti-nutrients, and soaking them overnight removes more. Cooking also reduces the effect of anti-nutrients.

Unless you eat lots of lentils every day, the anti-nutrients in lentils are probably nothing to worry about, especially if you soak and rinse them before cooking.

Stomach Upsets

Providing 15 grams of fiber per 200-gram serving, suddenly adding a lot of lentils to your diet could a shock to your digestive system resulting in bloating and gas. If your diet is usually relatively low in fiber, start off by eating modest amounts of lentils and increasing your intake gradually.

Sensitivities and Allergies

Sensitivities & Allergies

Lentils contain a type of protein called lectins. Some people are sensitive and even allergic to this substance.

If you experience unwanted side effects after eating lentils, you may have an issue with lectins.

Symptoms of lectin intolerance include nausea, brain fog, and abdominal pain. Soaking and rinsing may help, but you may need to forgo lentils if you continue to experience problems.

Bottom Line

Lentils are a versatile and cheap food that deserves to be part of your weight loss diet. High in protein and fiber but low in calories and fat, lentils are very easy to prepare and take on the flavor of whatever stock or liquid you cook them in.

There are several different varieties of lentil, but they’re all similarly nutritious. Lentils contain a wide range of beneficial nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and other healthful compounds.

Eating lentils may reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. They’re also an excellent source of iron and folate – two substances especially important during pregnancy.

If lentils have a downside, it is that they contain a few anti-nutrients that can block the absorption of some vitamins and minerals. However, you can avoid this problem by soaking and then rinsing your lentils before you cook them. Then, just simmer them for 20-30 minutes, drain, and serve.

Better yet, add them to soups, stews, and curries. Lentil dahl is particularly delicious and loaded with healthy spices. You can also make dips out of well-cooked and seasoned lentils.

But, before you start adding lots of lentils to all your meals, remember that eating too much fiber can cause mild stomach upsets, gas, and bloating. Lentils have a deserved reputation for triggering wind! Introduce them gradually to avoid unnecessary gastric distress, which could put you off lentils for good.

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