Lentils While Pregnant: Benefits and Best Types

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Are you pregnant and looking for ways to add extra nutrients to your balanced diet? You may want to consider adding lentils to the menu.

Lentils are a legume high in fiber and protein, essential for a pregnant woman’s diet. Fiber helps prevent constipation, a common problem during pregnancy, and protein is necessary for the baby’s growth.

But are all lentils are created equally? We will discuss the benefits of eating lentils while pregnant and share which type of lentils are the most nutritious. So, read on for all the delicious details!

Are Lentils Good for Pregnancy? The Benefits

As we mentioned, lentils are an excellent source of fiber and protein, but they’re also packed with other essential nutrients that are important for pregnancy, such as:

Fiber: Fiber is essential for preventing constipation during pregnancy (source: Food Science and Nutrition Journal). The recommended daily fiber intake for pregnant women is 28 grams (source: Nutrients Journal). One cup of cooked lentils has 15.6 grams of fiber, so eating lentils regularly can help you reach your daily fiber goal (source: USDA).

Protein: Protein influences the growth and birth weight of the baby (source: Natural Medicine Journal). You’ll need about 60 grams of protein per pregnancy per day (source: HHS Public Access Journal). One cup of cooked lentils has 17.9 grams of protein, so eating lentils can help you reach your daily protein goal (source: USDA).

lentil soup in a bowl

Folate: Folate is a water-soluble vitamin that helps prevent congenital disabilities of the brain and spine (source: Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology Journal). If you are pregnant, you’ll need 400 micrograms (mcg) of folate daily (source: Harvard). You can also get 358 mcg of folate from one cup of cooked lentils.

Iron: During pregnancy, your body needs more iron than usual because you’re making more blood to carry oxygen to the baby. If you don’t consume enough iron, you may develop iron-deficiency anemia, which can cause you to feel tired and weak (Source: Saudi Medical Journal).

The recommended amount of iron for pregnant women is 30 milligrams per day (source: Nutrition During Pregnancy Journal). Luckily, half a cup of lentils has 6.59 mg of iron (source: USDA).

Lentils are usually served as a side dish but can also be used in soups, salads, and main dishes. If you’re planning to prepare and cook lentils, you must know how to prepare and wash lentils properly.

chicken with puy lentils on a plate

What are the Best Types of Lentils to Eat When Pregnant?

Now that we’ve learned about the benefits of lentils for pregnancy let’s talk about the best types of lentils to eat when you’re expecting. 

There are many different types, but the four most common are: beluga, green, red, and puy. All four types are beneficial for pregnant women, but there is one that is slightly more nutritious than the others.

  • Beluga lentils: Also known as black lentils.¬† Beluga lentils are small, black, and have a nutty flavor. They’re the quickest cooking type of lentil and are often used in soups and salads.
  • Green lentils: Green lentils are the most common type of lentils. They’re larger than beluga lentils and have a slightly peppery flavor. Green lentils take longer to cook than beluga lentils, but they’re still relatively quick to cook. Green lentils are rich in antioxidants, iron, and magnesium.
  • Puy lentils: Puy lentils are small, dark green, and have a peppery flavor. They’re the slowest cooking type of lentil and are often used in soups and stews. Puy lentils are a rich source of folate, iron, and magnesium.
  • Red lentils: Red lentils are small, red, and have a sweet flavor. The fundamental distinction between red and other types of lentils is that red lentils are split in half and without their outer coating. So, red lentils are perfect for use in soups and purees since they cook quickly and don’t require pre-soaking.

Among the four types of lentils, the beluga or black lentils are the most nutritious among the four types of lentils. It has the highest amount of protein, plus high levels of calcium, potassium, and iron (source: Plant-based on a budget).

However, whether you choose beluga, green, puy, or red lentils, you’ll still get a good amount of important nutrients for pregnancy.

Are All Lentils Safe During Pregnancy?

Generally speaking, all lentils are safe for pregnant women to eat. However, there are a few things to remember when choosing and preparing lentils.

First, it’s crucial to choose dry lentils with a uniform color. Avoid lentils that are moist, discolored, or have any visible signs of mold.

Second, lentils should be washed thoroughly before cooking to remove any dirt or debris. To wash lentils, place them in a colander and rinse them under cold, running water.

Finally, cook lentils until they’re tender but not mushy. Overcooked lentils can be difficult to digest, which may cause gastrointestinal discomfort. On the other hand, undercooked lentils may contain bacteria that can cause food poisoning (Source: Journal of Applied Bacteriology).

If you’re planning to eat sprouted lentils, it’s essential to cook them thoroughly to reduce the risk of food poisoning. Sprouted lentils are usually found in stir fry and curries.

raw red lentils with wooden spoon

Are There Lentils That Should be Avoided When Pregnant?

There are a few types of lentils that should be avoided during pregnancy, including:

  • Undercooked or raw lentils: As mentioned above, undercooked or raw lentils may contain bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
  • Lentils with added seasonings: Some commercially prepared lentils come with added seasonings. These seasonings can come with increased health risks (such as high sodium). Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and, later on, heart disease (source: Elsevier Journal).
  • Lentils past their expiration date: As with any food, it’s important to check the expiration date before consuming lentils. Lentils that are past their expiration date may contain harmful bacteria.

Some people tend to connect lentils to digestive problems like gas and bloating. However, this is more likely due to the fact that lentils are high-fiber food (source: WebMD). Regardless, this may not be reason enough to avoid them, unless you’re prone to gastrointestinal issues.

Lentils are safe and healthy foods for pregnant women. All types of lentils are high in nutrients that are important for a healthy pregnancy. We hope this article has helped you learn more about lentils and pregnancy!