Lentils are cheap and nutritious, making it a staple in the diets of students and those on a budget. Athletes also love lentils since the high protein content helps with muscle growth.
But are lentils keto?
Below, I’ll look at everything you need to know before eating lentils on keto while addressing some common concerns.
Can You Eat Lentils On A Ketogenic Diet?
KetoConnect verdict: We give lentils a keto-friendly rating of ⭐⭐(out of 5)
A cup of cooked lentils contains 36 grams of total carbs and 22 grams of net carbs. This is too many carbs, so if you’re on a strict keto diet and want to keep your carb intake as low as possible, I suggest avoiding lentils.
However, you can consume up to 50 grams of carbs per day and still stay in ketosis. If your keto diet is more flexible and you’re a big fan of lentils, eating one cup won’t do much harm. It only uses up half of your daily carb allowance.
Lentils Nutritional Information
One cup of cooked green lentils contains:
- 230 calories
- 36 grams of total carbs
- 22 grams of net carbs
- 18 grams of protein
- 14 grams of fiber
- 0.8 grams of fat
Lentils are also nutrient-dense as they feed your body with thiamine, non-heme iron, folate, niacin and manganese.
3 Health Benefits Of Moderate Lentil Consumption
Even though lentils are high in carbs, it does offer a few unique pros:
- The fiber prevents constipation
- It controls blood sugar levels
- You lower your risk of chronic illness
The Fiber Prevents Constipation
When most people think of lentils, they think of the anti-constipation properties. And this is the health benefit that stood out to me. Half a cup of lentils provides you with seven grams of fiber, far higher than most foods. So if you’re prone to constipation, eat a small serving of lentils once or twice a week.
It Controls Blood Sugar Levels
Although a cup of lentils has 36 grams of total carbs, its impact on blood glucose levels are surprisingly low.
This is due to the high fiber content and low GI score. Fiber in lentils buffers the carb response, so you don’t get a blood sugar spike like you would with rice, bread and starchy vegetables.
The GI score of lentils is also 32. So it releases carbs slowly into your bloodstream, which is handy for diabetics and prediabetics.
You Lower Your Risk Of Chronic Illness
Multiple research papers show that people who eat lentils on occasion have a lower risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers than those who avoid lentils altogether.
This is due to its protective plant compounds called phenols. These phenols boost antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects in your body.
A Word Of Caution When Eating Lentils
However, the problem with excessive lentil consumption runs deeper than just carbs.
The lectin content of lentils are high. These lectins are proteins that act as a survival mechanism for plants, keeping insects away. Lectins are like a poison to insects because it hampers communication between their cells.
If you’re sensitive to lectins or consume too much, you can create an inflammatory condition in your gut, leading to leaky gut syndrome and various autoimmune issues.
Studies show that lectins and other anti-nutrients like phytic acid can even damage the gut wall, preventing you from absorbing nutrients properly.
This is why you want to avoid eating high amounts of lectins. It interferes with ketosis and promotes nutrient deficiencies. But lentils aren’t the only food high in lectins. Stay away from eating excessive amounts of:
- Whole grains
- Nightshade vegetables
Are Lentils Safe For Everyone?
Lentils are safe for the majority of the population. But lentil allergies are common in Europe, particularly in Spain.
So if you’re allergic to chickpeas and other legumes, you’ll most likely be allergic to lentils. You could go for a blood test to learn about your allergy status. Or, eat a small number of lentils and look for the following symptoms:
- Itchy skin, tongue and roof of the mouth
- Nasal congestion
- Constant sneezing
- Scratchy throat
Can You Eat Lentil Soup On Keto?
Eating lentil soup is an excellent way to consume lentils in moderation while staying in ketosis. Most recipes require one cup of lentils, and you can get around four to five servings from it. This means that one bowl has six grams of carbs.
How To Eat Lentils And Still Stay In Ketosis
If you’re looking to enjoy lentils on a low-carb diet, consider these recipes:
- Keto lentil soup
- Lentil bolognese with shirataki noodles
- Low-carb smoked salmon and lentil salad
Keto Lentil Soup
This soup uses small portions of lentils, allowing you to enjoy the taste and experience its health benefits without affecting ketosis. For this recipe, you’ll need:
- One cup of red lentils
- Two cups of fatty ground beef
- One cup of celery
- A half a cup of chopped onion
- Five cloves of minced garlic
- One tablespoon of tomato paste
- Four cups of soup broth
- A half a cup of spinach
- One teaspoon of paprika
- A half a teaspoon of curry powder
- A quarter teaspoon of cumin
First, place your oil, onion and ground beef in a pot on medium to high heat. Saute this for five minutes, add your garlic and celery, and saute for another five minutes while stirring.
