If you’re looking for a plant-based starch or side dish to complement your meals — or even to eat as a meal of its own — lentils and pasta are both great options. They’re both cheap, easy to store, and require very little prep. Both even have their fair share of nutritional benefits. However, one is clearly better than the other when it comes to nutrition. In this post we’ll be examining the top 9 reasons why lentils are better than pasta as a plant-based choice.
Green lentils are large, editable, seed-like legumes that grow in pods.
Lentils are primarily grown in India and Canada. They’re most commonly used in Indian cuisine for various dishes, included hulled lentils used to make Daal. In Western cuisine they’re most commonly used a side dish. They can be cooked by boiling and eaten on their own, or used in various soups and stews.
Lentils are widely regarded as a healthy alternative to other starchy sides, like rice and potatoes. These nutritional benefits means that lentils are better than pasta as well.
There’s many different types of lentils, including…
- Green lentils
- French Green Lentils
- Puy Lentils
- Yellow lentils
- Brown lentils
- Black/Beluga lentils
- Red lentils
Each variation is relatively similar in terms of its nutritional breakdown, some do have advantages over others, especially when it comes to protein.
For this comparison we’ll be referencing green lentils, which are the most commonly used variation in Western cuisine.
How To Prepare
Lentils are advantageous over other types of legumes, like beans, because they require far less prep time. Dry lentils can be cooked in as little as 20-30 minutes.
To cook lentils, first rinse 1 cup of green lentils with cold water. Then, add them to a large saucepan with 3 cups of water (you can also use vegetable stock if you’d like.)
Bring the lentils to a boil, then cover the pot, reduce the heat, and let them simmer until they are tender. This will usually take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. Your lentils will have doubled or tripled in size once cooked.
Whole Grain Pasta
Pasta is a starchy noodle product that is made using processed and refined wheat, durum, or semolina flour. Whole grain pasta, on the other hand, uses all three layers of a wheat kernel, including the bran, germ, and endosperm.
The benefit that whole grain pasta provides, as opposed to traditional pasta made with refined flour, is that it tends to contain more fiber, protein, and potassium.
Pasta is traditionally used in Italian dishes. It makes for a great starchy addition to any plant-based diet that will leave you feeling full and satisfied.
How To Prepare
Whole grain pasta is prepared the same way durum or semolina pasta is prepared. The only difference is in the time it takes to cook. Whole grain pasta typically takes an extra 2 to 3 minutes longer to cook.
To cook your pasta, simply fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, place your pasta into the pot, making sure to stir it every couple of minutes so that it doesn’t stick to the pot. Your pasta should be fully cooked within 10 to 15 minutes, but it may take a little longer depending on the quantity being cooked, the type of pasta, and whether you prefer it soft and tender or a little more firm.
Lentils VS Pasta: Nutrition Facts
Determining whether or not lentils are better than pasta boils down to many different factors, including cost, taste preference, ease of prep, which is best for when you’re on-the-go, and more. However, in this post we’re going to focus on the nutritional breakdown of lentils vs pasta to make a determination.
Here’s a comparison of nutrition facts between lentils vs pasta…
|Serving (100 g)||Calories||Protein (g)||Fat (g)||Carbohydrates (g)||Fiber (g)||Net Carbs (g)|
|Whole grain pasta||148||5.95||1.7||29.89||3.9||25.99|
This data was acquired by the United State Department of Agriculture website. Sources are linked in the table.
Why Lentils Are Better Than Pasta
Let’s take a more in-depth look at why it is that lentils are better than pasta in our comparison.
1. Less Calories
According to the nutrition data cited above, green lentils contain less overall calories per 100 gram serving than whole grain pasta does. This means that lentils would be a better choice for anyone looking to reduce their caloric intake, whether it be to manage their weight or their health.
The lower caloric value also means that you get to consume a higher quantity of lentils as opposed to pasta, which could help you feel more full.
