Lentils: Nutrition + Benefits + How To Cook Them Easily

Medically reviewed by Alexandra Dusenberry, MS, RDN Alexandra Dusenberry Alexandra DusenberryMS, RDN twitter_iconlinkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Ravi Teja Tadimalla BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Experience: 8 years
Last Updated on

If you are a vegetarian (or a vegan) looking for an incredible protein source, lentils are the best bet. They have low calorie and high protein content – a brilliant combination for optimal health and weight management. There’s more to lentils that you must know.

A survey published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association found that only 8 percent of adults are taking enough of legumes (lentils included) (1). And this is a problem. You don’t want to miss out on the stunningly superb benefits lentils offer, do you? So, why don’t you sit back and continue reading?

Table Of Contents

What Nutrients Do Lentils Contain?

It all boils down to the nutrients, doesn’t it? Lentils are replete with protein. And they contain other essential nutrients as well. Following are the nutrients present in 1 cup of cooked lentils (198 grams).

Calorie Information
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calories230(963 kJ)11%
From Carbohydrate161(674 kJ)
From Fat6.3(26.4 kJ)
From Protein62.0(260 kJ)
From Alcohol0.0(0.0 kJ)
Fats & Fatty Acids
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Total Fat0.8 g1%
Saturated Fat0.1 g1%
Monounsaturated Fat0.1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.3 g
Total trans fatty acids~
Total trans-monoenoic fatty acids~
Total trans-polyenoic fatty acids~
Total Omega-3 fatty acids73.3 mg
Total Omega-6 fatty acids271mg
Protein & Amino Acids
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Protein17.9 g36%
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Vitamin A15.8 IU0%
Vitamin C3.0 mg5%
Vitamin D~~
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)0.2 mg1%
Vitamin K3.4 mcg4%
Thiamin0.3 mg22%
Riboflavin0.1 mg9%
Niacin2.1 mg10%
Vitamin B60.4 mg18%
Folate358 mcg90%
Vitamin B120.0mcg0%
Pantothenic Acid1.3 mg13%
Choline64.7 mg
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calcium37.6 mg4%
Iron6.6 mg37%
Magnesium71.3 mg18%
Phosphorus356 mg36%
Potassium731 mg31%
Sodium4.0 mg0%
Zinc2.5 mg17%
Copper0.5 mg25%
Manganese1.0 mg49%
Selenium5.5 mcg8%

USDA Food Composition Databases

Most benefits of lentils are associated with its greatest nutrients – protein, folate, fiber, iron, thiamin, phosphorus, and manganese. Lentils are also very low in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol – making them all the more appealing.

If you are a vegetarian looking to increase your lentil intake for its protein content, we have something for you.

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Vegetarian Protein Vs. Non-Vegetarian Protein – Which Is Better?

Most people feel non-vegetarian foods are the best sources of protein. But that is not always true.

While non-veg sources are complete proteins, plant sources are not. But hold on – research shows that some types of meat are correlated with disease (2). A diet in which a majority of protein comes from plant sources is often termed healthy.

Of course, animal sources of protein offer benefits too. But if you are a vegetarian, you have nothing to worry. You can add different kinds of legumes to your diet – a mix of different protein sources offers you complete protein (with all the essential amino acids).

Besides being a great protein source, lentils can benefit you in other ways as well. You will be surprised how including just a serving of lentils in your diet can greatly optimize your health.

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What Are The Benefits Of Lentils?

1. Lentils Can Help You Lose Weight

This is because of the fiber in lentils. You can replace foods that might cause weight gain with a serving of lentils – which contains 18 grams of fiber. Also, the protein in lentils helps you maintain lean muscle mass as you lose weight. Research shows how regular intake of pulses (like lentils) can help in weight management in the long run (3).

Lentils also contain complex carbohydrates, which help improve metabolism as well. Being a good source of iron also make lentils the ideal food for improved metabolism and consequent weight loss.

2. Strengthen Your Heart

The fiber and folate in lentils can benefit your heart. A ton of research shows us how fiber can reduce bad cholesterol and improve the levels of good cholesterol. More interestingly, fiber not only cuts the risk of heart disease but also slows down the progression of the disease in individuals with a higher risk.

The folate in lentils also lowers homocysteine, which is another risk factor for heart attacks. These legumes also regulate blood pressure (4).

3. Improve Digestive Health

It’s the fiber, again. It can prevent constipation and other digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome. Lentils clean up your digestive system and help you maintain optimal digestive health (5).

4. Lentils Can Regulate Your Blood Sugar Levels

If you have diabetes, lentils are all the more important. They slow down digestion and release of sugars into the bloodstream, thereby preventing blood sugar spikes (6). Replacing potatoes or rice in your meal with lentils can be a good idea.

The fiber in lentils also works well here. Research indicates how fiber can stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent the associated mood swings and energy dips (7).

5. Help Fight Cancer

The polyphenols in lentils offer cancer protection and even aid cancer treatment. Studies show how they can help prevent various forms of cancer, including cancers of the breast and colon (8).

