As a Certified Health Coach informing clients about healthy foods like quinoa and lentils is part of my job. Since both are known for their health benefits, many of my clients wonder if one is better. Let’s answer, what is better lentils vs quinoa?
Lentils are better due to their higher percentage of vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. They have a better glycemic index which may result in fewer blood sugar spikes. They are more available in supermarkets and cost less than quinoa. Lentils have less total fat and fewer calories.
This article will include a side-by-side comparison of their nutrients. In addition, I’ll examine their tastes, textures, glycemic index, satiety index, prices and health benefits.
In addition to coaching clients about them, I’ve purchased, researched and consumed both prior to, during and after writing this article. They are part of my personal nutrition plan.
Quinoa vs Lentils: The Differences
Are they similar?
Quinoa is the seed from a Chenopodium quinoa plant while lentils are the seeds of a legume plant. Quinoa is not a grain but it is cooked in water and consumed like a grain. Lentils are lense shaped and larger than the rounder quinoa. Cooked quinoa is fluffier than the chewier, heavier lentil.
- Lentils come in red, yellow, brown, black and green colors. Common quinoa colors are white, red and black.
- Lentils cost less money, have a better glycemic index and provide a higher percentage of nutrients, especially protein and fiber.
- Quinoa is more difficult to find in supermarkets.
- They both have a mild, earthy taste and may be slightly sweet depending on their color.
- They are both cooked by boiling in water.
- They have a similar number of calories and carbohydrates, although lentils have slightly fewer.
Quinoa vs Lentils: Nutrient Comparison
They both have similar nutritional profiles, although there are key differences between the two. Different types may vary slightly in their nutrient content.
The following table is a side-by-side comparison of the nutrients contained in a 100-gram cooked serving.
|Lentils (100 g)||Quinoa (100 g)|
|Protein||9.02 g||4.40 g|
|Carbohydrates||20.1 g||21.3 g|
|Fiber||7.9 g||2.8 g|
|Fat||0.38 g||1.92 g|
|Sugar||1.80 g||0.87 g|
|Vitamin A||8 IU||5 IU|
|Beta-carotene||5 mcg||0 mcg|
|Vitamin C||1.5 mg||0 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.17 mg||0.12 mg|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||181 mcg||42 mcg|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||0.16 mg||0.10 mg|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.07 mg||0.11 mg|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||1.06 mg||0.41 mg|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||0.63 mg||0.33 mg|
|Magnesium||36 mg||64 mg|
|Phosphorous||180 mg||152 mg|
|Potassium||369 mg||172 mg|
|Iron||3.33 mg||1.49 mg|
|Copper||0.25 mg||0.19 mg|
|Calcium||19 mg||17 mg|
|Zinc||1.27 mg||1.09 mg|
At first, it’s difficult to determine which one provides a higher percentage of nutrients than the other. This causes many people to ask, which one is healthier?
Lentils are healthier than quinoa due to its higher percentage of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Lentils provide more vitamin A, vitamin C, B6, folate, thiamin, niacin, B5, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, calcium and zinc than quinoa. Lentils contain fewer calories, carbohydrates and total fat.
In addition, they have a lower glycemic index meaning less blood sugar spikes after consuming the food and slower digestion. Read more about the glycemic index down further in this article.
Quinoa is healthy also. It contains a good number of nutrients but just in fewer percentages. It provides more riboflavin and magnesium. In addition, it contains fewer sugar.
I consume both foods since they’re part of my nutrition plan. I consume lentils a little more due to their nutrients, protein and fiber. In addition, they cost less.
Which to Choose
Both are considered healthy, and you really can’t go wrong choosing either one. Some people will alternate between the two to avoid boredom. This also takes advantage of a wider variety of nutrients offered by both.
Some people have different goals which may sway your decision about which one to choose. Let’s take a look at some people’s common goals.
The Registered Dietician in the following video explains the benefits of lentils.
Weight loss may be the most common goal of all. If you want to shed some extra pounds, you may ask, which is better for weight loss?
