Lentils During Pregnancy: 8 Nutritional Benefits & Cooking Tips

Consuming legumes such as lentils during pregnancy can provide you with nutrients such as the essential prenatal vitamins, iron, manganese, and potassium. These nutrients, especially folate, are important for healthy fetal development and growth. Lentils can also provide you with good amounts of fibers and vegetarian proteins and make for a healthy replacement for meat, which is also helpful for a vegan pregnancy diet. Making lentils part of your balanced plant-based diet can let you reap several benefits through your pregnancy (1) (2).

Read on to know the benefits of lentils during pregnancy and how to incorporate them into your pregnancy diet.

In This Article

Nutritional Benefits Of Lentils During Pregnancy

Nutritional benefits of lentils during pregnancy

Image: IStock

The taste, color, and size of lentils vary depending on the place they are derived from. Lentils can be categorized into small grains, lentil beans, and larger grains. In this article, we will be exploring the nutritional benefits of lentils for prenatal health:

  1. 1 cup of lentils contains around 920mcg of folate, which aids in the development of new cells. Pregnant women require around 600mcg folic acid every day (3) (4).
  2. Half a cup of lentils contains around 179 milligrams of folate, which is a B vitamin that aids in the development of new cells. Pregnant women require around 600 milligrams of folic acid every day.
  3. Lentils are rich in protein, which helps in every stage of pregnancy. Protein helps in the development of muscles in babies (3).
Lentils are source of protein, lentils during pregnancy

Image: IStock

  1. High potassium content ensures proper blood circulation and can potentially reduce high blood pressure.
  2. The fiber in lentils helps combat intestinal tract disorders and promotes immunity boost. It controls obesity and also keeps down high cholesterol levels. One cup of lentils contains around 20.5gm fiber (5).
  3. Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy that can be tackled greatly by taking lentils, which are rich in fiber.
  4. Many studies suggest lentils play a vital role in improving the biological functions of the brain (6).
  5. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 37% of pregnant women worldwide experience anemia. Each serving of lentils may usually offer around nine milligrams /100 grams of iron, and therefore, they can be a great addition to the pregnancy diet to prevent anemia and associated complications.
  6. Lentils are also high in polyphenols that have antioxidant properties.
  7. Lentils are a preferable food choice for individuals with gestational diabetes because they cause a slower increase in blood sugar levels.
protip_icon Did you know?
Lentils, when eaten with whole grains, might work as the protein equivalent of meat (12).
Lentils during pregnancy to get iron

Image: IStock

Important Tips

You must not exceed the cooking time of lentils

Image: IStock

While lentils are rich in nutrients, you need to take care to retain all the vital properties. Here is what you can do:

  • Lentils are rich in iron, which helps keep anemia at bay. One cup contains 12.5mg of iron (3).
  • The vitamin C in citric fruits help in the absorption of iron (7).
  • Avoid drinking tea or coffee with your meal, as this will reduce the absorption of iron.
  • You must not exceed the cooking time of lentils to avoid loss of essential nutrients.
  • Lentils are a source of protein, but they are not complete proteins meaning they do not contain all the amino acids.
  • Lentils exhibit a significant quantity of glutamic acid, a chief amino acid inherent to them. Other abundant amino acids include aspartic acid, arginine, leucine, and lysine. Nonetheless, the occurrence of cystine, tryptophan, and methionine in lentils is meager.

Lentils

Source: Nutrient profile and effect of processing methods on the composition and functional properties of lentils (Lens culinaris Medik): A review; Legume Science/USDA
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Lentils are gluten-free and can be safely consumed by women with celiac disease (12).

Lentil Cooking Tips

Add flavors you want in the lentils

Image: IStock

There are different types of lentils and not just the green ones that you see. Here are some easy cooking tips that might be helpful for you (8):

  • Lentils do not require to be soaked before cooking like other pulses.
  • Wait for the consistency you want; if you are having them in a salad, make them firm.
  • If you are preparing lentil soup during pregnancy, make them softer to relish the taste.
  • Add flavors you want in the lentils. Crushed garlic and herbs can alter the taste completely.
  • If using canned lentils, rinse them under water for a minute to reduce the sodium content.

Healthy Lentil Recipes During Pregnancy

There are many creative and nutritious ways in which you can add the goodness of lentils to your pregnancy diet.

