Replacing half the white rice or potatoes in a meal with lentils may improve blood sugar control, according to a Canadian study published in the Journal of Nutrition in April 2018.
After randomly assigning 48 people to either a rice or potato group, the researchers had the participants eat those starchy, high-glycemic-index (GI) foods both alone and in combination (50-50) with various types of low-GI lentils. Compared to after eating the rice and potatoes alone, blood sugar rose less dramatically after eating the lentils plus rice or potatoes.
Lentils, a type of legume, contain slowly digestible starches along with protein, fiber, and phenols, all of which may slow starch digestion and thus the release of blood sugar into the bloodstream (hence their low GI ranking). Though other types of legumes—beans, dried peas, chickpeas—were not tested in this study, previous clinical trials have linked all types of legumes to improved long-term blood sugar control.
The new study did not include people with or at high risk for diabetes or heart disease, however, to know if they respond differently than healthy people. Still, there’s no downside to adding lentils to your diet if you have diabetes—and likely a benefit.
Also see 7 Incredible Lentil Recipes.