The Healthiest Lentil

The Healthiest Lentil
3.92 (78.4%) 25 votes

Red, green, or French green?


Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In 2008, black beans beat out lentils by a hair, and remain the reigning champ for most laudable legume in terms of antioxidants.

But, with regards to protein, iron, zinc, and folate, lentils actually triumph over black beans. The problem is, you go to the store, and there are three different kinds!

Red lentils, green lentils, and French green lentils. Which is healthiest? We didn’t know, until this year.

Well, it’s not green lentils. Spilling the beans, red lentils are healthiest.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In 2008, black beans beat out lentils by a hair, and remain the reigning champ for most laudable legume in terms of antioxidants.

But, with regards to protein, iron, zinc, and folate, lentils actually triumph over black beans. The problem is, you go to the store, and there are three different kinds!

Red lentils, green lentils, and French green lentils. Which is healthiest? We didn’t know, until this year.

Well, it’s not green lentils. Spilling the beans, red lentils are healthiest.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

Check out my other videos on legumes:
Beans, Beans, They’re Good For Your Heart
Diabetics Should Take Their Pulses
Increased Lifespan From Beans
Phytates for the Prevention of Osteoporosis
Prostate vs. Plants

And check out my other videos on lentils

For more context, also see my associated blog post: The Best Foods: test your nutrition knowledge.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

44 responses to “The Healthiest Lentil

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  1. I love this information. But I sometimes want to access information but do not want to have to view a video. Please make text an available option.

    1. That could also allow us to get volunteers to help translate the transcript into other languages–thank you for the suggestion!

          1. great :) It might be a good idea as well to put the link for these instructions to some place where people are more likely to see it. I have seen it by accident and decided that it is worth a try.

            1. I just wanted to update everyone that we can now read any video transcript by clicking on the “Transcript” button under the video. You don’t have to view the video to read what Dr. Greger is saying. Hope that helps! :)

  2. I am so happy to read that red lentils are the best, since I love them and have been using them in a variety of recipes lately (soup and curry). I just wish they were more readily available to my friends who live in small towns. I can get them here in the Chicago area easily, but outside Chicago – not so much.

    1. Walmart now sells both green and red lentils. My local health food store just added French green lentils to its bulk repertoire, but it also sells brown lentils. Where do they fall on the lentil scale??

      BTW, the lentil scale gives different numbers than the all-legumes scale. What gives?

  3. I’ve heard that not soaking lentils for 12 hours can result in negative “anti-nutrients” that completely offset any benefit. I find it difficult to soak lentils for this long before use but I have heard pressure cooking may destroy these anti-nutrients. Could you advise on this at all?

    1. This is false, soaking actually greatly reduces phytic acid which tends to bind calcium and zinc up. Phytic acid doubles as an antioxidant though. Cooking eliminates all antinutrients which include lectins, tannins, phytic acid and aeromylase.

      1. Toxins, could you share some research demonstrating – 1. phytic acid doubling as an anti-oxidant in legumes and 2. the elimination of anti-nutrients in legumes via cooking. Thanks.

        1. Of course,

          “Phytic acid, concentrated in grains, is a known anti-oxidant. Phytic acid forms chelates with various metals, which suppress damaging Fe-catalysed redox reactions. Colonic bacteria produce oxygen radicals in appreciable amounts and dietary phytic acid could suppress oxidant damage to the intestinal epithelium and neighbouring cells”

          In terms of deactivated antinutrients, there are several papers on the topic, and not limited to these few.

  4. Not-So-Lowly-Lentil Soup

    -2 cups red lentils
    -6 cups water/homemade vegetable broth
    -1 clove garlic, minced
    -1 red onion, diced
    -2 medium-sized carrots, cut into half moons
    -2 green plantains*, cut into half moons
    -1 tbsp cilantro
    -1 tsp cumin
    -1 tsp oregano
    -black pepper to taste

    Combine all ingredients in a soup pot. Bring to a boil then simmer over low heat until vegetables and lentils tender, about 20-25 minutes. Serve and season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

    *If you have never cooked with plantains before, the green ones taste similar to a potato but look like a green banana. As they ripen and turn brown they become sweeter and at their brownest (sweetest), resemble the taste of a greener banana.