1. Lentil soup

Lentil soup

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 1tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • ¾ cup cooked lentils, rinsed and drained, from a 15-ounce can
  • 14 ½ ounces low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

How to:

  1. In a saucepan, warm some oil on medium heat.
  2. Toss in onion, carrot, celery, and garlic.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir occasionally until the onion gets soft, which takes about three to five minutes.
  4. Pour in the broth, let it come to a boil, and simmer for five minutes.
  5. Toss in the lentils and cook until the soup thickens a bit more around three to five minutes.
  6. Give it a good stir and add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Lentil salad

Lentil salad

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 2 cups cooked lentils (your choice)
  • 2tbsp red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • Handful of spinach leaves, fresh and hand torn chopped
  • 2tbsp lemon juice
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste

How to:

  1. Toss together lentils, feta, onion, and spinach in a big bowl.
  2. Drizzle lemon juice and olive oil over it, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Mix everything well.
  4. Serve and enjoy!
protip_icon Quick tip
Add a few drops of vitamin C-rich lemon juice to your lentil preparation for enhanced taste and increased iron absorption (7).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which lentils are best in pregnancy?

Lentils such as red lentils, pigeon peas, and black lentils may be some of the best ones to include in your diet for a healthy pregnancy (9).

2. Does boiling lentils remove protein?

Research shows that boiling lentils decreases the quantity of some nutrients, including some proteins (10). However, boiling also removes anti-nutrient factors, making it still a good way to cook lentils.

3. Do lentils cause gas during pregnancy?

Although lentils may cause mild gas, the effect can be reduced by soaking the lentils overnight before eating (11).

Eating lentils during pregnancy can add micronutrients and much-needed protein, B vitamins, iron, folate, potassium, and manganese to your diet. These nutrients help your baby’s proper growth and fetal brain development, ensure blood circulation, and prevent anemia. Lentils also contain fiber that helps relieve constipation. You may choose from the various categories of lentils, such as small grains, lentil beans, or large grains. Combining lentils with rice, vegetables, and herbs can enhance their taste and nutrition quotient. Further, you must not over-cook lentils as it may result in loss of essential nutrients.

Infographic: Benefits Of Consuming Lentils During Pregnancy

The humble household staple lentils are so much more than they are known for. Check out this infographic to learn about the multiple benefits of lentils for expectant mothers. You can save this infographic and use it as a reminder to add lentils to your meals throughout pregnancy.

why you should include lentils in your pregnancy diet (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

Download Infographic in PDF version Download Infographic
Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Takeaways

  • Lentils offer protein, fiber, and essential nutrients like folate, iron, manganese, and potassium, which benefit pregnancy.
  • The protein in lentils supports baby’s muscle development.
  • Eating lentils while pregnant enhances blood circulation, prevents digestive issues, combats constipation, and lowers the risk of anemia.
  • Lentils also improve brain function.
  • Overcooking lentils can lead to essential nutrient loss.

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. National Information: Lentil.
    https://www.lentils.org/health-nutrition/nutritional-information/
  2. Folic Acid for a Healthy Baby.
    https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=folic-acid-for-a-healthy-baby-134-2
  3. Lentils, raw. FDC ID: 172420.
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172420/nutrients
  4. Folate for pregnant women.
    https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/pregnancy-and-diet
  5. Got Fiber.
    https://diabetesaction.org/article-fiber
  6. How to eat with your brain in mind.
    https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/what_can_you_eat_to_improve_your_brain
  7. Nutritional and health benefits of citrus fruits.
    https://www.fao.org/3/x2650t/x2650t03.htm
  8. How to Cook Lentils.
    https://www.lentils.org/recipes-cooking/how-to-cook-lentils/
  9. Why you must have folic acid before and during pregnancy.
    https://www.sitarambhartia.org/blog/maternity/folic-acid-before-and-during-pregnancy/
  10. T.H.Hefnawy (2011); Effect of processing methods on nutritional composition and anti-nutritional factors in lentils (Lens culinaris).
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0570178311000169?via%3Dihub
  11. Gas stinks, but relief is possible.
    https://thewell.northwell.edu/digestive-health/5-foods-that-may-cause-bloating
  12. Lentils: The Big Health Benefits of Tiny Seeds.
    https://health.clevelandclinic.org/health-benefits-of-lentils/
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