A healthy diet is essential for a healthy life. Our bodies need a wide variety of nutrients to lead a healthy and active life. According to our ancient Indian science, Ayurveda, traditional Indian food provides us with essential minerals and nutrients. As a result, it is good for our bodies. Healthy and balanced Indian food includes several foods such as beans, grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, and other dairy products. These foods provide us with ample fibre, fat, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals essential for meeting daily nutrient requirements.
Pulses and legumes are essential ingredients of traditional Indian food that contain many vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, folate, phosphorus, and magnesium. In addition, they are a great source of low-fat protein, which is beneficial for leading a healthy and disease-free life.
Pulses are a powerhouse of nutrition. However, it is necessary to prepare them correctly and combine them with certain foods in the right proportion to get the maximum nutritional benefits.
Let us read more about the best ways to use pulses to reap maximum benefits.
Pulses: An Overview
Pulses are a kind of edible seeds of plants, which come in various colours, shapes, and sizes. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), there are more than 20 types of pulses like dry beans, broad dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas, cowpeas, pigeon peas, lentils, etc.
Many studies and nutritionists suggest relying on pulses for our protein requirements. Their protein is 2 to 3 times the protein found in rice, wheat, oats, corn, barley, and quinoa. For example, eating half a bowl of lentils will provide the same protein as two bowls of rice or one bowl of quinoa. In addition, compared to other sources, pulses are more sustainable at an affordable price.
The key to eating healthy is to consume the right food at the right time and in the correct manner. Otherwise, it can lead to some adverse health effects. In the case of pulses and legumes, it is no different. Eating them right will maximise their benefits and prevent us from adverse effects.
Nutritional Properties of Pulses and Legumes
The nutritional value of pulses and legumes depends on their type. For example:
100 grams of Kidney Beans (Rajma) have approximately:
- Energy: 127 kCal
- Protein: 8.7 g
- Carbohydrates: 22.8 g
- Fibre: 7.4 g
- Fat: 0.5 g
- Calcium: 28 mg
- Folate: 130 mcg
- Iron: 2.94 mg
- Potassium: 403 mg
- Magnesium: 45 mg
- Phosphorus: 142 mg
100 grams of Lentils (dal) has approximately:
- Energy: 352 kCal
- Protein: 24.4 grams
- Fibre: 10.7 grams
- Fat: 1.06 g
- Folate: 479 mcg
- Iron: 6.51 mg
- Potassium: 677 mg
- Magnesium: 47 mg
- Phosphorus: 281 mg
100 grams of Chickpeas(Chana) has approximately:
- Energy: 164 kCal
- Protein: 8.86 g
- Carbohydrates: 27.4 g
- Fibre: 7.6 g
- Fat: 0.5 g
- Folate: 172 mcg
- Iron: 2.89 mg
- Potassium: 248 mg
- Magnesium: 48 mg
- Phosphorus: 168 mg
100 grams of Peas (Matar) has approximately:
- Energy: 81 kCal
- Protein: 5.42 g
- Carbohydrates: 14.4 g
- Fibre: 5.7 g
- Fat: 0.4 g
- Folate: 65 mcg
- Iron: 1.47 mg
- Potassium: 244 mg
- Magnesium: 33 mg
- Phosphorus: 108 mg
The Rules of Eating Pulses to Reap Maximum Benefits
Pulses have abundant protein, fibres, minerals, and many vitamins, essential for meeting the daily nutrient requirement for leading a healthy life. As per Ayurveda, pulses are an integral part of a balanced diet, which builds all seven types of Dhatus: Plasma, muscle, bone, fat, nerves, blood, and reproductive tissue. Both veg and non-veg diets can include pulses.
The pulses have antioxidants which prevent the effects of free oxygen radicals that can cause chronic diseases like cancer and heart failure. In addition, studies indicate that pulse consumption improves satiety and helps in weight management by reducing food intake and reducing the risk of obesity. Again, this reduced food intake helps lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart failure.
There are three rules for eating pulses that one should follow to reap maximum benefits without letting the anti-nutrients take over. The rules are:
Rule 1: Soak and sprout before cooking them
Rule 2: Use the correct ratio of pulses and grains or pulses and millets
Rule 3: Have at least five types of pulses/legumes every week
Rule 1: Soak and sprout before cooking them
Besides having many proteins, minerals, and vitamins, pulses also contain anti-nutrients. These anti-nutrients mainly cause bloating, indigestion, and gas in many people, which is like a roadblock to a good healthy life. Therefore, always soak and sprout the pulses before cooking them.
