Lentils (Lens culinaris) are a good source of fiber, folate, and thiamin (vitamin B1) and have a relatively high antioxidant content compared to other legumes. Lentil consumption is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and lower total cholesterol. While consumption of related legumes such as black beans and navy beans has been shown to be chemopreventive against several cancers, the specific effects of lentils have not been isolated.
Cancer-related effects of eating lentils
Lentil consumption normally is combined with dry bean consumption in population studies, partially because people who regularly consume lentils typically also consume other dried legumes. Therefore, while available studies appear to support lentil consumption for breast cancer patients, survivors and those at high risk for breast cancer, they are not definitive.
Several population-based studies have found that consumption of beans and lentils is associated with decreased risks of prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer. A case-control study of African Americans found that consumption of legumes such as dried beans, split peas, and lentils was negatively related to risk of colorectal cancer. Another study found that colon cancer recurrence was less likely for those with high dry bean intakes (the same study found no such benefit for increased fruit or vegetable intake). A study of the diets of 90,630 women in the Nurses Health Study II found a significant inverse relationship between breast cancer and intake of beans and lentils. On the other hand, lentils contains relatively high levels of copper, which has been shown to increase angiogenesis and metastasis of breast cancer.
Various types of lentils are used to make dal (dahl, dhal), a preparation of split dehusked dried beans frequently used in South Asian cuisine.
Below are links to recent studies concerning this food. For a more complete list of studies, please click on lentils.