Calories and Carbohydrates in Lentils

Measuring Lentils
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Lentils are a type of legume, which have the advantage of being much more quick-cooking than other dried beans and do not have to be soaked ahead of time. Although the most common lentils are green or brown, you can find them in other colors, such as pink-orange (which cook the fastest, but don't hold their shape), yellow, and black.

Lentils generally have a low glycemic index due to the high amounts of slowly digested starch and resistant starch they contain.

Lentils are also high in fiber and, like all legumes, have more protein than almost any other plant source.

Carbohydrate and Fiber Counts for Lentils

½ cup cooked lentils is 12 grams effective (net) carbohydrate, plus 8 grams fiber, 9 grams protein, and 115 calories

Glycemic Index for Lentils

There have been quite a number of glycemic index studies for lentils, the averages of which tend to be around 30, which is very low due to the slowly digested and resistant starch in lentils. The exception was a study of canned lentils, which was 52. (Studies of canned beans as well as those cooked in a pressure cooker always show them to have a higher glycemic index than dried beans which are soaked and boiled.)​

The glycemic load is 6 for ½ cup of cooked lentils.

Health Benefits of Lentils

Lentils are an excellent source of fiber, folate and manganese, a very good source of iron, and a good source of copper and thiamin.

Lentils, like other legumes, are perhaps the best food source of slowly-digested carbohydrate and resistant starch. Essentially, this means that they contain starch which is slowly converted to glucose and also starch which is not digested in the small intestine at all. At least one study has shown that replacing more rapidly-digested carbohydrates with legumes improved glycemic control in diabetics.

Consuming foods high in resistant starch may also improve colon health, including promoting healthy bowel flora. Resistant starch may even improve insulin sensitivity and absorption of minerals such as calcium.

Note, though, that canned beans have a higher glycemic index and less slowly-digested and resistant starch than dried beans which are cooked at home. Also, some diabetics note that lentils and beans raise cause a rapid rise of blood glucose, so there is clearly a lot of individual variation in how our digestive systems handle legumes.

Serving Suggestions for Lentils

Cooked lentils can be served hot or cold, and can be spiced up in any way that pleases you. Think of them as a hot side dish instead of higher glycemic carbs such as potatoes or rice, or as a cold salad (or sprinkled over a green salad). They can also be added to soups and stews.

Sources

Jenkins, 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 TrialArchives of Internal Medicine Oct 22:1-8 (2012).

Leroux, MarcusFoster-Powell, Kaye, Holt, Susanna and Brand-Miller, Janette. International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 76, No. 1, 5-56, (2002).

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28.

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