Pulses contain anti-nutrients that come in the way of nutrient assimilation. Soaking and sprouting also help in assimilating the amino acids present in them, reducing anti-nutrients and enhancing the effect of proteins and micronutrients in pulses and legumes. In addition, it allows the optimum function of enzymes for breaking them down.
Rule 2: Use the correct ratio of pulses and grains or pulses and millets
As we know, the amount we consume also plays a vital role in a healthy diet. Excessiveness or lack of ness may cause a lot of problems. So, it is indispensable to maintain the correct ratio of pulses and grains or pulses and millets. Mixing the pulses with grain or millets improves their essential and non-essential amino acids ratio. This mixing is because pulses and legumes lack an amino acid called methionine, and grains lack lysine. Lysine is present in pulses; however, it cannot ultimately carry out its functions. Without other amino acids like methionine, it cannot ultimately carry out its tasks. Thus, the combination of pulses with grains and legumes helps prevent greying, strengthen the bones, improve bone mass, and enhance the body’s immunity by accelerating the growth of antibodies when under attack.
Rule 3: Have at least five pulses/legumes every week.
India is a rich source of pulses; it has approximately more than sixty-five thousand varieties of pulses and legumes. To optimise the intake of all nutrients present in pulses and legumes, one should eat at least five types of pulses every week and in 5 different ways every month. So, five different styles in a week can be in different ways. In addition, other dishes like dal, idli, papad, laddoo, halwa, pickle, dosa, etc., ensure that we get the diet diversity needed for healthy gut bacteria.
Soaking Pulses and Legumes: The Importance
Pulses and legumes have been consumed mainly because of nutrition, and soaking them improves digestion and nutrition absorption. So if we want to extract optimum nutrition from pulses and legumes, soaking is the best option we have.
Studies show that soaking lentils before cooking eliminates phytic acid and tannins. Everyone calls them anti-nutrients because it binds to specific proteins and minerals. For example, iron, zinc, and calcium reduce their ability to be absorbed in our bodies.
The soaking process also removes the gas-producing compounds responsible for bloating. Also, most legumes contain complex oligosaccharides, a type of complex sugar. Therefore, most people feel bloated and have gastric trouble after eating rich legumes like rajma. This complex sugar content will reduce post-soaking, saving us from gaseous problems.
Some research also demonstrated that soaking pulses can activate an amylase compound that breaks down complex starch in pulses and makes them easier to digest. And the most apparent reason for soaking dals is that it reduces their cooking time.
How to Soak Pulses and Legumes
At first, collect the dal in a bowl and wash it with water. Then change the water 3-4 times and rewash it gently by rubbing it with fingers. Another way of cleansing the dal is by placing it in a colander and passing it with running water. After rinsing correctly, add the dal to a bowl filled with water and leave it soaked for about 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the variety of daal.
Usually, you can soak masoor, urad, and arhar dal can soak split pulses like masoor daal, urad daal, and arhar dal for 30 minutes or 1 hour. However, it would help if you soaked whole pulses such as chickpeas (chana), peas (matar), cowpeas (lobia), kidney beans (rajma), etc., for straight 2 to 6 hours. Also, soaking breaks down the complex carbs and reduces cooking time. After soaking, again wash 3-4 times before using.
Health Benefits of Pulses
Pulse and legumes offer a wide variety of health benefits. Those are:
Help control obesity
Pulses are rich in protein and fibre and low in fat. So they can help you feel fuller longer. Studies showed those who added pulses in their daily lives (about a half-cup a day) or who ate the pulses lost four times more weight than those who ate the least.
Help control diabetes
Studies show that consuming pulses frequently will prevent type 2 diabetes. Other studies also show that for diabetic people, daily use of pulses improves their glycemic and lipid control. Pulses are beneficial for diabetic patients because of their high fibre content and low glycemic index. These nutritional qualities help maintain healthy blood glucose and insulin levels.
Lower blood pressure and cholesterol and maintain heart health
Studies show that it also helps maintain lower blood pressure and cholesterol, which leads to a healthy life. Other studies also show that pulses are a heart-healthy food choice. It will help reduce blood pressure, maintain body weight, and lower cholesterol, all risk factors for heart disease.
Reduce the risk of chronic diseases
Pulses manage the sugar levels in diabetes as they do not elevate blood sugar levels, unlike sugary or starchy foods with low fibre contents. In addition, pulses contain phytochemicals, saponins, and tannins and have antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic effects. This Research suggests that pulses may have significant anti-cancer effects.