Lentils are slightly lower in calories and better for weight loss than quinoa due to its fewer carbohydrates and fat. Lentils contain 116 calories per 100 grams cooked.
Their lower glycemic index and fewer blood sugar increases has been associated in some studies helping weight loss.
Quinoa and lentils are naturally gluten free. In addition, quinoa can be made into flour and used as a substitute for regular flour in gluten free recipes.
My Vitamix blender I use at home can make the flour, almond, cashew or any nut flour in seconds. Check out my blender review here, Vitamix Venturist V1220 Review.
If your goal is to gain lean muscle mass, there’s a good chance you’re lifting weights at home or in the gym. Which is better for bodybuilding?
Lentils are better than quinoa for bodybuilding due to its higher percentage of protein, vitamins and minerals. Lentils provide 9.02 grams of protein per 100 grams cooked, approximately 105% more.
The extra amount of protein, vitamins and minerals help to repair and build new muscle after exercise.
Although quinoa is a complete protein and has all the essential amino acids, it contains overall fewer grams.
Supplements for bodybuilding are expensive, and the costs add up pretty fast. Considering the price of both, lentils cost less money.
The lower price in combination with more protein, makes it a good choice for bodybuilding.
For more details about the prices check out the price section below.
I often eat lentils for lunch on the days I train at the gym later in the afternoon or evening. The carbs help fuel my workout and I’m getting extra protein at the same time.
Low-carb or Keto Diet
If your goal is a Keto or low-carb diet, then carbohydrates are your number one concern. If you’re on a low-carb diet, you may ask which has more carbohydrates?
Quinoa and lentils are similar for a low-carb or Keto diet due to its similar amount of carbohydrates per serving. Quinoa contains 21.3 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams cooked. Lentils contain 20.1 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams cooked.
It seems every time I visit the supermarket the price is higher than the last visit. The cost of food certainly matters to most, especially with the rising costs of everything.
Therefore, the price may sway your decision about which one to use in your meals more often. Let’s examine, which one costs more?
Quinoa costs 220% more per 1/4 cup than lentils. The average price for quinoa is $0.57 per 1/4 cup. The average cost for lentils is $0.18 per 1/4 cup.
The prices for both foods vary depending on the store, location and sales offered. Therefore, to conduct original research, I searched various different stores to compare the price of both foods.
There didn’t seem to be a difference in price between white or tri-color quinoa in every store I checked. The red and black colors cost more than the white.
I first visited the Shoprite supermarket:
- Wholesome Pantry White Quinoa
- $3.99 per 12 oz bag (7 servings) equaling $0.57 per 1/4 cup serving.
- Wholesome Pantry Tri-Color (White, Red, Black)
- $3.99 per 12 oz bag (7 servings) equaling $0.57 per 1/4 cup serving.
- Goya or Unger lentils
- $1.79 per 16 oz bag (10 servings) equaling $0.18 per 1/4 cup serving.
I then checked Walmart:
- Food to Live White Quinoa
- $10.99 per 1 pound bag
- Food to Live Organic Red Quinoa
- $13.48 per 1 pound bag
- Food to Live organic green lentils
- $14.49 per 1 pound bag
I checked Costco but couldn’t find comparable packaging of each one.
Taste and Texture
Many times, people choose one food over the other because of its taste. Since there are some similarities between the two, many people wonder and ask, do they taste the same?
Quinoa and lentils have a nutty, bland to earthy flavor. The main difference between the two is the texture. Quinoa is lighter and fluffier than the heavier and chewier lentils. Red and yellow lentils are sweeter like black quinoa.
Quinoa which isn’t rinsed or pre rinsed prior to cooking may taste bitter. Red and black is chewier than the white color.
Brown lentils have an earthy, mild flavor. Red and yellow colored are sweeter than the other colors. Green ones taste the nuttiest while black is earthiest. Red and yellow lose their texture more than the other colors. Brown ones hold up the best when cooked.
