Health Benefits of Lentils

What are lentils?

Legumes, pulses, and lentils are terms that are often quite confusing when we read about them on the internet. It becomes imperative for us to create a clear differentiation among them so that we can assess their health benefits for our body and tailor their quantity in our diets according to our requirements. We will explain the health benefits of lentils in this article so that next time this topic crosses your mind, you have a trustworthy platform to source your information from.

Lentils come from the family of legumes, also known as the Fabaceae or Leguminosae family, which provides its stems, leaves, and pods as edible components. Pulses are the dried edible seeds of the Leguminosae family and consist of beans, lentils, and peas. Lentils are lens-shaped pulses and exist in various varieties such as red, green, yellow, brown, and black. They can exist with or without husk. Green lentils are typically eaten whole, while red lentils are typically eaten after the seed covering is removed by abrasive dehulling.

One of the top five pulses produced worldwide, lentils have an annual output of about 4.5 million tonnes. This figure in itself is an indicator of the high consumption of this nutritious legume all around the globe. Canada, the United States, Turkey, Australia, and India are the countries that generate large amounts of lentils.1 Among these countries, Canada is the top producer in the world, exporting them to more than 100 different nations annually and contributing more than 25% of the world's production. One of the earliest crops in the world, lentils have been used in a wide range of cuisines, especially in the Mediterranean and Indian regions.2

Scientifically known as Lens culinaris L., they are often referred to as the ‘poor man’s meat’ by common people.3 This is because lentils have been considered a good alternative source of animal protein in terms of having low cost and high protein.

Health benefits of lentils

Due to their high nutritional value for human diets—nearly 60% of which is composed of carbohydrates and 25% of which is protein lentils, like most legumes, have been acquiring popularity in the muscle-building domain.4 Due to their particularly high protein content, they prove to be promising in supplying the human body with one of the most essential building blocks required for its optimum function. They are an ideal example of nutritious foods abundant in bioactive substances like phytosterols, saponins, and polyphenols.4 Their phenolic compounds, primarily flavonols, are effective inhibitors of the enzymes -glucosidase and lipase, which are involved in the digestion of lipids and glucose in the intestine. This helps to greatly control blood glucose levels and prevent obesity. Studies on the biological effects of lentil polyphenols reveal that they may have substantial anti-oxidant properties. A comparison of lentils with other popular legumes like green pea, chickpea, cowpea, yellow pea, mung bean, and peanut reveals that they have the greatest total phenolic content amongst this group.4

Overall, evidence indicates that eating lentils on a regular basis may significantly reduce the risk of specific types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases including type 2 diabetes and blood pressure.5,6 Lentils can remarkably lower the dietary glycaemic load (GL), which measures the quality and amount of a person's dietary carbohydrates and is directly linked to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.7 

Their health advantages go beyond their most well-known traits of being low in fat and high in protein; their non-protein portion, particularly starch quality, and quantity, may have a substantial positive impact on health. They are rich in Rapidly Digestible Starch (RDS) which has a low rate of hydrolysis. 

As a result, the predicted Glycaemic Index (GI) of the lentil starch fraction is relatively low. A low GI is associated with foods that have little effect on blood glucose levels.6 In addition, they have healthy levels of tannins, dietary fibre, and minerals like iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, and zinc. They are a good source of potassium and because there is a rising global movement to reduce dietary sodium consumption, their use in daily cooking can be promoted. Increased dietary potassium, as opposed to sodium, has been shown in numerous studies to reduce the chance of stroke and high blood pressure.

All of the bioactive lentil ingredients, including macromolecules like resistant starch and protein and micronutrients like vitamins and phenolic compounds, are likely to work together to produce the health advantages of lentils. Health authorities from various jurisdictions advise people to consume dietary pulses like lentils because of their nutritional value and efficacy in managing and preventing serious diet-related diseases that have a significant socioeconomic impact. 

Nutritional facts

Lentils, like other pulses, are a fantastic source of macronutrients like protein, fatty acids, fibre, and carbohydrates. They also contain phytochemicals, which are becoming famous for their potential health benefits for people. For the nutrition quotient, a portion of ½ cup of cooked lentils contains about 12 grams of protein. 