    ~Complements of lovestobevegan

  5. Another interesting video =)

    Why is the antioxidants level the right measure of which food is healthier?

    Seems like food can contribute to the body in so many different ways. One could argue that you can still eat very healthy foods according to this measure and suffer from malnutrition due to lack of iron, for example…

    I’d greatly appreciate your opinion about this!

  6. Ok, I know this is an old post, but I hope your still replying. I take it I should soak my lentils based on a previous response because of the reduction of phytic acid. My query is what do I do with the soaking water? Is it necessary to throw it out?

        1. There are some nutritional differences between hulled and whole lentils, since some of the fibre and minerals are lost in the hulling process. The link below gives lots of good nutrition information for all kinds of pulses. You will notice if comparing hulled and unhulled red lentils that per cooked cup, the fibre is a lot lower (16 g vs 9 g, although either way this is still a very high amount of fibre!) and the calcium is also reduced, suggesting loss through the hulling process. On the other hand, protein is a bit higher in the hulled cup of cooked lentils. This would indicate the protein is predominantly inside the lentil, not the hull, so cup for cup there would be more protein in the hulled vs unhulled lentil. On a practical note, lentils all cook quickly. Red lentils are my favourite since they cook super fast – 25 minutes – add to soups and sauces, they are an easy way to add vegetarian protein!

  7. Hello Michael. Are these red lentils the “hulled” brown/green lentils which are red inside? Hulled lentils would typically be smaller and weigh less so are they considered healthier on a per lentil basis or only as compared in weight to a whole lentil? I enjoy sprouting my whole (unhulled) lentils, they are one of the few beans that can be sprouted and safely eaten with out being extensively heated. Sprouted lentil can be eaten raw and at least in my experience digested easily however I find them more palatable when they are sprouted and lightly sauteed.

  8. Hey Michael. Okay this is great, I just found a review from 2012 on the role of lentis in human health that compares the nutritional content of split lentils to whole lentils among other things. I’m still reading it and thought that you might enjoy doing so as well. I don’t know, it may be old news to you. In any event here is the link: . By the way thank you for the video reviews. I’m always learning so much from them and I often forward them to family and friends. They are much appreciated!

  9. Enjoy your informative videos. I’m 45 became vegan 2 years ago, eating mostly out of my organic garden. I work full time, have been very stressed due to losing a child to cancer 2 years ago and my job. I have developed the following symptoms warts on my fingers, sore gums, lost my sense of smell, no sex drive and painful periods. What do I need to supplement with or eat more of?? Please help

    1. Kathy: Good for your for becoming vegan – and growing your own food too. That’s pretty cool. It’s something I aspire to do some day.

      I’m sorry to hear about the death of your child. That’s truly horrible. It sounds like the last two years have been pretty hard.

      I thought I would let you know that NutritionFacts does have a video that covers painful periods. It would give you an idea to try. But the other symptoms you mention sound pretty serious to me. It seems to me that you might want to check in with a doctor to see if there is something other than nutrition which needs to be addressed. I mean, your diet already sounds amazing. Sounds like mostly whole plant foods? Not a lot of processed foods? So, I’m thinking that *maybe* you have a medical condition that might need to be addressed – or at least diagnosed so that you can think about your options and what is best. Note that I’m not a doctor. I’m just sharing my reaction to your post.

      If you want to check out the videos on painful periods, here you go:

      I hope you are able to address the problems that have popped up. Good luck.

    2. Hi. Every single symptom listed is related to zinc deficiency and/or treatable by zinc supplementation. So I’d guess you have a zinc deficiency, especially if all your food just comes from your garden. This is fairly common in vegans. Zinc picolinate is the most bioavailable supplement.
      If you don’t want to supplement, I would add some oysters, mussels, or clams to your diet a few times a week. They’re high in zinc and are basically plants — no brains :)
      Since the original comment is 10 months old, I’m guessing Kathy is dead by now, but hopefully this helps someone else.

