The Pulse on Lentils is That It’s Great for Diabetics, We’ve Got the Deets5 years ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Do you remember when it was all about kale, kale and more kale?
Well, Beyonce may have had something to do with that!
In one of her music videos from 2014, the superstar singer wore a sweatshirt with “kale” spelled out on it in varsity block letters. And we all know that Beyonce can do practically anything, and it will spread like wildfire and be widely popular.
Tim McGreevy, chief executive of the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, said that when Beyonce did this it most definitely gave the leafy green a major public relations boost, according to this report.
It’s no surprise that many of Beyonce’s fans would eat more kale after seeing it endorsed on her sweatshirt. Now, McGreevy is hoping he can produce the same effect with another healthy food -- lentils.
“We are trying to get Beyonce to put a lentils shirt on too. And my god, we’re going to make some sales if she’ll do it,” McGreevy said. “We’re reaching out. We’ll even take Jay-Z, although we’d looove Beyonce, I’m telling you.”
This would be part of an aggressive campaign to inject more pulses into the American diet.
So what are pulses?
Lentils, along with chickpeas, dried beans and peas, are considered pulses. Pulses are edible seeds of plants in the legume family.
We’ve previously discussed the potential health benefits of lentils.
And after coming across a recent study about eating lentils and their effect on blood sugar, I don’t need an endorsement from Beyonce to feel inspired to add more lentils to my plate!
A Canadian study, which claims that Canadians overall eat very few lentils, found that including them in your diet may help lower blood sugar levels and influence the way your body responds to carbohydrates.
The study involved 24 healthy adults who were fed the following four dishes:
- White rice only
- Half white rice and half large green lentils
- Half white rice and half small green lentils
- Half white rice and half split red lentils
The participants’ blood glucose levels were measured before they ate and during two hours afterward.
“Blood glucose comprises sugar found in the blood during digestion in the upper digestive tract and depends on the starch content of foods consumed,” according to one report discussing the study.
With the study, the whole meal process was repeated, but participants were given potatoes alone and potatoes with lentils (instead of rice).
“We mixed the lentils in with the potatoes and rice because people don't typically eat pulses on their own, but rather consume them in combination with other starches as part of a larger meal, so we wanted the results to reflect that," reported one of the leads on the study.
- Replacing potatoes and rice with pulses may lower blood glucose levels by more than 20 percent.
- Replacing half a serving of rice with lentils (including all types of lentils used in the study) caused blood glucose to drop by up to 20 percent.
- Replacing potatoes with lentils led to a 35 percent drop.
Apparently, pulses, such as lentils, may slow digestion and the release of sugars found in starch into the bloodstream, ultimately reducing blood glucose levels.
The soluble fiber in lentils may help stabilize blood sugar.
“Soluble fiber delays glucose absorption from the small intestine and thus may help prevent the spike in blood glucose levels that follow a meal or snack. The long-term effect may be insignificant, however, due to the many other factors [like taking medications and how much you exercise] that affect blood glucose,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
So for example, you cannot eat lentils for dinner and then eat a big piece of cake afterwards and expect that not to raise your blood sugar level.
This is not the first time pulses and legumes have been praised for their potential health benefits.
A 2012 study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicines, took 121 patients with type 2 diabetes and measured their blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and more. About half of the participants were then instructed to add a cup of legumes per day to their diet. The remaining participants were told to include more whole-wheat products in their diets.
All participants saw a reduction in their blood sugar levels, however, the legume group saw more of a reduction. The legume eaters also achieved modest reductions in body weight.
Perhaps what is most interesting about the more recent study is that you don’t necessarily have to entirely exclude a specific type of food (in this case, rice and potatoes). Portion control, moderation and balance (along with adding healthy foods - the lentils) are key.
And the study does not suggest that potatoes and rice are bad foods. Potatoes, particularly sweet potatoes, are nutrient dense and may deliver many health benefits. Rice, specifically brown rice, is a great whole grain and carbohydrate source. The point is that people who have issues with high blood sugar may benefit from reducing their portions of these types of foods as well as adding a serving of lentils to their plates.
How else can you be proactive about balancing your blood sugar?
It is always a good idea to incorporate plant-based foods, like leafy green vegetables, into your daily diet. Additional plant-based foods such as grapefruit, cherries and tomatoes may help with the prevention and management of diabetes. Spices and herbs, including cumin, sage, rosemary and ginger, may also help and are great flavoring agents for simple meals at home.
To learn about how magnesium may help with diabetes, read here. Vitamin C is another essential nutrient that may help manage complications associated with diabetes.
And remember that exercise is also key in the prevention and management of diabetes.
Lastly, it is highly advised to undergo a nutrient test in order to determine if you have any nutrient imbalances or deficiencies. If you do, you can always work with a competent healthcare professional to address this. This may involve tweaking your diet and/or taking quality supplements.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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