Lentil pasta is one of the many kinds of “healthy pasta” that have exploded in popularity in recent years. But is it all marketing hype? Or is lentil pasta actually better for you than regular wheat pasta?
Lentil pasta has more protein and fiber than regular wheat pasta, which gives it a lower score on the glycemic index. It is also typically higher in iron than regular pasta. However, lentil pasta is not a low-calorie or low-carb food, so portion size is still important for many dieters.
Below, I’ll cover 10 different aspects of whether lentil pasta is healthy. Whether your goal is to lose weight, stabilize your blood-sugar, or hit your protein goals, I’ve got in-depth analysis that will help you make a smart decision!
Is Lentil Pasta Good for You?
Here are the ten questions I examine in this post about lentil pasta. Click to skip to any section:
- What Is Lentil Pasta Made Of?
- Is Lentil Pasta Good for Weight Loss?
- Is Lentil Pasta Low Carb?
- What Is the Glycemic Index of Lentil Pasta?
- Is Lentil Pasta Wheat Free and Gluten Free?
- Is Lentil Pasta Processed?
- Is Lentil Pasta High in Protein?
- Is Lentil Pasta Starchy?
- Is Lentil Pasta High in Iron?
- Is Lentil Pasta Vegan?
1. What Is Lentil Pasta Made Of?
Lentil pasta is often made of just one ingredient, lentil flour. However, some brands include other ingredients, such as quinoa flour, pea flour, rice flour, or added vegetables like kale and spinach.
Here are four popular brands of lentil pasta that only have one ingredient:
- Barilla Red Lentil Penne is 100% red lentil flour.
- Lensi Yellow Lentil Penne Rigate is 100% yellow lentil flour.
- Tolerant Red Lentil Rotini is 100% organic red lentil flour.
- Good & Gather Yellow Lentil Penna is 100% yellow lentil flour.
And here are the ingredients for three other popular brands that have more ingredients:
Ancient Harvest Green Lentil Penne Ingredients: Green Lentil Flour, Organic Quinoa Flour.
Explore Cuisine Green Lentil Penne Ingredients: Organic Green Lentil Flour, Organic Green Pea Flour, Organic Brown Rice Flour.
Cybele’s Free to Eat Superfood Green Rotini Ingredients: Green Lentil, Kale, Spinach, Broccoli.
Overall, I found no real unhealthy ingredients in these 7 popular brands of lentil pasta. It’s mostly just lentil flour—and sometimes other whole grains, legumes, or vegetables.
2. Is Lentil Pasta Good for Weight Loss?
Lentil pasta can be a smart choice for weight loss, as the fiber and protein make it quite filling. However, lentil pasta still has roughly the same amount of calories as regular pasta, at 200 calories per 56g serving. This means portion size is still important for weight loss.
When it comes to weight loss, the most important factor is calories. In fact, you can lose weight eating pretty much anything you want—including McDonald’s—as long as you don’t too much.
However, healthy foods make it easier to lose weight. That’s because you can actually eat enough to feel full and satisfied without over-eating on calories. This is the principle of calorie density, and it’s key to weight loss without counting calories.
So, how does lentil pasta do when it comes to caloric density? Well, it’s not amazing, but not horrible, either. Lentil pasta has about the same caloric density as regular pasta, at about 200 calories per 56g serving.
But there’s one factor that makes lentil pasta a bit better for weight loss—the fiber. Some brands of lentil pasta have double or even triple the fiber of regular pasta. This can help you feel fuller for longer, on the same amount of calories.
The lentil pasta I found with the most fiber was Good & Gather’s Yellow Lentil Penne, with 11 grams of fiber per 56g serving. However, other lentil pastas contained as little as 2g of fiber per 56g serving. So it all depends on the brand.
One more note on lentil pasta and weight loss: In my personal experience, pasta is an easy food to overeat. While small servings of pasta are fine on a weight-loss diet, the most important factor is just your ability to control portion sizes.
If you struggle with portion sizes, use a smaller bowl or plate. Only cook a smaller amount of pasta at a time, not the whole box. And add a bunch of veggies to your pasta, as they will fill you up with fewer calories. Read more weight loss tips here.
- Is Lentil Pasta Fattening? Lentil pasta is not inherently fattening. It will only cause weight gain if eaten in excess of your daily caloric needs.
- How Many Calories Are in Lentil Pasta? Barilla Red Lentil Pasta has 180 calories per 56g serving. Most other brands of lentil pasta contain 200 calories per 56g serving. This is about the same as regular pasta.
3. Is Lentil Pasta Low Carb?
Lentil Pasta is not low carb. Most brands of lentil pasta contain 34 to 37 grams of total carbs per 2oz serving (56g). Although lentil pasta is higher in protein than wheat pasta, still roughly 70% to 75% of the calories in lentil pasta come from carbs.
