On the ketogenic diet the goal is to keep your carbohydrate intake low enough. What about lentils, are they keto-friendly or not?
Lentils are lens-shaped legumes that come in a variety of colors. You can eat them boiled on their own, as the main ingredient in soup, or as an ingredient in dishes like salads.
The net amount of carbs, which comes down to total carbs minus carbs from fiber, in boiled lentils is around 12.2 grams per 100 grams.
While it depends on the rest of your diet, for most people lentils are not very keto-friendly. They are not completely off-limits but you will have to exercise some portion control.
In any case, there are many substitutes for lentils that are better for staying in ketosis.
When is a food keto-friendly
The goal of the ketogenic diet is to put your body into ketosis, a state where it starts mainly burning fat as a fuel (1). This comes down to more or less getting 55%-60% of your macronutrients from fat, 30%-35% from protein, and 5%-10% from carbohydrates.
For most people this comes down to eating around 20g – 50g of carbohydrates a day.
In reality, this number is different depending on a lot of factors. For example, people who exercise a lot may be able to consume more carbohydrates before getting kicked out of ketosis.
That being said that daily amount can be a good general guideline.
It is also common to exclude fiber from this amount since it doesn’t get absorbed into your body the same way as regular carbohydrates.
Carbs in lentils
100 grams of boiled lentils contains the following amounts of carbs (2):
- Total carbs: 20.1 grams
- Of which fiber: 7.9 grams
- Net carbs: 12.2 grams
Combined with the other foods in your diet the 12.2 grams of net carbs in 100 grams of boiled lentils is likely enough to kick you out of ketosis.
One ounce of lentils is about 28 grams and contains the following amounts of carbs:
- Total carbs: 5.6 grams
- Of which fiber: 2.2 grams
- Net carbs: 3.4 grams
The number of net carbs in 1 ounce of boiled lentils, 3.4 grams, is a bit easier to fit into a keto diet. Whether or not lentils are keto for you ultimately depends on how many lentils you have in mind, your individual situation, and the rest of your diet.
Other nutrients in lentils
Other nutrients like fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals also still matter on the ketogenic diet.
100 grams of boiled lentils contains the following nutrients (2):
- Calories: 116
- Protein: 9 grams
- Carbs: 20.1 grams
- Part of the carbs that is fiber: 7.9 grams
- Fat: 0.4 grams
- Folate: 45% of the DV (Daily Value)
- Manganese: 25% of the DV
- Iron: 19% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 18% of the DV
- Copper: 13% of the DV
And some other vitamins and minerals in smaller amounts.
Lentils are slightly higher in net carbs but they do contain nice amounts of valuable nutrients per 100 grams compared to many other foods.
How to avoid eating too many lentils
By now it is clear that to be able to fit lentils in your keto diet, you will have to exercise some portion control. Preparing a big pot of lentils and hoping that you don’t eat too many is not the ideal way to do this.
You can avoid eating too many lentils with some of the following tips:
- Plan ahead, how many grams of lentils will you eat?
- Put the planned amount on a plate and leave the rest out of sight
- Don’t eat during other activities like watching TV
- Consider not buying lentils if you crave them too much
If you notice you get out of ketosis you may need to reduce the quantity of lentils you eat.
Substitutes for lentils on keto
Lentils are not the only option when you want to eat legumes on the ketogenic diet. Lentils are not the highest in net carbs but there are a few more keto-friendly legumes.
- Soybeans: 3.9 grams of net carbs
- Lupins: 7.1 grams of net carbs
- Peanuts: 7.6 grams of net carbs
- Green peas: 8.6 grams of net carbs
- Mung beans: 11.6 grams of net carbs
If you have trouble staying in ketosis but still have cravings for legumes it may be smart to choose some of these substitutes over lentils. However, even with these examples you will have to exercise portion control to stay in ketosis.
What is your goal with keto?
Even a small amount of lentils added to certain daily diets can potentially put you just over the net carbs border, out of ketosis. Depending on the goal you have with keto this may or may not be a problem.
If your goal is to stay strictly in ketosis 24/7 you want to be careful about your carbohydrate intake.
If your goal is to lose weight and become healthier, lentils can be a good food option even if they potentially put you at a carbohydrate level slightly above your ketosis level.