Quinoa vs Lentils: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison

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 or quinoa?

Lentils are better due to their higher percentage of vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. Lentils have a better glycemic index than quinoa which may result in fewer blood sugar spikes. Lentils 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 quinoa and lentils 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.

Other differences:

  • Lentils come in red, yellow, brown, black and green colors. Common quinoa colors are white, red and black.
  • Lentils cost less money.
  • Lentils provide a higher percentage of nutrients, especially protein and fiber.
  • Quinoa is more difficult to find in supermarkets.
  • Lentils have a better glycemic index.
Lentils and quinoa
Uncooked lentils left and uncooked quinoa right

Some similarities:

  • 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)
Calories 116 120
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

Nutrient Resources 1 2

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, lentils have a lower glycemic index than quinoa. This means 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

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 better for weight loss than quinoa due to its fewer calories, carbohydrates and fat. Quinoa contains 120 calories per 100 grams cooked. Lentils contain 116 calories per 100 grams cooked.

Lentils also have a lower glycemic index which means less blood sugar increases. This has been associated in some studies helping weight loss.

Gluten Free

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 quinoa, almond, cashew or any nut flour in seconds. Check out my blender review here, Vitamix Venturist V1220 Review

Bodybuilding

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. Quinoa provides 4.40 grams of protein per 100 grams cooked. 

This means lentils provide 105% more protein than quinoa. The extra amount of protein, vitamins and minerals help to repair and build new muscle after exercise.

Supplements for bodybuilding are expensive, and the costs add up pretty fast. Considering the price of both, lentils cost less money.

The lower priced lentils 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. 

Another consideration for low-carb diets is the amount of fat. Quinoa provides 1.92 grams of fat per 100 grams cooked and lentils 0.38 grams.

lentils vs quinoa nutrient comparison

Price

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 quinoa 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
Kevin Garce checking the price of organic quinoa in the supermarket
Checking the price of organic quinoa in the Costco supermarket

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, does quinoa taste like lentils?

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 has a mild flavor and is unsweet and not bitter. It has a slightly nutty flavor, and its texture is fluffy and chewy. Quinoa which isn’t rinsed or pre rinsed prior to cooking may taste bitter. Red and black quinoa is chewier than the white colored quinoa.

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 lentils 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, do you prefer the taste of quinoa or lentils?

  • 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.

In the battle of taste lentils was the clear winner in my own taste test and in the poll.

Cooking a hearty lentil soup
Cooking a hearty lentil soup

Cooking Differences

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 Red 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 15 minutes).
  • Let stand 5 minutes then fluff with a fork and serve.
  • Salt or add spices to taste.

How to Cook White 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.

Quinoa cooking tips:

  • Red quinoa 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.

Substitutions

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 as lentils.

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, Millet vs Quinoa: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison.

Glycemic Index

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 quinoa cooked in boiling water for 15 minutes has a glycemic index of 54.
  • White quinoa cooked in boiling water for 15 minutes has a glycemic index of 50.
  • Green lentils boiled have a glycemic index of 37.
  • Lentils, NS, boiled have a glycemic index of 29.

After boiling red quinoa has a glycemic load of 24, white quinoa 23 and lentils 6.

Find out how both of these varieties compared to each other in my article, Red Quinoa vs White Quinoa: What’s The Difference?

Cooking quinoa on the stove top
Cooking quinoa on the stove top

Satiety Index

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 lentils, some grains, oats, rice and a few other filling foods.

Food Satiety Index Score
White bread 100%
Brown rice 132%
White rice 138%
Lentils 133%
Wholemeal Bread 157%
Brown pasta 188%
Oatmeal w/milk 209%

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 for lentils was 133%. This would indicate the satiety for quinoa is slightly higher than the score for lentils.

High satiety foods are likely to have a high satiety score for the following reasons:

  1. High in protein.
  2. High in fiber.
  3. High in volume (foods containing a lot of water or air).
  4. Low in energy density (foods low in calories for their weight).

Find out how these two compared in my article, White Quinoa vs Black Quinoa: What’s The Difference?

a bowl of quinoa
A bowl of quinoa with tomatoes and fruit

Health Benefits

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.

Protein

  • Cooked lentils contain 105% more protein per 100 grams.

Both are a good source of protein. Protein may help benefit the following:

  • Reduce appetite
  • Build and repair muscle
  • Boost metabolism
  • Weight loss

Fiber

  • Cooked lentils contain 182% more fiber per 100 grams.

Both foods are high in soluble fiber, which is helpful for many reasons 8. What makes 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

  • Cooked lentils contain 123% more iron per 100 grams.

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, Barley vs Quinoa: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison.

In the following video, Healthline explains the benefits of quinoa.

B Vitamins

Of the six B vitamins listed below, lentils provide a higher percentage of five of them.

The B vitamins provided include the following:

  1. B1 (thiamin)
  2. B2 (riboflavin)
  3. B3 (niacin)
  4. B5
  5. B6
  6. B9 (folate)

B vitamins help support the following:

  • Digestion.
  • 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

  • Cooked lentils contain 11.8% more calcium per 100 grams.

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

  • Cooked lentils contain 114% more potassium per 100 grams.

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.

Different colored lentil
Different colored lentils

Magnesium

  • Cooked quinoa contains 78% more magnesium per 100 grams.

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:

  • Muscle
  • Insomnia
  • 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

  • Cooked lentils contain 18.4% more phosphorus per 100 grams.

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.

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!

Brown Rice vs Quinoa: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison

Couscous vs Quinoa: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison

Quinoa Vs Oatmeal: Which is Better? Let’s Compare

Organic Lentils vs. Conventional Lentils: Which is Better?

Brown Rice vs White Rice: Which is Better for Bodybuilding?

Legumes vs Nuts: What’s the Difference? A Comparison

Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. USDA: Lentils, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt[]
  2. USDA: Quinoa, cooked[]
  3. The University of Sydney: Your GI Shopping Guide[]
  4. Harvard Health Publishing: Glycemic index for 60+ foods[]
  5. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Know Your Blood Sugar Numbers: Use Them to Manage Your Diabetes[]
  6. National Center for Biotechnology Information: A satiety index of common foods[]
  7. Pub Med: Effect on appetite control of minor cereal and pseudo cereal products[]
  8. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mechanisms linking dietary fiber, gut microbiota and colon cancer prevention[]
  9. 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[]
  10. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[]
  11. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  12. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]
  13. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[]
  14. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[]
  15. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[]

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