Lentils are a healthy plant source of protein, and they are a delicious food characterized by their low fat content and high fiber content. A recent study revealed that plant sources of protein – including lentils, peas, beans, fava beans, and chickpeas – are very beneficial for weight control.
Researchers have found that low-carb diets – which consist mostly of plant proteins and fats with healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains – are associated with slower weight gain in the long term.
In contrast, researchers found that low-carb diets — which consist mostly of animal proteins and fats with unhealthy carbohydrates such as refined starches like white bread and sweets — are associated with faster weight gain in the long term.
The study was conducted by researchers from the T. H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University, and was published in the journal JAMA Network Open and written about by the website Eurek Alert.
“Our study goes beyond the simple question: Do you eat carbohydrates or not? Rather, it explains the low-carb diet, and provides an accurate look at how the composition of these diets affects health over years, not just for weeks or months,” said study leader Binkai Liu.
While many studies have shown the benefits of cutting carbohydrates for short-term weight loss, little research has been conducted on the effect of low-carb diets on long-term weight maintenance and the role of food group quality.
The researchers analyzed the diets and weights of 123,332 healthy adults from 1986 to 2018. Each participant provided a self-report about themselves, and reports on their diets and weights every four years.
The researchers divided the participants' diets based on their adherence to five categories of low-carb diet:
- A low-carb diet (TLCD) that focuses on eating fewer carbohydrates overall.
- A low-carbohydrate ALCD diet that emphasizes animal proteins and fats.
- A vegetarian low-carb diet (VLCD) emphasizes plant proteins (such as lentils and legumes) and plant fats.
- A healthy low-carb (HLCD) diet emphasizes plant proteins and healthy fats, while reducing refined carbohydrates such as white bread and processed grains.
- An unhealthy low-carb diet (ULCD) focuses on animal proteins, unhealthy fats, and carbohydrates coming from unhealthy sources such as white bread and processed grains.
The study found that a diet consisting of healthy proteins, plant fats and healthy carbohydrates was significantly associated with slower weight gain in the long term.
“The key idea here is that not all low-carb diets are created equal when it comes to long-term weight management,” said lead researcher Qi Sun, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition.
“Our findings could change the way we think about popular low-carb diets, and suggest that public health initiatives should continue to promote dietary patterns that focus on healthy foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.”
Lentils are a food rich in carbohydrates and proteins, providing your body with energy. It is rich in fiber, which may cause you bloating and gas if you eat a large amount of it, or if you are not accustomed to eating it.
Lentil soup is an excellent choice, as it provides the body with protein, as well as water. Cook it healthily, with no or very little salt.
Lentil protein is a good source of essential amino acids, especially leucine, lysine, threonine, and phenylalanine. But the essential amino acids containing the sulfur methionine and cysteine are few in it.
On the other hand, grain proteins are rich in methionine, but low in lysine. Hence, a combination of lentils and rice or lentils and wheat (bread, dough or pasta) provides a complete protein meal that includes all essential amino acids.
This applies to dishes such as lentil soup with pieces of bread, koshary (lentils, rice and pasta), and mujaddara (lentils and rice). This makes it provide excellent quality protein.