To conduct some original research and get the opinions of real people like you, I decided to poll my clients, readers and people in food groups I belong to. I asked them, which one do you prefer the taste of?
- 56% said they preferred the taste of lentils.
- 39% said they preferred the taste of quinoa.
- 5% said they had no preference.
To conduct more research I thought it would be fun to setup and participate in a taste test at home. I mixed each food into a rice mixture containing the same seasonings. 75% of us chose the mixture containing the lentils. The main reason was the taste and texture.
How to Cook Lentils
- Sort and wash 1 pound and set aside.
- In a large pot heat 2 tablespoons of oil.
- Add 1 medium onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Cook until tender.
- Stir in 1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin. Cook and stir one minute.
- Add 4 cups of water, lentils, one chicken bouillon cube, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
- Serves 4.
How to Cook Quinoa
Most store bought is pre-rinsed, if it is not pre-rinsed it should be rinsed to avoid a bitter taste.
- In a pot combine 1 cup with 2 cups of water or broth.
- Bring to a rolling boil.
- Reduce heat, cover and simmer until liquid is evaporated (about 10-15 minutes).
- Let stand 5 minutes then fluff with a fork and serve.
- Salt or add spices to taste.
- Red takes about 3-5 minutes longer to cook.
- It is done when the liquid is absorbed.
- If it’s properly cooked, you can see little, curled ends.
- 1 cup of dry makes about 3 1/2 to 4 cups cooked.
- It should be cooked and not eaten raw.
- For finicky kids, consider adding small amounts to cookies, salads, meatballs or even macaroni and cheese.
Check out 13 healthy substitutes in my article, Quinoa Replacements: 13 Healthy Substitutes.
The following video informs you how to cook lentil soup.
When someone can’t find one of the two foods called for in a recipe, a common question asked is, can I substitute one for the other?
Quinoa can be used to replace lentils in recipes although the texture will differ. It is especially good to substitute in soups and casseroles. The quinoa will add texture, thicken a dish and provide almost the same nutrients.
Lentils can substitute for quinoa in recipes although the texture will not be as fluffy. It will be chewier but provide a higher percentage of nutrients, especially protein and fiber.
Find out how millet compared in my article and find out if it is better.
The glycemic index of food is important especially if blood sugar levels are a concern. Avoiding blood sugar spikes is an important part of consuming healthy food. This is true for diabetics or anyone worrying about their health 3.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale measuring how fast a particular food raises the blood sugar in the blood 4. Blood sugar spikes can lead to health complications with the heart, nerves, kidneys and eyes 5.
Foods on the GI scale are categorized as:
- Low-GI foods: 55 or under
- Medium-GI foods: 56-69
- High-GI foods: 70 or over
How blood sugars levels are affected:
- Foods with a glycemic index 70 or more cause a quicker spike in blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a glycemic index 56 to 69 cause a moderate spike in blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a glycemic index 55 or less cause a slow spike in blood sugar levels.
Having more knowledge of the glycemic index of food and how it raises blood sugar, many people ask, which one has a higher glycemic index?
Quinoa has a higher glycemic index than lentils although both are considered low-GI foods.
- Red and white quinoa cooked in boiling water for 15 minutes has a glycemic index of 54 and 50.
- Green lentils boiled have a glycemic index of 37.
Find out how both of these quinoa varieties compared to each other in my article.
Satiety is a term used to explain the feeling of being full and the loss of appetite which occurs after eating food. The satiety index is a scale showing how full a person feels after eating a certain food.
The satiety index was developed in 1995 from a study which tested 38 foods. The foods were ranked how they satisfied a person’s hunger. Foods scoring under 100 are considered less filling and foods scoring above 100 are considered more filling 6.
The table below shows the satiety scores of filling foods.
|Food||Satiety Index Score|
Unfortunately, quinoa was not one of the 38 foods tested. A study in 2005, by the University of Milan, tested the satiety of quinoa, oats and buckwheat compared to eating rice. All three had a higher satiating efficiency than rice 7.