6. Balance The Body’s pH Levels

We can say lentils are the most alkaline protein sources – which is why they help balance the pH levels in your body and promote optimum health. Lentils prevent acidity, which occurs if you happen to consume an excess of processed foods and sugars. Lentils combat this acidity and promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria.

7. Boost Brain Health

This is a no-brainer. Lentils are replete with folate. Folate boosts brain power like a few other nutrients (iron and omega-3s). Studies show how folate can prevent depression and dementia as people age (9).

Folate also decreases the levels of certain amino acids that impair brain functioning.

8. Enhance Immunity

Lentils are also a decent source of selenium, a mineral known to boost immunity. The mineral stimulates the response of T-cells, which are immune cells that kill disease.

The dietary fiber in lentils contributes to better immunity as well. The body also relies on nutrients like iron, zinc, folate, and manganese – all of which are present in lentils.

9. Can Help Build Muscle

Lentils are a great source of protein, so this benefit is obvious. They also are rich in fiber and slow-digesting carbohydrates, which promote satiety and discourage you from overeating. If you are looking to build muscle, lentils can be a healthy addition to your routine.

10. Beneficial During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

Beneficial During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding
Image: Shutterstock

Mothers need extra protein, and this is where lentils can comfortably fit into the routine. The fiber in the legumes combats constipation, which is a common issue during pregnancy.

The next nutrient in lentils good for pregnant women is folate, which cuts the risk of neural tube defects and other issues in the newborn. Insufficient folate has been found to make the child vulnerable to disease at later stages in life. Shockingly enough, studies show that most pregnant women are not taking enough of folate (10). Legumes are rich in folate – one cup contains as much as 65 to 90% of the RDA.

Lentils are equally important for breastfeeding mothers as well. In addition to protein and folate, these legumes contain other important ingredients – all that help the mother and baby have a healthy life.

11. Boost Skin Health And Lightening

We know lentils are rich in protein. Protein is composed of amino acids, crucial components for building cells in the body, skin, and hair. These amino acids also play a role in the formation of collagen and elastin – necessary for healthy and radiant skin.

12. Promote Hair Growth

Lentils are rich in protein and iron, two nutrients that are important for your hair. The folate they contain boosts red blood cells that transport oxygen to the skin and scalp – thereby strengthening the hair roots.

These are the important ways lentils can make a difference in your life. But how much of lentils should you have on a daily basis for the results to show?

One to two servings of cooked lentils would do the trick – this would amount to 200-400 grams, approximately.

If you are wondering how you can cook lentils, we have it covered.

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How To Cook Lentils

The cooking time depends on the variety – red, orange, yellow, brown, or green. While the orange and yellow varieties take about 20 to 30 minutes to cook, red lentils can be cooked in less than 15 minutes. Brown lentils also take 20 to 30 minutes, and for green lentils, the cooking time can stretch till 45 minutes.

Cooking over the stovetop is the most common (and simple) method.

  • Place the lentils in a large pot with at least 2 inches of unsalted water covering them.
  • Bring the pot to a rapid simmer.
  • Reduce the heat to low, such that you only see bubbles.
  • Keeping the pot uncovered, cook the lentils for 20 to 45 minutes (depending on the variety) to make them plump, preventing them from turning mushy.
  • You can add more liquid if required. In case the liquid is left behind in the end, you can strain the lentils through a mesh sieve.

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Lentils sure are an incredible protein source. And they can make your life better in numerous ways. So, why not include them in your diet every day?

Tell us how this post has helped you by leaving a comment in the box below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to eat raw lentils?

We don’t recommend you to consume raw lentils. Uncooked or undercooked lentils contain phytic acid that prevents the absorption of certain important nutrients in the body. Consume them cooked (soaked).

What are the side effects of eating too many lentils?

Excess intake of lentils can cause flatulence as they are rich in fiber. And since lentils are also a great source of protein, eating too many of them can stress the kidneys and may even lead to kidney stones (though this is a very rare side effect).

Are lentils gluten-free?

They are gluten-free. But some lentil preparations might contain gluten. Please check with your doctor if you are sensitive to gluten.

What is a good substitute for lentils?

Beans work best. These include garbanzo beans, black beans, navy beans, etc.

How long do cooked lentils last?

For a week. Refrigerate them in a sealed container. You can freeze cooked lentils – they can last for up to 6 months.


1. “Consumption of dry beans, peas, and lentils could improve…”. US National Library of Medicine.
2. “Dietary protein sources and the risk of…”. US National Library of Medicine.
3. “Pulse consumption, satiety, and weight management”. US National Library of Medicine.
4. “Lentil-based diets attenuate hypertension…”. US National Library of Medicine.
5. “Effect of green lentils on colonic function…”. US National Library of Medicine.
6. “Lentils significantly reduce blood glucose levels”. ScienceDaily.
7. “Sustained slowing effect of lentils on…”. US National Library of Medicine.
8. “Polyphenol-rich lentils and their health…”. US National Library of Medicine.
9. “Folic acid, ageing, depression…”. US National Library of Medicine.
10. “Folate intake in Europe…”. US National Library of Medicine.

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Alexandra Dusenberry is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a certified personal trainer based in San Diego, California. She has 6 years of experience and works with clients around the world to help them reach their health and fitness goals.

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