Are lentils fattening or good for weight loss?
Lentils are a legume (a pulse to be exact) similar to beans, and come in different varieties including French green, petite estoria & black beluga, each with their own colour. They are a rich source of many vitamins, minerals and nutrients (such as B vitamins, manganese and phosphorus), making them great for your heart health, improving your digestive system and managing blood sugar levels.
Lentils are very versatile, they can be used to make dips, soups & curries and are especially popular in Indian cuisine. But should you be eating them when you are trying to lose weight, or will doing so make you fat?
1 cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils contains:
The number of calories a food has tells you how much energy it provides your body. Foods that have a lot of water, such as most fruits and vegetables, tend to be low in calories. This is because water has 0 calories. Nuts and seeds on the other hand are high in calories because they contain a lot of fat, which has 9 calories per gram.
You can see how the amount of calories in various foods differs here. For example, 100 g of Endive has only 17 calories whereas 100 g of flax seeds has 534 calories. You may have noted that 100 g of lentils has 352 calories, however this is the number of calories found in uncooked lentils, which is why the value is much higher than what is seen in the table above.
If you want to lose weight, you have to consume fewer calories than what your body uses up. You introduce calories into your body via food and they are used up during the day to keep you alive and when you exercise. If you consume fewer calories than what your body requires, it uses fat stores as a source of energy. This is what leads to weight loss. On the other hand, if you consume more calories than what your body requires, the excess calories are stored as fat.
However everyone is different and a number of factors come into play when determining the amount of weight you lose or gain.
The number of calories you need to consume to lose weight depends on your current weight, height, age, gender and how active you are. You can use the calculator below to get an estimate of how many calories you should be consuming.
This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.
For example, a 30 year old lady who weighs 80 kg, is 160 cm tall and exercises 3 – 5 days a week will need to consume approximately 2,300 calories to maintain her weight, 1,850 calories to lose weight and 1,400 calories to lose weight fast. A 60 year old lady with the same weight, height and activity levels will need to consume 1,660 calories to lose weight. This is because you lose muscle mass and your metabolism generally slows down as you get older.
1 cup of cooked lentils contains 230 calories, meaning it would contribute to roughly 10 – 20% of total daily calories, depending on your body size and overall goals. It has almost the same number of calories as a cup of cooked brown rice and a cup of cooked quinoa. However lentils contain much more dietary fiber and protein, making them an excellent food to eat when you are trying to lose weight.
Foods that are high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds & legumes, and lentils are one of the best sources. A number of studies have shown that increasing fiber intake is beneficial for weight management. For example this study found that over a 12 year period, female US nurses who increased their fiber intake the most gained on average 1.52 kg less than those who increased their intake the least.
Another study found that making a simple change and increasing fiber intake can help you lose weight. This is a much easier plan to follow than more complex weight loss diets.
Fiber helps increase satiety, meaning you feel faster and so are less likely to overeat. This in turn means fewer overall calories are consumed, leading to less weight gain. The same goes for protein, it helps make you feel full faster. Lentils are one of the best vegetarian sources of protein.
Studies have shown that high protein intake boosts your metabolism and increases the number of calories you burn per day. This study found that by increasing protein intake to 30% of total calories, 441 fewer calories were consumer per day, which is a significant amount!
A very recent study showed that eating one serving of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils per day could help you lose weight. The meta analysis looked at 21 clinical trials involving 940 participants. It was found that over a 6 week period, individuals who consumed a diet containing pulses lost 0.34 kg in body weight.
Can eating lentils make you fat?
People sometimes mistakenly think that eating a certain type of food will make you fat. This is one reason some people are afraid of eating avocados for example, because they contain a lot of fat. However, as we explained above, eating extra calories is what makes you gain weight in the long run, so eating too much of any given food is not a good idea.
A cup of lentils contains 230 calories, which is fairly high, so eating too much can definitely lead to weight gain. For example if you were to eat 5 cups, that would equate to 1,150 calories. These surplus calories on top of the calories you obtain from other foods would cause you to put on weight.
The lesson here is portion management. So long as you do not overeat, lentils will not make you fat. Limiting yourself to one cup per day (cooked) at most is ideal.
Lentils are super nutritious and a waist friendly food. They are rich in both protein & dietary fiber and studies have shown that having one serving per day can help you lose weight. Lentils should be a part of an otherwise healthy weight loss plan, which includes nutritious foods and plenty of regular exercise.