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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Linda

Lentils have the second-highest antioxidant content (behind black beans) among all tested legumes and offer significant levels of protein, iron, zinc, and folate as well. A diet rich in lentils and other legumes may help reduce cholesterol, hypertension, and the risk of prediabetes, fibrocystic breast disease, and prostate cancer proliferation. Lentils and other legumes may offer significant anti-inflammatory effects as well.

Lentils are high in phytates, which may reduce the risk of colon cancer and may have protective effects against osteoporosis. Lentils and chickpeas appear to improve glycemic control (i.e., moderate blood sugar levels) not just at the meal when they are consumed, but even hours later or the next day. Lentils and other foods containing resistant starch may help block the accumulation in the colon of hydrogen sulfide, which is associated with inflammatory bowel disease.  The type of iron that appears to increase cancer risk (called “heme iron”) comes predominantly from meat; the safest form of iron (“non-heme iron”) is mostly found in lentils, other legumes, and several types of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Lentils and other whole foods contain magnesium, which may favorably affect a cluster of metabolic and inflammatory disorders including diabetes and heart disease.

A high intake of lentils and other plant foods appears to be protective against skin wrinkles and may also improve periodontal health

Non-soy legumes like lentils appear to be more effective in decreasing bad cholesterol than soybeans. Sprouted lentils have twice the antioxidant content as unsprouted. Canned or boiled beans inhibited cancer cell growth in vitro significantly more than raw bean sprouts. Nutrition-wise, cooked and canned legumes are about the same, but the sodium content of canned beans can be 100 times that of cooked. Red lentils beat other lentils in overall nutritive benefits.

Lentils’ and other legumes’ reputation for flatulence production may be undeserved: studies show that intestinal gas issues appear to return to normal levels after a few days or weeks of increased legume intake.


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons. This image has been modified.

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