Contribute to gut health
Studies show that pulses are a source of prebiotic fibre. In addition, it is the preferred food for our gut bacteria which contributes to good gut health.
Adverse Effects of Unsoaked Pulses and Legumes
Dry and unsoaked pulses and legumes can be used to prepare various dishes and do not generally pose any severe health risks. But they can cause embarrassing conditions, such as gastrointestinal problems like bloating, farting, and acidity.
How to use them
Pulses and legumes are highly versatile. They can be cooked and used in multiple ways. For example, you can toss them onto salads or pasta, fill in tacos, and ground them to make hummus. Also, after soaking and blending, they can be used to prepare dal, make idli or dosa, and even be used as flour to make papad, laddoo, halwa etc.
Pulses or legumes are also preferable in swapping some dishes for leading a tasty and healthy life. Some of them include:
1. Sandwich Spread: The mayonnaise is easily replaceable with chickpea hummus in the sandwich spread. It will lead to the consumption of less fat, more fibre, and more protein.
2. Lasagna: Swap cheese with pureed white beans. The benefit of swapping is few calories, less fat, and more fibre.
3. Burgers: You can switch the burger’s potato tikki or the non-vegetarian filling with mashed pinto beans. The benefit of swapping is few calories, less fat, less saturated fat, and more fibre.
4. Mac N’ Cheese: Replace the cheese sauce with yellow split pea puree. It will have the benefit of less fat and more fibre in comparison to the cheese sauce.
5. Brownies: Use black beans pureed instead of refined white flour. The benefit of swapping is more fibre and more protein.
6. Chocolate Chip Cookies: Use red lentil puree instead of oil. It will have the benefit of more fibre and more protein.
Pulses have many benefits, and they come in a wide variety. They are relatively inexpensive and sustainable in comparison to other sources of protein like meat. Due to their versatility, you can use pulses for everything, from dips and smoothies to main dishes to desserts. Their neutral flavour makes them versatile to blend well with other ingredients and pair easily with various seasonings.
They provide immense strength to the body because of the antioxidants and nutrients. As a result, they help avoid chronic diseases and even control diabetes. Moreover, they are suitable for the planet. It has a low carbon footprint and uses significantly less water than other foods.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1. Which is the best time for eating pulses?
A. You can eat pulses anytime since pulses are rich in protein and are a complex and complete food. However, it is better to have it with breakfast and lunch. Dinner is preferable to be light so that one can take pulses with salads.
Q2. How do you eat pulses?
A. Pulses can be soaked and sprouted before cooking. You can have pulses with salads or pasta. You can add it to your meal via a filling in tacos, or as a smoothie, or prepare it as dal, idli, dosa, papad, laddoo, halwa, soups, etc.
Q3. How many pulses should I eat per day?
A. On average, half a cup (100 g) of pulses will likely be an appropriate amount to recommend for people to try and consume to get the nutritional benefits of protein intake.
Q4. Can I eat pulse at night?
A. There is no hard and fast rule about not consuming pulses at night. However, it will be good to consume pulses within 2 hours before lying down to sleep.
Q5. How long does it take to digest pulses?
A. Pulses take about 2-3 hours (on average, approximately 120 minutes) to digest, including black beans, chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, and soybeans.
Q6. Which dal does not cause gas?
A. Moong Dal is the safest, which will not cause gas. The most negligible gassy pulses include split yellow pigeon peas, yellow dal, black lentils, mung beans, and adzuki beans. If you soak pulses or lentils before cooking, it will aid in reducing indigestion and gas problems.
Q7. What do you eat with pulses?
A. You can eat pulses with grains or millets but balance the pulse-grain & pulse-millet ratio properly. You can use pulses to make dal, idli, dosa, papad, laddoo, halwa, etc.
Q8. Which pulses are good for health?
A. Pulses or legumes have several health benefits, including reducing cholesterol, decreasing blood sugar levels, and increasing healthy gut bacteria. Mung beans, Chickpeas, lentils, peas, kidney beans, black beans, soybeans, pinto beans, and navy beans are standard lentils suitable for health.
Q9. Does dal make you fat?
A. No, pulse consumption does not increase weight. That is because pulses have more fibre and less fat and carbohydrate, which help maintain healthy body weight.
Q10. Which Dal has the highest protein content?
A. Moong dal has the highest amount of protein compared to other dals, which is about 24 grams of protein per 100 grams of moong dal.