Dietary fibre is also abundant in lentils, constituting about 8 g of fiber per 100 g of cooked lentils. Along with this, potassium content is also high in lentils. Split red lentils when cooked have 273 milligrams of potassium in just ½ cup. They are also a fantastic source of iron. You can get 15% of your daily iron requirements from just ½ cup of cooked lentils. 

Among minerals, the most notably found one in lentils is Manganese. From the category of B vitamins, lentils have the highest folate content of any plant-based meal. The most nutrient-dense type of lentil is black, which has high amounts of calcium, potassium, iron, and protein. 

Side effects and other concerns

Lentils have proven their virtue in being the healthy diet option among many other food products for a long time. They are generally regarded as a safe inclusion in our everyday diet as far as the side effects are concerned. But many experts note that they contain lectins, which may pose some health concerns. Lectins are a type of plant protein that can promote inflammation in the body of people sensitive to them. So, if you consistently observe the symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, or an upset stomach after consuming lentils, then you may have to restrict your lentil consumption. 

The seed coat or hull of lentils contains the majority of the phenolic compounds; as a result, milling and other processing techniques can greatly alter the phenolic composition of lentils.4 Although they are classified as soft seed-coated legumes, which cook more quickly and lose fewer nutrients than firm seed-coated pulses, the phytochemical content and profiles as well as the antioxidant capacities can be greatly impacted by processing. Proanthocyanidins, a category of polyphenols, and tannins are at risk of being lost when lentils are exposed to high temperatures.4


The health benefits of lentils are quite evident from the way they are promoted in popular health diets but that also brings forward the possibility of their overconsumption and that may lead to their unwanted effects on the human body. Consequently, it is always better to make informed choices and not just follow the popular schemes being endorsed on the internet.

A very essential point to keep in mind is the presence of other protein-rich foods in our diet. If we already have a lot of protein-rich food in our diet, then it might be important for us to carefully analyse the amount of protein that’s going into our body and how much more is precisely required. Lentils, being a superior source of a lot of other beneficial supplements apart from proteins, are always going to be a healthy option for us to go to.

Their easy availability, low cost, high nutrient value, and easy ways of cooking are all the qualities that establish their place in the health sector as one of the most sought-after pulses. To add to their merits, they possess a reasonably good shelf life of about two to three years if they are kept away from excessive moisture or heat. So, the next time you go to buy these lens-shaped legumes for yourself or your family, bear in mind the wholeness that they will bring along with them to your plate!


  1. Chelladurai V, Erkinbaev C. Lentils. In: Manickavasagan A, Thirunathan P, editors. Pulses: Processing and Product Development. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2020. p. 129–43. Available from:
  2. Faris MAIE, Takruri HR, Issa AY. Role of lentils (Lens culinaris L.) in human health and nutrition: a review. Mediterr J Nutr Metab. 2013 Apr 1;6(1):3–16. Available from:
  3. Zhang B, Peng H, Deng Z, Tsao R. Phytochemicals of lentil (Lens culinaris) and their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Journal of Food Bioactives. 2018 Mar 31;1:93–103. Available from:
  4. Mustafa AM, Abouelenein D, Acquaticci L, Alessandroni L, Angeloni S, Borsetta G, et al. Polyphenols, saponins, and phytosterols in lentils and their health benefits: an overview. Pharmaceuticals. 2022 Oct;15(10):1225. Available from:
  5. Ganesan K, Xu B. Polyphenol-rich lentils and their health promoting effects. IJMS. 2017 Nov 10;18(11):2390. Available from:
  6. Jenkins DJA, Kendall CWC, Augustin LSA, Mitchell S, Sahye-Pudaruth S, Blanco Mejia S, et al. Effect of legumes as part of a low glycemic index diet on glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Intern Med. 2012 Nov 26;172(21):1653. Available from:
  7. Liu S, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Hu FB, Franz M, Sampson L, et al. A prospective study of dietary glycemic load, carbohydrate intake, and risk of coronary heart disease in US women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2000 Jun;71(6):1455–61. Available from: 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Vridhi Sachdeva

Master of Pharmacy- MPharm, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India

Vridhi is a Formulation Scientist with experience in the Research & Development sector of the pharmaceutical industry. She works on novel drug delivery systems to enhance active pharmaceutical ingredients' therapeutic potential and reduce the associated side effects. Her collective passion for improving the health of people and writing has led her to write and edit science and health-related articles. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
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