Plant proteins are very appealing for health but often fall short in amino acids except for one little plant called water lentils [R].
Water lentils contain ALL the essential amino acids.
In addition to being a complete protein source, water lentils are also free of lectins and allergens. They may also be one of the most sustainable food options out there.
Learn about the health benefits of water lentils, how they compare to green, red, and brown lentils, recipes, and more in this post.
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What are water lentils?
Water lentils truly aren’t a lentil at all; they are small flowering aquatic plants also known as Lemnoideae. This is a family of plants that includes both Lemna and Wolffiaor Duckweed. They are freshwater plants that grow best in warm temperatures.
Water lentils are so much MORE than legumes for your health too. They are suitable for people on an autoimmune protocol because they are lectin-free. Bonus: the nutrients in water lentils are likely MUCH better absorbed than in standard lentils. I will explain more below.
Water lentils are also commonly known as Lemna, duckweed, and man kai. Though sometimes confused with being part of the lentil family, Lentein® chose to call these little plant water lentils because it is the most common translation of the word. They can also be called lentille d’eau, wasserlinse, lenteja de agua, and water linze.
How are water lentils eaten?
Water lentils are eaten as part of a healthy diet in various Asian countries and can be used in salads, curries, stir fry dishes, and more. They taste a lot like watercress. You can also buy water lentils in supplemental brands and trademark called Lentein®.
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Water lentils nutrition
Water lentils are very nutritious compared to many foods, including most legumes and lentils.
Unlike most plants, water lentils are such a high-quality protein that they are similar in amino acid profile to whey protein powder [R].
This is rare and unheard of among plant-based proteins! Water lentils contain all of the essential amino acids.
A nutrient-rich food and allergen-free food, water lentils also contain many vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, healthy fatty acids like omega 3 fats, and antioxidants.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) statement for water lentils. They also submitted a No Objection Letter for LENTEIN® plant protein [R]. This means that water lentils pose no health threats and are safe for all to eat. They meet standards for food safety.
Comparison of water lentils to regular lentils
Water lentils contain a higher amount of some key nutrients and antioxidants than your typical green lentil, red lentil, or brown lentil [R]. How much more?
- Double the iron
- Almost double the protein
- Complete amino acid profile
- A hundred times more omega 3’s per 100 grams
- 3 times as much fiber
- 5 times more lutein
Based on these facts, one could consider water lentils a superfood. These nutrients also will likely absorb better because water lentils do not contain lectin [R].
Phytates also bind nutrients, and they are also known as antinutrients.
While legumes contain phytates, water lentils contain minimal amounts of phytates. It is always possible to soak, ferment, and cook legumes to help reduce most phytates in your lentils and legumes.
Plant-based vitamin B12?
Water lentils are now identified as one of the only bio-available plant sources of vitamin B12, according to Parabel. While I haven’t yet seen the quantity of vitamin B12, this is a hopeful area for a plant-sourced vitamin B12.
Water lentils do not contain any lectins. This is why they may be very useful for people with digestive issues, such as leaky gut, or for autoimmune issues.
Comparison of amino acids
Plant proteins, especially legumes like soy and other beans, lack adequate essential amino acids in order to be a complete and quality protein.
These amino acids include methionine, cysteine, and tryptophan [R]. In contrast, water lentils are a fantastic source of all essential amino acids.
Water lentils have almost double the number of standard lentils per calorie of the following essential amino acids [R]:
Water lentils contain equal amounts of tryptophan to food sources like soy protein and more tryptophan than pea proteins. Water lentil amino acid score is higher than any source of plant protein [R]. Water lentils contain equal or more amino acids of all types than red lentils for the following amino acids, including branch-chain amino acids [R] [R]:
- Glutamic acid
Methionine is an important amino acid that is rich in sulfur to help support healthy mineral nutrition in the body. Vegan diets tend to fall short in methionine. Why? Foods high in methionine are almost exclusively from animals.
One exception exists: water lentils boast 1.3 grams of methionine per 100 grams. In contrast, beef has around 1.1 grams of methionine per 100 grams. Sesame seeds or hemp seeds contain around 0.8 grams of methionine per 100 grams as some of the next closest plant sources of methionine.
Are water lentils keto?
Water lentils have zero net carbs.
All of the carbohydrate content in water lentils are from fiber, which does not turn to sugar in your blood.
In contrast, red lentils and green lentils are not on your keto food list.
Keto diets are not for everyone, but they can be supportive for many health conditions, including seizures, managing diabetes, helping with weight loss, inflammation, and supporting healthy mitochondria [R].
Water lentils are also great on a Mito Food Plan because they support healthy, energy-burning mitochondria [R].
Water lentils are sustainable food
Growing water lentils is a very sustainable process. According to Sustain Web, a sustainable food definition is not a singular term, but almost always includes the following: Food should be produced, processed, distributed, and disposed of in ways that:
- Help make thriving local economy and lives
- Protect plant and animal diversity and welfare
- Avoid destroying natural resources
- Provide quality food that is safe and healthy
Lectins in plants
Plants have an amazing ability to protect themselves from pests and also from animals that might want to eat them. A protective compound (for themselves) that plants make is called lectins.
Lectins are a type of protein that can bind to carbohydrates and sugars in the digestive tract. From there, they can have either positive or negative effects. This protein is found in about a third of the foods on the planet and is especially high in foods like [R]:
- kidney beans
- black beans
- green, red, or brown lentils
Lectins can help with normal functions in the body and may even help prevent cancer[R] However, lectins, in large amounts, have binding properties that can cause [R]:
- nutrient deficiencies
- poor digestion
- cause severe intestinal damage
- leaky gut
- immune reactions
Lectin free water lentils
Compounds like lectins can make vegetarian and vegan diets challenging, but water lentils are free of these compounds.
