Diet therapy in diabetes helps to control the basic pathophysiology of diseases such as hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, insulin resistance, neuropathy, disturbance in heart efficiency, and blood circulation.
Dietary interventions for type 2 diabetes are often focused on foods with a low glycemic index (GI) as these release sugar in the blood more slowly than those with a high GI. This helps to stabilize the body’s glycemic response to carbohydrates since dietary carbohydrate is the major determinant of postprandial glucose levels.
What Are Lentils?
Lentils are a valuable source of proteins, starch, and non-starchy carbohydrates, minerals, and micronutrients. Not only do lentils have a low GI, but they also have a good nutrient profile in general as they are rich in dietary fiber and phytochemicals, yet low in fat which has been shown to have a positive effect on the risk factors for type 2 diabetes. With the incidence of type 2 diabetes rising, there has been a greater focus on dietary interventions for the management and even prevention of the disease, as certain foods and dietary patterns can help improve glycemic control.
According to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition conducted by scientists from the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph, it was found that replacing carbohydrates from high glycemic index (GI) foods with lentils can significantly help attenuate postprandial blood glucose response and so lessen risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Lentils stabilize blood sugar.
- Lentils provide essential nutrients including protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, and zinc. Like other pulses, which are a type of legume, they are rich in phytochemicals, so they may help lower your risk for cancer. They are also low on the glycemic index, so they may help you control your blood sugar.
If you have insulin resistance, hypoglycemia, or diabetes, lentils are full of complex carbohydrates that can help you;
- Control your blood glucose levels
- Control your cholesterol levels
- Control your appetite
- Lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes
A carb serving for a diabetic is 15 grams, with many diabetic meal plans allowing for three carbohydrate servings per meal. A 1-cup serving of cooked lentils provides 39.9 grams of carbohydrates. However, 15.6 grams come from fiber, and diabetics can subtract half of the fiber grams from the carbohydrate count if a food contains more than 5 grams of carbohydrates, resulting in 32.1 grams of carbohydrates. This is about two carbohydrate servings.
The glycemic index measures how much carbohydrate-containing foods raise your blood sugar after you eat them. Foods low on the glycemic index, which are those foods with a GI value of 55 or less, have only minimal effects on blood sugar levels. Lentils have a GI value ranging from 18 to 52 depending on the type of lentil and the preparation. Boiled red lentils tend to have a lower GI, while canned green lentils tend to have a higher GI.
A study published in “ARYA Atherosclerosis” in 2008 found that when people replaced 30 grams of bread and 20 grams of cheese in their diet each day with 50 grams of lentils and 6 grams of canola oil, they were able to decrease their fasting blood sugar and cholesterol levels. This suggests that low-GI foods can help lower blood sugar levels if you use them as a replacement for foods higher on the glycemic index, like bread or other refined grains.
Adding Lentils to Your Diet.
Lentils are among the easier dried legumes to prepare since they don’t require soaking. Simply rinse them in water and cook them for about 25 minutes with a ratio of 1 part lentils to 2.5 parts water. You can add them to soups, salads, or chili; use them to make a curry served over rice, or use them to replace part of the meat in meat-based sauces.
1. Look for lentil-based pasta.
Some brands use lentils as a gluten-free substitute for pasta. It is cooked normally like you would regular pasta. You can eat lentil-based pasta with your sauce of choice.
2. Add lentils to your salad.
Lentils are a great way to add proteins to your salads. You can add some unsalted canned lentils or you add dry lentils to boiling water and allow to cook for 25 minutes until tender. Allow them to cool off and then add to the salad
3. Make a lentil soup or stew.
Lentil soup contains filling protein and fiber which keeps you full all day long. You can combine lentils with any vegetables, herbs, and stock of your choice to make a soup.
7 easy ways to incorporate lentils in your everyday diet as proposed by Gloria Tsang include;
- Add a hearty element by adding wholesome lentils to any brothy soup.
- Prepare a delicate veggie dip by pureeing lentils, seasoned with citrus and nut butter.
- Add nutrition punch by mixing lentils into your salad.
- Enhance texture by adding lentils to your Asian stir-fries.
- Add lentils to fillings for tacos or quesadillas.
- Add color to your pot of curry or stew by adding red lentils.
- Add lentil puree to your baking.
How often should lentils be added to the diet?
Diabetics should aim for 4-5 servings of lentils or other pulses per week. A serving is defined as 1 cup of lentils, cooked dried beans, chickpeas, split peas. Introducing lentils to your diet will help prevent glucose spikes after meals. It is easier to incorporate lentils into your diet by using them to replace meat. Unsalted canned lentils are a quicker option rather than boiling from scratch
Other health benefits of lentils
They are rich in polyphenols.
Polyphenols are active compounds that are beneficial in the prevention of complicated diseases like diabetes, cancer, and
heart disease by destroying harmful agents in the body. Lentils are a great source of these polyphenols.
They’re high in protein.
A cup of already cooked lentils contains 18g of protein. This makes lentils a good replacement for meat-great info for vegans.
They’re a good source of iron.
Lentils contain 6.6g of iron which is important for pumping oxygen throughout the body. Enough iron prevents the slow flow of blood since it is very essential for the production of hemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen around the body. Iron is also found in myoglobin-a protein in the skeletal muscles of man.
Lentils are good for your bones.
Lentils play a huge role in bone and teeth health because they contain 38grams of calcium per cup
They’re a good source of folic acid.
Folic acid is an important nutrient, and it is even more important for pregnant women. Folic acid deficiency in pregnancy can lead to birth defects. It also supports hair growth and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Lentils are an amazing source of folic acid
Possible side-effects of eating lentils
The excess fiber in lentils can lead to a build-up of gas in the gut especially if you do not normally consume a lot of fiber.
Lentils also contain a protein called lectin which is linked to stomach upset and inflammation. They are known to contain
fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs) which cause digestive symptoms in people with IBS (irritable Bowel Syndrome). Lentils contain the amino acid lysine and when consumed in large quantities can cause gallstones and an increase in cholesterol levels. Lentils are rich in proteins and a cup of lentils has about 18g of protein. Overconsumption of protein may lead to kidney disease as stated by Harvard Health. Being also a good source of potassium, consuming too many lentils may cause hyperkalemia with symptoms like fatigue, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, respiratory disorders, numbness, and weakness, as reported by the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Lentils are rich in nutrients, low in fats, and can reduce post-prandial glucose levels in diabetics. They are generally affordable and can be incorporated into your diet in several convenient ways. If you feel ill after eating lentils, it is best to stop or limit how much you eat them.