You Should Never Eat Raw Lentils. Here's Why

Lentils are packed with protein, are high in fiber, and can be pretty easy and straightforward to cook. However, if you aren't one to plan out your meals and prep in advance, cooking lentils can seem like a drag and you might find yourself skimming the internet to see if tossing a handful of lentils to your salad and eating them raw could fly. However, according to Cooking Light, eating raw lentils may not be the best idea.

While lentils are packed with health benefits, raw lentils contain lectin. Lectin is a type of protein that binds to your gut wall, making it very difficult for the human body to digest (as per Healthline). When consumed in a large amount, lectin can actually damage your gut wall and cause symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.

But there's good news! Unlike kidney beans, lentils contain a much lower level of lectin, and there are many ways to neutralize it correctly to make lentils safe to eat.

How to cook lentils

The FDA suggests that while legumes like kidney beans contain between 20,000 and 70,000 hau (hau being the unit of toxic measure), raw lentils have a far lower amount of lectin that is somewhere between 513 and 617 hau. Lectin is also sensitive to heat so when cooked properly, the lectin in raw lentils can be easily broken down and made digestible. 

Unlike kidney beans that require overnight soaking to break down the lectin properly, when it comes to raw lentils, you can go right ahead and put your pot on the stove with some water. Cooking Light suggests rinsing the lentils thoroughly and going by a 3:1 ratio of water to lentils (for example, 3 cups of water for every 1 cup of lentils) and then letting them simmer until tender. 

To be on the safe side, soaking your raw lentils first will cause no harm. If you have time on your hands, soaking them for a little could make them easier to digest. As a bonus, soaking lentils will also reduce your cooking time! But whether you soak or not, the next time you're tempted to consider eating raw lentils, just go ahead and cook them first.