Brown Lentils vs Red Lentils: Which is More Nutritious?


Green and brown lentils seem very similar to me.

But red lentils always seemed quite different.

Much smaller, and a lighter feeling. They even taste different.

I’m going to go over the different nutritional aspects of brown and red lentils to see if there are actually any major differences besides my perception of them.

Macro Comparison: Brown vs Red Lentils

We’ll start by looking at the main macros for both.

For some reason, there’s no detailed nutritional data for brown lentils in any major food database. So instead, I’m using the nutritional facts on a package of brown lentils I have sitting beside me while writing this.

 Brown LentilsRed Lentils
Serving size1/2 cup (100 g)1/2 cup (100 g)
Fat1.5 g2 g
Carbohydrates61 g63 g
Fiber27 g11 g
Protein24 g 24 g

Almost everything is the same, except the fiber.

Brown lentils have over double the fiber that red lentils do. That would make red lentils better for new vegans having stomach problems.

Besides that, most people eating lentils and legumes get more than enough, so I don’t think this difference is very important.

Vitamins and Minerals: Brown vs Red Lentils

The downside of not having detailed nutritional information is that we can’t fully compare the nutrients in each type of lentil.

On my package of brown lentils, it only shows data for a few nutrients.

This is the best comparison we’ll get:

 Brown LentilsRed Lentils
Serving size1/2 cup (100 g)1/2 cup (100 g)
Vitamin C2% DV3% DV
Calcium4% DV5% DV
Iron50% DV41% DV
MagnesiumN/A15% DV
PotassiumN/A20% DV
ZincN/A23% DV

Of the nutrients that we have complete data for, brown lentils have slightly less vitamin C and calcium, but more iron.

Since lentils are one of the best vegan sources for iron, it’s the reason a lot of people eat them. It’s probably the most important nutrient here.

Brown lentils definitely have magnesium, potassium, and zinc, the package just doesn’t provide that data for some reason. It’s likely similar to the levels found in red lentils, but we can’t say for sure if it’s better or worse.

Do Brown or Red Lentils Win?

I wouldn’t say there’s a clear winner, especially since we don’t have complete data.

However, we can say that brown lentils and red lentils are both very similar from a nutrition standpoint.

Brown lentils have much more fiber, which may be something you want to add to your diet. They also have more iron, which is almost always a good thing to get more of.

For the most part though, unless one of those specific reasons are very important to you, I’d say just to mix it up or eat the ones you enjoy the most.

I think the more interesting comparison at this point is lentils vs beans (other legumes).

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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