Dried lentils are a year-round staple that are essential for rounding out salads during the summer and hearty soups in the winter. Did you know they are also one of the most nutritious and versatile plant-based proteins? Lentils have the second-highest ratio of protein per calorie of any legume, after soybeans. This cousin to peas and beans contains high amounts of protein, fiber, calcium, iron, manganese, folate, vitamin B6, and thiamin among other essential nutrients.
Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods such as lentils decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. A new study shows that replacing potatoes or white rice with lentils can lower your blood glucose by more than 20 percent. The study conducted by at University of Guelph found that swapping out half of a portion of starchy side dishes (e.g., potatoes and rice) for lentils can significantly improve the body’s response to carbohydrates. Replacing half a serving of white rice with lentils caused blood sugar levels to drop by 20 percent. Replacing potatoes with lentils led to a 35 percent drop. When researchers mixed lentils with potatoes and rice blood sugar levels fell by similar amounts when half of the starch was replaced with lentils.
Pulses like lentils can slow the release of sugar from starch during digestion. The slower breakdown of starch and delayed absorption means you don’t experience an instant spike in blood glucose. Having frequent blood sugar spikes over time can lead to an increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Essentially, consuming lentils has been shown to lower that risk.
Lentils and other pulses also contain components that inhibit enzymes involved in absorption of sugar, and the dietary fiber contained in these foods can encourage production of short-chain fatty acids, which can also reduce blood sugar levels.
For more information on lentils the U.S. Dry Pea & Lentil Council’s website (click here).