      1. I am shocked at the misinformation given by Sambo, and at seeing that the comment is still here, and unanswered.

        Firstly, going back to Thea’s reply, “your diet already sounds amazing”. Well, she only said “eating mostly out of my organic garden”, which is far from amazing, given the fact that there is zero information regarding what she eats. “Sounds like mostly whole plant foods? Not a lot of processed foods?” It doesn’t sound like that to me at all. For all we know, she could only be eating tomatoes and potatoes.

        Anyway, back to Sambo’s post: plant food is perfectly capable of providing enough zinc, people just have to make sure they eat whole grains, beans, and nuts every day. That’s the best way of getting the full benefits, instead of relying on unreliable supplements which can contain too much cadmium and can cause other problems.

        Furthermore, saying that molluscs are basically plants because they have no brains is wrong in so many biological and ethical ways that I do not know where to start. Apart from the fact that they might contain dangerous amounts of toxins thanks to human activities causing global pollution. And, surprise! Vegans do not eat animals (molluscs ARE animals, regardless how much you’d want to convince people otherwise).

        Finally, your last sentence is plain rude and uncalled for. I do hope that you are not dead yourself due to the ingestion of supplements instead of whole foods and organisms full of toxic waste. I truly wish people are smart enough to check Dr. Greger’s advice, since they are in the site, instead of listening to dubious comments.

        For all vegans out there, make sure you eat properly. Otherwise, we might simply get more unwanted misinformed opinions from people thinking that veganism equals poor health.

        By the way,

  10. Three kinds of lentils in the store?! Surely you jest us who live in rural parts of flyover USA. We are quite happy to find lentils in a local store. Online shopping is usually necessary for many healthy foods urbanites find readily available. Luckily beans/lentils/grain ship easy.

  11. do you know about Folate content of lentils? One cup is about 90%, but does this relate to Red or green/brown lentils, which lentils contain high Folate and how much?

    Also, does soaking overnight (to reduce phytic acid) and rinsing remove significant amount of Folate? What about cooking method and duration? I’m trying to get the most from the diet and not the pill.

    Thank you.

  12. Perhaps there’s no study, but info about various indian lentils would be helpful: mong beans, brown (chana) chickpeas, urad (black) dal, etc.

    btw, the constant popups to sign up for a newsletter or get your book could be forms of advertising. annoying and they constantly show up. Dismissing once and not coming back again would be preferable.

  13. Is there any updated info on this that covers more kinds of lentils? I have come across little black lentils that look like french lentils, but are smaller. Could the black pigment be an antioxidant? If so, maybe these tiny black lentils are better?

  14. There is no way to know without careful, expensive laboratory analysis and a long term clinical study that would cost a lot. I have never seen any studies specific to black lentils, but if you find any, we’d all like to see a reference posted here.

    Dr. Ben

  15. How come polished (red/yellow) lentils are so healthy while polished grains are said to have ascended directly from hell? Could anyone please clarify this issue for me?

    1. I didn’t know red and yellow lentils were polished, but if indeed they are, I can only offer speculation. As I understand it, the fiber and how the nutrition is distributed makes all the difference. Unlike the grains we typically polish (white rice and wheat) red and yellow lentils have their pigment (which are carotenoid antioxidants) distributed throughout their endosperm and cotyledons, whereas wheat and rice don’t have hardly anything but starch in their cotyledons. I suspect the fiber in lentils are distributed in that way as well. Wheat and rice have hardly any fiber once the bran is polished away, but if red and yellow lentils are polished, for whatever reason, they’re still full of fiber, so the fiber must be distributed throughout their cotyledons.

      Rice and wheat, when polished, have their bran and the germ/embryo removed from the seed. Unfortunately, the part that is removed also has all the omega 3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, and other micronutrients. As far as I understand it, when beans and lentils are “polished”, merely the seed coat is removed, while the embryo remains in the lentil. (I might be mistaken; I’m not an expert on lentil processing.)

      Ultimately, it has to be put to the test. I am fairly confident that the tests that polished grains and lentils have been put through show that polished grains are less nutritious.

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