Canadian Lentils: A Staple in a Diabetic Diet

Information from Gloria Tsang, RD, author of Go UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss and the founder of

The GI Chart


Glycemic Index (GI) Values

Lentils, red split21
Lentils, green22
Kidney beans23
Oatmeal, rolled oats58
Bread, refined76
Rice, white89
Potato, skinless98

Source: International GI Database [Internet]. Sydney, Australia: The University of Sydney, Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular Biosciences. c2011 [updated 2011 December 1; cited 2012 March 26]. Available from:

The low GI values of lentils make them an ideal staple in a diabetes kitchen. In fact, numerous published studies have shown the benefits of a low-GI diet in diabetes management. In 2008, the Canadian Diabetes Association Guidelines recommend replacing high-GI carbohydrates with low-GI carbohydrates for better blood sugar control. In particular, a significant reduction in glycated hemoglobin (HgA1C), a blood marker indicating the average amount of sugar present in the blood in the last three months, was associated with a low-GI diet. Lentils, with their low GI values, are the perfect food to be eaten regularly in a diabetic diet!

Lentils and Blood Sugar Control

Pulse consumption has been associated with a reduction in developing Type 2 diabetes. Some studies have also shown that pulse intake may improve glucose tolerance. One of the reasons for such a benefit is that pulses lower postprandial (post-meal) glucose and insulin responses. This glucose-lowering benefit lasts quite a long time! One study found that lentils not only benefit the glucose response from the meal in which they are eaten, but also the subsequent meal eaten four hours later.

Lentils and Weight Loss

Obesity and overweight are risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes. The 2011 Clinical Practice Recommendations from the American Diabetes Association recommend weight loss for all overweight and obese individuals who have diabetes or are at risk for diabetes.

Eaters of lentils and pulses generally weigh less! Data from the 1999–2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed that people who regularly ate pulses weighed less and had a 23% lowered risk of increased waist size and a 22% lowered risk of being obese.

Losing weight does not mean you have to go hungry! In a recent study, lentils were investigated for their effects on appetite, blood sugar, and satiety. When coupled with a high-GI meal, lentils were able to make participants feel full earlier, resulting in a decrease in overall food intake. What’s amazing is that lower blood sugar was also observed four hours after eating the lentil meal when compared to the control group. So for better weight control, regularly include lentils in your diet!

Lentils and Carbohydrate Counting

Some people may be using the carbohydrate-counting method to manage their blood sugar. Half a cup of cooked lentils is equivalent to one carbohydrate serving.

Lentils are truly Hidden HealthyTM superstars. Preparing lentils is as easy as 1-2-3: Just rinse, boil, and season. Unlike beans, lentils do not require soaking at all.

Check out our Super-Easy Guide to Cooking Canadian Lentils for more cooking tips.


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