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Are Lentils Gluten Free?

Are Lentils Gluten Free? 

Lentils are a starchy carbohydrate that are high in protein and fiber. Many people adopting a gluten free diet wonder, are lentils gluten free? 

This article will explore this question. While there are nuances in eating lentils on a gluten free diet, here’s the bottom line:

  • Lentils are naturally gluten free, but there are things to look out for when shopping for lentils or eating prepared lentils.
  • Lentils are high in fiber, but their lectins or “antinutrients” can also cause issues for certain people. 

So how can you ensure your lentils are 100% safe for your diet? This article will help you learn how to safely eat lentils.

What is Gluten?

Before we get into the discussion on whether lentils are gluten free, here is a refresher on gluten and celiac disease to provide some context to our conversation. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which your immune system perceives gluten as an invader. This causes your body to launch an immune response that causes inflammation and damage to the villi in your small intestines causing malabsorption, malnutrition, and other health related issues. 

Those who have celiac disease need to avoid gluten. Gluten is often defined as a type of protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and other grains. However, we know that gluten protein can be found in ALL grains. Common foods containing gluten include pasta, bread, baked goods, and beer. If you think you have gluten intolerance, you can take our sensitivity test to learn more!

What are Lentils?

Lentils are a member of the legume family. They look like small beans and grow in pods, similar to peas. There are a wide variety of colors of lentils, including red, brown, black, and green. Each variety tastes quite similar, with very slightly different flavor profiles. 

Lentils are generally inexpensive and relatively quick and easy to prepare, making them an appealing option for people in many different countries and cultures.

Lentils are high in fiber, which can support digestion. Since fiber consumption can decrease when first adopting a gluten free diet, due to cutting out grains, lentils can be a good addition to a gluten free diet. Whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are other good sources of fiber. 

Lentils and Cross Contact / Cross Contamination

As with many foods, those with celiac disease should be aware that cross contact or cross contamination is a real concern with lentils. Lentils may come into contact with wheat, barley, or rye while being grown, harvested, packaged, or stored.

In fact, one study looked at the occurrence of gluten cross contact in lentils. It analyzed 25 bags of different dry lentil products purchased online and at various grocery stores. Each bag of lentils was individually hand sorted and evaluated. Two of the 25 packages of lentils contained errant gluten-containing grains.

Another study in Italy looked at a total of 200 commercially available gluten-free products (including both naturally and certified gluten-free products). The products were randomly collected from different Italian supermarkets and their gluten content was determined by the R5 ELISA Kit. A level of 20 ppm is not allowed to be considered gluten free, and this analysis showed that that gluten level was higher than 20 ppm in 18 of the products (that’s 9% of the food samples!). The most commonly contaminated product types included those with oats, buckwheat, and lentils. 

In addition, it is always important to check the ingredients list on your lentils before purchasing to ensure there are no added ingredients, and to check for a certified gluten free designation. 

Lentil Pastas 

Lentil pastas can be an alternative to traditional grain based pastas and used to make hearty and nutritious dishes like our Classic Pasta Salad.

Be sure to look for brands that use organic lentils, as lentils are heavily contaminated with pesticides. Check the label to ensure that the only ingredient is lentils. Many brands add brown rice flour, pea protein, and other ingredients that may not be gluten free or well tolerated. We like the brand Tolerant as it is organic, certified gluten free, and contains just red or green lentils as an ingredient. They offer several different pasta styles, including shapes that can be fun for kids. 

Some with Gluten Issues Have a Hard Time When Consuming Lentils

Lentils are high in fiber, which can support digestion. Since fiber consumption can decrease when first adopting a gluten free diet, due to cutting out grains, lentils can be a good addition to a gluten free diet. Whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are other good sources of fiber. 

However, lentils contain lectins and phytates, which are considered anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients  are just the opposite of nutrients – they can block the absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. 

Antinutrients can also be difficult to digest. They are present in many plants as a defense mechanism for the plant, but the same features that lectins and phytates use to defend plants in nature can create problems during human digestion.  Due to their anti-nutrient status and the difficulty that they can cause in digestion, lectins and phytates can contribute to inflammation in the gut as well as malnutrition for some people. 

Lectins are proteins that bind to carbohydrates that are found in beans, peanuts, lentils, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, wheat, and other grains. Lectins can interfere with the absorption of calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. Lectins are not broken down in the gut and are stable in acidic environments.

Phytates are the stored form of phosphorus found in seeds, nuts, legumes, and unprocessed whole grains. Research has shown that phytic acid acts as a “food inhibitor” that prevents certain micronutrients (namely iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium) from being absorbed by humans, as we lack the enzyme (phytase) needed to digest it in our digestive tract. 

Cooking does not help break down antinutrients, so is there any way to prepare lentils and other foods that contain antinutrients to improve digestibility? In fact, there is! Soaking and sprouting lentils and other legumes neutralizes phytic acid and improves the bioavailability of nutrients. 

The Bottom Line

While lentils are naturally gluten free, it is important to be careful about their source and preparation to avoid cross contamination. In addition, lentils can be difficult to digest and may contribute to inflammation in some. If you are new to the gluten free diet or working on a gut healing protocol, it might be best to avoid lentils until your gut is fully repaired and your nutritional status is no longer compromised.

Lentils can be a healthy addition to your gluten free diet, provided they are certified gluten free and not cross contaminated. If you experience digestive discomfort from eating lentils, try soaking or sprouting them prior to eating, or simply avoid eating them until your gut has had more time to fully heal.

Did you find this article helpful? Learn more about gluten substitutes and best practices on 

maintaining your gluten free diet by connecting with Gluten Free Society.

10 Responses

  1. Omg if I tell my wife no tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant im in trouble!
    I ate eggplant and tomato last two days no immediate body response?

    1. Not everyone has these sensitives alongside gluten problems. Also peeling Aubergine helps and also soaking tomatoes to remove the skins is also helpful. some need the seeds removed from tomatoes. likely it is only a sensitively and when the gut is healed these foods can usually be consumed. Also Lentils can work for some with gluten problems.. soaking for 24 hours and cooking for the day does help but also the addition of fresh ginger also added into lentils helps reduce any inflammation.

  2. I have used a pressure cooker or instant pot on lentils, beans, nightshades
    And Indian basmati rice with great results. But caution on the side of once
    Or twice a month consumption, per Dr. Gundry plant paradox.
    I am grain, egg, dairy and vegan but do eat fish and could not eat any of the above without intestinal issues until using the insta pot.

  3. Thank for this wonderful info. Was aware of some but not all. Just signed up to receive Tolerant’s newsletters and recipes. Very excited, thanks Dr. Osborne!

  4. Very useful information dr, Osborne, This is me on top of all no lentils and no chocolate! I have suspected this but was in denial. Thank you for confirmation

  5. I have been gluten free for 7 months now because of digestive issues and just tried lentils for the first time today and feeling the same as I did eating gluten. So happy to see all the comments about soaking them for 24 hrs. before cooking. So happy to see this article in my inbox today because I desperately needed the information. Thank you Dr. Osborn!!

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