Below is a table with some lentil pasta nutrition facts, including the carbs, sugars, fat, and protein.
I’ve included 3 brands with different ingredients, to capture any difference that makes. The Barilla pasta is 100% lentil flour, while Ancient Harvest and Explore Cuisine have other flours added, too.
The serving size for each is 2 ounces, or around 56 grams:
|Brand||Barilla (Red Lentil Penne)||Ancient Harvest (Green Lentil Penne)||Explore Cuisine (Green Lentil Penne)|
- Is Lentil Pasta Keto? Lentil pasta is not keto-friendly, as it is too high in carbs and too low in fat. If you’re on a more flexible low-carb diet, you may be able to have small servings of lentil pasta. But most strict versions of keto would not allow lentil pasta.
- How Many Net Carbs Are in Red Lentil Pasta? Barilla Red Lentil Penne contains 28g of net carbs per 2oz serving. Tolerant Red Lentil Rotini contains roughly the same amount.
For more about the carbs in lentil pasta, read the section below on lentil pasta glycemic index.
4. What Is the Glycemic Index of Lentil Pasta?
Lentil pasta has a lower glycemic index than wheat pasta, as it is higher in protein and fiber. One study found that red lentil pasta had a glycemic index of 22 compared to 56 for the wheat pasta.
The specific study I’m referring to was published in Food & Function. Along with the good news in terms of glycemic index, that article also found higher antioxidant levels in lentil pasta than normal pasta.
Another study from the Northern Pulse Growers Association found that making pasta from 50% red lentil flour lowered the glycemic index from 61 to 55. This technically made the lentil pasta “Low G.I.,” although a decrease of 6 points doesn’t seem like a big change to me.
Another study I found showed that lentil flour and chickpea flour did cause less glycemic response than whole-wheat flour when used to make pizza crust.
So the balance of evidence seems to suggest that lentil flour and specifically lentil pasta do have a lower glycemic index than regular pasta.
However, I also have some personal data to share. Last year, I was testing my blood-sugar response to various foods to help clear up my acne. (Acne is often made worse by high-glycemic carbohydrates, as I explain here.)
Anyway, I tested my blood-sugar response to a few lentil pastas and chickpea pastas. Now, this is just anecdotal, and your results may vary. But to my dismay, I found that my blood-sugar still spiked quite a bit. In fact, it was on the higher end of the meals I’d tested up to that point.
My acne coach, Cheryl from Honesty For Your Skin, explained to me that some people’s bodies really respond differently to lentil flour vs whole lentils.
It made me think of this video from the Brenda Davis about how processing can affect glycemic index. In the video, she’s talking about whole grains, not legumes—but I think the same idea may apply to legumes, as well.
The takeaway: Lentil pasta seems to be better than normal pasta for blood-sugar. But if blood-sugar control is really important to you, don’t assume lentil pasta will be totally okay. Research it more, or test it out and see how your body reacts.
5. Is Lentil Pasta Wheat Free and Gluten Free?
Lentil pasta is generally wheat free and Gluten Free Certified. Out of the seven brands of lentil pasta I checked, all seven were clearly labeled as gluten free.
One of the biggest markets for lentil pasta are people eating a gluten-free diet, so it makes sense that most brands keep their lentil pastas wheat-free and gluten-free!
- Is Lentil Pasta Grain Free? Most brands of lentil pasta are grain free. Lentils are legumes, not grains. However, some brands have added grains. Ancient Harvest’s Green Lentil Penne contains quinoa, which is a grain. Explore Cuisine’s Green Lentil Penne has brown rice, another grain.
6. Is Lentil Pasta Processed?
Lentil pasta is not a highly processed food. It is free of refined grains, oils, and sugar. However, it is still slightly processed, as it’s made of lentil flour, rather than whole, in-tact lentils. This raises the glycemic index somewhat.
There is no precise, single definition for what counts as a “processed food.” You could technically say that slicing a vegetable in half is “processing”—but it doesn’t really affect the nutritional value. So we have to be practical about this question.
As covered above, many brands of lentil pasta are made from just one ingredient, lentil flour. There is no added oil, sugar, or salt unless you add it yourself. There are also no artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, or anything like that.
The only real issue with lentil pasta being “processed” is that it’s made of lentil flour, rather than in-tact lentils. Generally speaking, this means it will be digested a bit more quickly than whole lentils and may spike your blood-sugar a bit more.
For most people, this is not a big problem, and lentil pasta is a healthy choice. However, it’s not exactly the same as whole lentils, and that could make a difference if you’re watching your blood-sugar for any number of reasons.
Read more in the section on lentil pasta glycemic index.