Next, pour your soup broth, tomato paste and spinach into your pot, bring it to a boil, and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
The last step is to add your spices, stir and enjoy!
Lentil Bolognese With Shirataki Noodles
But if you’re doing vegan keto, think about this tasty lentil bolognese with shirataki noodles recipe. Although it requires quite a few ingredients, it’s still easy to prepare:
- Eight ounces of shirataki noodles
- Two tablespoons of olive oil
- A large onion
- Three diced carrots
- Two chopped celery stalks
- A small diced zucchini
- One cup of mushrooms
- Four cloves of garlic
- Two teaspoons of chili powder
- A tablespoon of thyme
- A quarter cup of tomato paste
- 28 ounces of diced tomato
- Four cups of vegetable stock
- One cup of lentils
Heat some oil in a pot and toss in your onion. Saute this for two to three minutes.
Add your vegetables like carrots, celery, zucchini, mushrooms, garlic and thyme and cook for another 10 minutes.
Pour the tomato paste, vegetable stock and lentils into this pot and bring to a boil as soon as possible. If you aren’t vegan, replace vegetable stock with meat or chicken stock for extra flavor.
Remove the lid, let your mixture simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until it’s soft and cook your shirataki noodles according to the instructions on the package. Lastly, separate your eight ounces of shirataki into four bowls, pour your bolognese on top, and dig in!
Low-Carb Smoked Salmon And Lentil Salad
If you’re a big fan of fish, opt for this low-carb smoked salmon and lentil salad. To prepare, gather the following ingredients:
- One cup of brown lentils
- Two cups of water
- Three tomatoes
- One white onion
- One cup of spinach leaves
- Six ounces of smoked salmon
- Six tablespoons of olive oil
- Two tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar
- The juice of half a lemon
- Two teaspoons of dijon mustard
- A touch of salt and pepper
First, wash your cup of lentils, put them into a pot with hot water and bring to a boil.
Once it reaches a boil, turn your stove to low and cook your lentils until soft. This usually takes around 20 to 30 minutes. After it’s finished cooking, throw your water out, give your lentils another wash, and let them rest.
Next, prepare your keto mustard dressing. Simply pour olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and dijon mustard into a small bowl and mix.
Now comes the fun part; putting everything together. Place your tomatoes, lentils, onion and spinach in a salad bowl, pour your mustard dressing on top, and mix well. Sprinkle pieces of smoked salmon on top, and enjoy!
3 Keto-Friendly Alternatives To Lentils
If you’re doing a strict keto diet, go for these lentil alternatives:
- Leafy greens
Leafy greens like spinach, kale and cabbage have a low carb content, so you can eat as much as you want while staying in ketosis. For example, a cup of spinach contains three grams of net carbs, while cabbage only has four grams of net carbs.
So feel free to use leafy greens instead of lentils when preparing soups or salads.
Mushrooms are another tasty alternative to lentils on keto since one serving has two grams of net carbs.
Mushrooms are yummy and can go with almost anything, including a traditional breakfast, steak, soup or salad. Pop them in a hot pan with some butter and salt, and you’re good to go.
Pro tip: Try drying your mushrooms in the sun or under a UVB light for around 18 hours because research shows this boosts the vitamin D content to over 200,000 IU.
With a carb count of four grams, broccoli won’t interfere with ketosis. Broccoli goes well with a steak or if you’re preparing a side dish, consider making a broccoli cheese sauce.
Final Thoughts On Are Lentils Keto-Friendly
Lentils are high in both carbs and protein, so it’s an impractical option for strict keto dieters who’re looking to keep their carb intake to a minimum. However, if you’re flexible, you can eat lentils in moderation.
A keto diet aim to keep carb intake below 50 grams per day. By eating a cup of lentils, you’re only using up half your daily carb allowance.
And if you want to switch things up, use mushrooms, leafy greens and broccoli as delicious alternatives.
Matt is a former college basketball player turned computer engineer who discovered his passion for health and nutrition after cutting sugar from his diet in 2016. That year he founded KetoConnect with Megha in order to share their ketogenic lifestyle through recipes, videos, and educational content. Matt is always seeking to grow and try new things, a passion he shares with his wife and two amazing sons.