You Ask, We Answer: Which Legumes are Most Important for Vegetarians?
India is blessed with several pulses and cereals and there are different ways to prepare them. But there are some pulses and cereals that have higher nutritional value. Nutritionist, Neelanjana Singh gives us vital nutritional information on Indian dals, which pulses you must include and the best combination of legumes for you.
There are several Indian recipes that use legumes as their main ingredient, “dal poorie, gatta curry, khandvi, dhokla, kadhi and moong dal halwa are just a handful of dishes from the huge plethora of dishes made from legumes or dals as we call them,” says Neelanjana Singh. “An Indian meal is never complete without at least one dal based food item. We do consume the staple dal chawal or dal roti as part of all our major meals.” Pulses are also an important ingredient from where vegetarians can get protein. But there is more…
The nutritionist reinforces the importance of meal combined with cereals and pulses. “The combination of a pulse with a cereal (dal with roti or rice) is a smart thing to do not just for taste but also from the point of view of nutritional value. Pulses are deficient in one amino acids (methionine) but rich in another amino acid lysine. The cereals, on the other hand, have the reverse nutritional profile (high on methionine and low in lysine). Thus, the combination of cereal pulse makes perfect sense in every way.”
Besides legumes have lot more to offer, explains Neelanajana, “In a largely vegetarian population, pulses form the major source of protein in the diet. The nutritive contribution of dals in our diets is not just in terms of protein but also in terms of energy, Vitamin B1 and B2, folic acid and fibre. For the vegetarians, pulses are an important source of iron as well. Pulses also have a reasonable content of fatty acids which are essential for the human body.”
She also takes pride in Indian food, “I do not know of any culture in the world where pulses form such an integral of the diet as they do in our country. The diversity of legumes or pulses used in the Indian diet is very interesting. Not only are pulses extremely healthy but they are used to make some very unique and interesting food items.”
Different pulses available in India:
- “Different parts of India have different favourites as far as pulses are concerned. The tur (arhar) dal remains a favourite in the eastern region of the country while the black gram (urad) and kidney beans (rajmah) are consumed in the northern parts of India.
- The colour of the dal helps in its identification and in its nomenclature. We have black gram (urad), green gram (moong), red gram (masoor).
- Some dals such as kidney beans (rajmah), peas, soya beans, cowpea (lobia) and moth beans (moth) are usually consumed in the whole form (i.e., the whole seed is intact).”
Different forms of dals and health benefits:
Neelanjana differentiates dals on their processing but they still have nutritional value. “Another interesting fact about legumes is that they are consumed in a variety of forms: the whole pulse, split pulse or after removal of the outer covering i.e., dhuli dals. For instance, the black gram pulse is black in colour in the whole form and when the covering is removed it becomes the white urad dal. The bengal gram is the channa dal, whereas the bengal gram dal is the channe ki dal that we are all familiar with. Yet another form of bengal gram is the roasted form or the bhuna channa.”
There is yet another way to pump the nutritional value of legumes, Neelanjana Singh states, “Germination of whole pulses is another form in which these are incorporated into everyday healthy meal plans. The process of germination enhances the B-complex vitamins and adds to the Vitamin C content of the pulse. Dried peas or mattar is another pulse that lends itself beautifully to Indian cuisine. The field beans or sem is yet another pulse that is nutritious and typical to many Indian dishes.”
*Inputs by Nutritionist Neelanjana Singh, Heinz Nutri Life Clinic, Delhi
*Images courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images