- Is Lentil Pasta a Whole Grain? Lentil pasta does not qualify as a “whole grain” since lentils are legumes, not grains. However, some lentil pasta products do contain added whole grain flours, such as quinoa flour or brown rice flour.
- Is Lentil Pasta a Whole Food? Most people would consider lentil pasta a whole food, as it doesn’t have any fiber removed or processed ingredients added. However, lentil pasta and other lentil flour products are still likely to affect blood-sugar levels more than whole lentils.
7. Is Lentil Pasta High in Protein?
Lentil pasta typically has 50% to 75% more protein than regular wheat pasta. In a 56g serving, most lentil pastas have 12g to 14g of protein, while wheat pasta typically has 8g of protein.
So yes, lentil pasta is considerably higher in protein than most wheat pastas. In fact, lentil pasta is higher in protein than rice, corn, and other starches, too. But let’s put this into context.
Although some boxes of lentil pasta say “25 grams of protein” or “21 grams of protein” on the front of the box, that is actually for a pretty big serving size.
In reality, lentil pasta gives you about 6 or 7 grams of protein per 100 calories. Although this is pretty high for pasta, it’s still on the lower end when it comes to mock meats and meat replacements:
- Beyond Burgers have ~7.4 grams of protein per 100 calories.
- Gardein Crispy Tenders have ~7.8 grams of protein per 100 calories.
- Impossible Burgers have ~7.9 grams of protein per 100 calories.
- Butler Soy Curls have ~9.2 grams of protein per 100 calories.
- Tofu has ~10.0 grams of protein per 100 calories.
- Tempeh has ~11.3 grams of protein per 100 calories.
- TVP has ~15.0 grams of protein per 100 calories.
- Gardein Plant-Based Jerky has ~15.0 grams of protein per 100 calories.
- Boca Original Vegan Burgers have ~18.6 grams of protein per 100 calories.
- Seitan has ~20.2 grams of protein per 100 calories.
So if you’ve got a protein target for bodybuilding or some purpose like that, I’d recommend using some of these mock meats or soy products, too—not just lentil pasta.
Here’s another tip: If you want a bean pasta that is really high in protein, look at the soybean pastas made by Explore Cuisine. Their “Black Bean Spaghetti,” made of black soybeans, has double the protein of most lentil pastas!
For more related discussion, check out my post on high-protein vegan meal plans.
- Is Lentil Pasta a Complete Protein? Lentil pasta does not provide complete protein by itself. Lentils are naturally a bit low in two amino acids, methionine and cysteine. However, as long as you’re eating a variety of other protein sources throughout the day, your body can still make use of the protein in lentil pasta. (More on “complete protein” here.)
8. Is Lentil Pasta Starchy?
Lentil pasta is starchy, as it made of lentils, which are high in starch. In this way, lentil pasta does not differ from wheat pasta, brown rice pasta, or corn pasta. They are all made of starch.
In Heathline‘s guide to starchy vs non-starchy vegetables, they include lentils in their list of starchy vegetables alongside potatoes, rice, corn, cereals, and the like.
This is despite the fact that lentils and other legumes tend to have more fiber and a lower glycemic load compared to other starches.
If you’re looking for non-starchy pasta, you should try making vegetable pasta at home. Use a spiralizer like this one to make your own “zoodles” (zucchini noodles). It’s quick and very low in calories.
Cauliflower pasta may also be non-starchy, but be sure to check the full ingredients list, as it may include starchy ingredients like potato, rice, or corn flour.
- Is Lentil Pasta One of Your “Five a Day”? According to the NHS’s 5 a Day guidelines, one serving of legumes can count toward your 5 a Day. This would include lentil pasta since it is made of lentils, which are a legume. However, you cannot count lentil pasta for multiple servings of your 5 a Day.
9. Is Lentil Pasta High in Iron?
Lentil pasta is a good source of iron, with most brands ranging from 2mg to 4mg per 56g serving. This is a bit higher than normal wheat pasta on average.
Here’s a table showing the iron content of three leading brands of lentil pasta. The serving size for each is about 2 ounces (or 56 grams):
|Brand||Barilla (Red Lentil Penne)||Ancient Harvest (Green Lentil Penne)||Explore Cuisine (Green Lentil Penne)|
How does this compare to normal wheat pasta? Well, Barilla’s classic “Blue-Box” penne has 2mg of iron per serving, and so does their Whole Grain Penne. So lentil pasta is a bit more iron-rich than your typical wheat pasta.
For context, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron is 8mg for adult men and 18mg for menstruating women age 19 to 50. (See this reference for children and other age groups.)
10. Is Lentil Pasta Vegan?
Lentil pasta is vegan, as it contains no animal-derived ingredients. A lentil pasta dish would only become non-vegan if you added animal products such as butter or a pasta sauce that contains cheese or meat.
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