Aquatic plants like water lentils do not contain any lectins, so are very useful for people who suffer from a leaky gut or autoimmune issues. They fit quite nicely into an autoimmune protocol or AIP recipes. This is why I believe that water lentils make the best non-dairy protein powders out there.
Another great aquatic plant to try on a low lectin diet is called chlorella. Low lectin diets and lectin-free diets became popular with Dr. Gundry and his Plant Paradox book over the last few years.
While research remains early on the topics of the effects of lectins and health, it is likely that some people have lectin sensitivities and should limit them. You may want to read more about the Plant Paradox here.
Are water lentils eco-friendly?
Water lentils are completely carbon neutral and the harvesters are able to recycle the use of 98 percent of the water it uses for production [R]. This is because Parabel uses sustainable water technology. They reclaim unusable cropland as well. The water lentil plants also help prevent evaporation and the water can be used over and over.
The food industry needs more water-sustainable foods. Why? A pound of almonds requires 1900 pounds of water for production [R]! Raising chickens, sheep, and beef can range between 4300-15,000 pounds of water per pound of production [R]. A pound of green lentils takes 705 lbs of water.
Water lentils require almost no water at all other than their own weight. Water lentils can be harvested every day because they multiply so rapidly. No pesticides are used and they are GMO-free.
Experts estimate that in the next 30 years, 70% more food will be required to support the human population of this planet. Water lentils will most definitely be part of the solution. All water lentils need to grow is water and sunshine. That’s it.
Water lentil harvest captures 100% of the plant too, which means nothing is wasted [R]. They also double their mass in 24-36 hours, making them super-efficient and save a lot of space for harvest. As a plant protein, water lentils are the most efficient and sustainable out there.
Lentein® water lentils are grown in a controlled environment, large aqua ponds, so they do not risk being exposed to heavy metals or toxins like those in the wild often are, such as those found in Southeast Asia.
Water lentils→negligible water requirement Lentils→700 lbs water per pound of lentils
Almonds→1900 lbs of water per pound Chicken, sheep, beef→4,300-15,000 lbs of water per pound (although much goes back into the ground).
Where to buy water lentils
You can buy sustainable and pure water lentils as vegan meal replacement shakes on Amazon.
Water Lentils Review
I’ve tried a LOT of vegan meal replacement shakes and protein powders, including collagen protein powder, egg protein powder, whey protein powders (many!), vegan protein powders (several), and now I’ve tried water lentil protein powder.
Are you a fan of protein shakes? Me too! This is because I can really easily get in some extra vegetables and protein into my day without really thinking much about it. Water lentils is, in my opinion, top-notch in the protein powder category. Why? It is:
- Mixes in easily
- Does not create sediment at the bottom
- Did I say mild?
- Tastes clean
- Tastes good!
Water Lentils is NOT:
- Gritty like most whey protein powders and some vegan protein powders
- Bitter like artificially-sweetened protein powders
- Foamy like egg protein powders
- Pasty at the bottom like most protein powders
If you didn’t see the color green, you probably wouldn’t know it is green! This means there is no bitterness or aftertaste either. I almost couldn’t tell it was green at all. I can honestly say it is the only protein powder I have tried that doesn’t settle at the bottom, too, making each sip uniform.
While I am not a vegan, I do like vegan protein powders. This one is great for being what a protein powder should be: clean and smooth. For a vegan protein powder recipe, this may be the very easiest: I took 1 cup cashew milk, unsweetened, 1 scoop Water Lentils, 1 ripe banana, and 4 ice cubes. I blended this together literally in seconds. Delicious!
Water lentils are a superfood plant protein that contains all the essential amino acids and so they qualify as the best vegan meal replacement shakes. They are also one of the best food sources of lutein out there and are perfect for a keto diet plan, a mito food plan, and a low lectin diet. Try adding water lentils to your favorite recipes to increase the fiber, antioxidants, protein, omega 3’s, iron, and zinc content.
These nutritious vegetables are great for your vegan protein powder recipes and are undoubtedly going to be a big part of the sustainable food options of the future.
Water lentil milk is also slated to hit the market soon, so stay tuned.
32 thoughts on “Are Water Lentils the Best Vegan Protein?”
So interesting! Thank you for such detailed and helpful information.
Thank you so much, Kara!
Wow, I haven’t been very familiar with water lentils but they’re fascinating and I would love to try some!
Hi Lindsey, thanks for reading my post! If you would like them, make sure to click on the link within to save 20% using code HealthyRD
Woah! I’ve never heard of this plant before. Thanks for sharing this interesting information.
Thanks for reading my post! Yes, they are fascinating!
Haven’t used these yet! Thanks for the info
Thanks for reading my post, Kelly!
I had never heard of water lentils before! How fascinating!
Thanks for reading my post, Amy!
I’ve never even heard of these – interesting! Thanks for the very thorough breakdown of what to do with them and why they’re beneficial.
I hope you love them like I do! So sustainable AND nutritious:) Heidi
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Wow, I’ve never heard of these, but how cool! Definitely need to try now!
Thanks! Yes, I think they are probably one of the healthiest foods that have yet to be discovered:) Heidi
Thank you, I had never heard of these!
Thank you for stopping by my page, Melissa! Kind regards, Heidi
Such an interesting topic – and thoroughly researched and written about here! I definitely need to try these out!
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This blog about Water Lentils: Health Benefits and Low Lectin Recipes – helps me a lot in my diet.
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Thankyou . I think.it helps with my skin.condittion too..
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