Since rice has satiety scores of 132% and 138%, we may be able to assume quinoa has a higher satiety score than 138%.
Lentils were included and categorized into the high protein food group. The satiety index score was 133%. This would indicate the satiety for quinoa is slightly higher.
High satiety foods are likely to have a high satiety score for the following reasons:
- High in protein.
- High in fiber.
- High in volume (foods containing a lot of water or air).
- Low in energy density (foods low in calories for their weight).
Find out how these two quinoa colors compared in my article. Does color make much of a difference?
Health Benefits of Quinoa and Lentils
The nutrients provided by both are similar although lentils have a higher percentage of most. Therefore, they both offer similar benefits, but lentils may be more effective in some categories.
Let’s examine each of these nutrients, the percentages offered by both and the health benefits of those nutrients.
- Cooked lentils contain 105% more protein even though quinoa is a complete source of protein.
Protein may help benefit the following:
- Reduce appetite
- Build and repair muscle
- Boost metabolism
- Weight loss
Both foods are high in soluble fiber, which is helpful for many reasons 8. What makes dietary fiber soluble is it dissolves in water.
Soluble fiber is known for the following:
- Decrease the risk of diabetes by managing the blood glucose levels.
- Helps avoid constipation and have a more regular stool.
- Help overall digestive health.
- Aids greatly in weight management because it allows you to feel full faster and eat less.
Iron is essential in the creation of red blood cells and is a necessary part of any healthy diet.
Iron is also vital for growth and development, as some hormones need iron to be appropriately balanced.
Find out how barley compared in my article.
In the following video, Healthline explains the benefits of quinoa.
Of the six B vitamins listed below, lentils provide a higher percentage of five of them.
The B vitamins provided include the following:
- B1 (thiamin)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B9 (folate)
B vitamins help support the following:
- Brain function.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Nerve function.
- Red blood cells.
- Energy levels.
A lack of B vitamins has been associated with oxidative stress and neural inflammation. In a study released in 2018 32 healthy adults were given B vitamin supplementation for six months. The results indicated preliminary evidence B vitamin supplementation reduced oxidative stress and inflammation 9.
Calcium is important for the heart and blood pressure. Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure by helping in the controlling of the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 10.
Calcium also helps the following:
- Help the muscles to function properly.
- Helps nerve function.
- Build and maintain strong bones.
Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium reducing fluid build-up. These helps keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 11.
According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and high blood pressure 12. The more potassium, the more sodium your body will lose.
Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 13.
Find out how bulgur compared in my article, Bulgur vs Quinoa: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison.
Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels stable and balanced. Recent scientific research examined previous studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure 14.
Magnesium helps control the following:
- Blood sugar
- Blood pressure
- Nerve function
One reason many people supplement with magnesium in the evening is because it helps calm the whole body including blood vessels.
In the heart and muscles, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting. When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat 15.
Phosphorus has been shown in scientific studies to help with the following:
- Help the body store and manage energy.
- Muscle contraction.
- Muscle recovery.
- Help the kidneys remove waste.
- Promote healthy nerve conduction.
- Promote teeth and bone strength.
Both foods are very low in saturated fat and unhealthy fats. Neither one of these are a concern and considered another health benefit.
If you have any questions about this article don’t hesitate to email us. You can find an email on our contact page.
Read Next – More Food vs Food Articles!
- USDA: Lentils, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt
- USDA: Quinoa, cooked
- The University of Sydney: Your GI Shopping Guide
- Harvard Health Publishing: Glycemic index for 60+ foods
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Know Your Blood Sugar Numbers: Use Them to Manage Your Diabetes
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: A satiety index of common foods
- Pub Med: Effect on appetite control of minor cereal and pseudo cereal products
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mechanisms linking dietary fiber, gut microbiota and colon cancer prevention
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of a High-Dose Vitamin B Multivitamin Supplement on the Relationship between Brain Metabolism and Blood Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress: A Randomized Control Trial
- Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure
- American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure
- Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis
- National Institutes of Health: Magnesium