Lentils are great plant-based sources of protein. Most common varieties are about 31% protein, providing up to 18 g of protein per serving.
How much protein do we need per day?
The recommended daily intake of protein for most people is only 0.8 g per kg (2.2 lbs) of body weight.
Only active people require more protein. People with minimal, moderate, and intense physical activity should get at least 1.0 g, 1.3 g, and 1.6 g of protein per kg (2.2 lbs) of body weight, respectively.[1,2]
For instance, an 80 kg (177 lbs) person doing moderate physical activity should get approximately 100 g of protein a day. On the other hand, a 59 kg (130 lbs) person who follows a sedentary life needs only 59 g of protein a day.
Protein deficiency is rather unlikely, though. People who consume adequate amounts of calories and follow a well-balanced diet, probably consume more protein than they need.
What’s the protein content of lentils?
Actually, lentils are great plant-based sources of protein. Their protein content ranges between 20.6% and 31.4%.
The protein content of lentils depends on many factors, like the lentil variety, processing methods, and cultivation region.
Most common lentil varieties, such as brown, green, red, yellow, black beluga, and Puy, have a similar protein content.
Cooked lentils have about 9 g of protein per 100g, while a serving (1 cup) provides almost 18 g of protein!
Moreover, you can enjoy pasta or penne made of lentils. They have about 23 g of protein per 100g (3.5oz).
You can find a wide variety of lentils on Amazon.
Are lentils complete protein?
Lentils aren’t a complete protein. Although they’re rich in many essential amino acids, such as leucine, lysine, threonine, and phenylalanine, lentils are deficient in the sulfur-containing essential amino acids methionine and cysteine.
We have to eat lentils with other foods that contain the missing essential amino acids.
Cereals are rich in methionine. In contrast, cereals are low in lysine, which is found in abundant in lentils. Therefore, we should eat lentils with rice or whole wheat bread in order to get all essential amino acids. A lentil–rice or lentil–wheat meals provide a complete protein.
Which lentil variety has the highest quality protein?
The digestibility and the overall quality of protein of food is measured with the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS). High-quality proteins, like milk, eggs, and soy protein, have PDCAAS values of 1.
The PDCAAS of lentils ranges from 0.52 to 0.71.
Green lentils have the highest score (0.63). They have a better amino acid profile than most common lentil varieties.
On the other hand, red split lentils are more bioavailable than green lentils, but lack of many essential amino acids. They have a PDCAAS of 0.54.
Other foods high in protein
Meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs are excellent dietary sources of high-quality, complete protein. Animal-derived foods contain all essential amino acids. Their protein is also highly bioavailable.
Vegan sources of protein
In contrast, only a few plant-based foods are a complete protein. Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, quinoa, buckwheat, barley, and amaranth are the most common plant-based sources of complete protein.
However, it isn’t necessary to eat these foods. Consuming a wide variety of plant-based foods rich in protein is enough in order to get all essential amino acids.
Beans are the richest plant-based foods in protein, though. Beans are good for weight loss as well.
Health benefits of lentils
Lentils are packed with vitamins, minerals (e.g. iron), and many antioxidant compounds, such as phenolics, flavonoids and tannins.
Due to their great nutritional value, lentils may reduce the risk of many diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, cancers, cardiovascular disease, as well as many degenerative diseases.
Moreover, lentils are great for dinner. They reduce cravings for fattening late night snacks and help sleep better at night.