2. More Protein
Protein has many practical uses in the body, including (but not limited to) building and repairing muscle tissue. This is especially important if you perform any kind of resistance-based exercise, like weight lifting.
Green lentils contain over 3 more grams of protein per 100 gram serving than whole grain pasta does, making it a great option if you’re looking to add more protein to your diet. Lentils are widely regarded as an excellent source of plant-based protein, making them an essential food item for any plant-based athlete.
3. Less Fat
Experts recommend that most adults consume anywhere from 20% to 35% of their total caloric intake from fat.
Not only do lentils have more protein, but they also have less fat than whole grain pasta does. This makes lentils a better option for anyone looking to reduce their fat intake. It also means that you will have more room in your diet for other fatty foods you may like, such as nuts and avocados.
4. Less Net Carbohydrates
Net carbohydrates is what you get when you subtract the total grams of fiber from the total grams of carbohydrates. Although fiber is counted as a carbohydrate on nutrition labels, your body does not digest fiber the same way that it does other carbs, meaning your body doesn’t react to it in the same way. Because of this, net carbohydrates is a more meaningful metric to pay attention to than overall carbohydrates.
Lentils have slightly less overall carbohydrates than whole grain pasta does, but it also has significantly more fiber, meaning less net carbohydrates. This means that lentils are better than pasta if you’re trying to adhere to a plant-based low carb diet.
5. Higher In Fiber
Dietary fiber aids with digestion and helps you feel more full. A meager 100 gram serving of green lentils packs nearly 8 grams of fiber, whereas a similar serving of pasta only has 4. This makes lentils vs pasta a better option for anyone looking to increase their intake of dietary in order to reap the many benefits that it comes with.
6. Less Processed
Another advantage lentils have over pasta is that they aren’t processed. They are prepared and eaten as a whole food. A whole food is a food in which nothing harmful has been added and nothing beneficial has been taken away. Whole foods are consumed in their natural form, unaltered.
Pasta, on the other hand, is not a whole food. Although the whole grain variety is closer to its natural form than the traditional refined pastas, it’s still not a whole food. There’s a lot of processing that needs to happen in order to make pasta.
7. Double The Iron
If you’re looking to consume more iron, lentils are the better option. Green lentils contain nearly double the iron found in a similar serving size of whole grain pasta.
8. Higher In Potassium
Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte found in the foods we eat. It is responsible for conducting electrical impulses in the body that dictate muscle contractions, blood pressure, water balance, and more.
Lentils are better than pasta if your aim is to reap the benefits of consuming more potassium.
9. Lower In Sodium
Much like potassium, sodium is also a dietary mineral and electrolyte that governs various impulses in the body. If you’re seeking to eliminate sodium from your diet, lentils would be a better choice than pasta. It should be noted though that this can vary by brand of pasta. Different brands of pasta contain different amounts of sodium, so make sure to check your nutrition facts label.
When Pasta Is Better
Although we’ve determined that lentils are better than pasta as far as dietary factors go, pasta may actually be a better fit for you when taking lifestyle and other factors into consideration. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Pasta of many varieties tends to be among the cheapest foods you can eat, meaning pasta would be a sufficient option for you if you’re on a diet and seeking to maximize every dollar.
It’s More Versatile
Since whole grain pasta has a more neutral flavor than lentils do, you’ll be able to use pasta in a wider variety of ways. Pasta can be eaten with tomato sauce, used in salads, soups, stews, and combined with other ingredients and toppings for use as a side dish.
Lentils, on the other hand, have more of a distinct earthy flavor, limiting the types of foods they can be paired with when compared to pasta.
Hopefully this post has provided some clarity as to why it is that lentils are better than pasta as far a nutritional breakdown goes. Both foods are excellent plant-based staples that have a home in any plant-based diet, but one does edge out the other.
If you’re still having trouble determining whether to choose lentils vs pasta than maybe consider getting the best of both worlds by choosing pasta made of lentils!