Red lentils are seeds from legume plants that split in half after hulling. They cook relatively quickly and provide an important protein source, particularly in Indian food such as dal, a soup made with stock, spices and vegetables. A 1-cup serving of red lentils contains 230 calories, but they are highly nutritious. Red lentils provide nutrients that improve your health and help you lose weight and maintain weight loss.
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The 15.6 grams of fiber in 1 cup of red lentils provides 62 percent of the 25 grams daily value recommended by the Institute of Medicine for women, and almost 50 percent of the RDA of 38 for men. Fiber is important for weight loss in two ways. It fills the stomach, preventing hunger after eating, and it also slows carbohydrates as they enter the bloodstream, preventing peaks and valleys in blood sugar that interfere with efficient energy utilization. When food processes in the body the way it's supposed to, you require less of it, and maintaining normal weight is easier.
The 17.9 grams of protein in a cup of red lentils slows the entry of the 40 grams of carbohydrates into the bloodstream, which is important for avoiding imbalanced blood sugar that contributes to weight gain. When the body processes protein and carbohydrate, or sugar, molecules simultaneously, it can respond to new glucose stores efficiently, which keeps the body's flow of energy steady. Steady energy reduces cravings and binge eating that contributes to weight gain.
The glycemic index, or the measure of a food's impact on blood sugar, of red lentils is low. A study by researchers from the University of Toronto in 1988 found that participants who ate red lentils for dinner utilized glucose the following day during breakfast more efficiently compared with those who ate high-glyclemic index foods. Eating low-glycemic foods results in a domino effect that improves energy efficiency during successive meals. Over time, including more foods like red lentils in the diet will help you balance your energy and your eating habits.
Aside from the traditional lentil soup, lentils add flavor and health benefits to other dishes as well. Try cooking up lentils and using them as a filler in place of meat in vegetable lasagna. Add cooked lentils to pilaf, chicken or ham salad. Puree cooked lentils in a blender and add spices of your choice to make a bean dip for veggies or chips.
- Bon Appetit: Lentils
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Second-Meal Effect: Low-Glycemic-Index Foods Eaten at Dinner Improve Subsequent Breakfast Glycemic Response
- USDA: Nutrient Data Laboratory: Lentils, Mature Seeds, Cooked, Boiled, Without Salt
- BBC Good Food: Lentil Recipes
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients