What’s the heathiest way to life? Answer will depend on how and whom you ask. There is no furtive way to good health, except heathy eating, sufficient exercise and stress-free life. In continuation with my article in the last issue of the magazine, let’s discuss another aspect of eating for good health, using legumes.
First the Big Picture: Legumes is a real superfood to shape up your body in a healthy way. After this meal your body will smile and say thank you! If your New Year diet resolution is to pack your day with protein, fiber, vitamin & minerals then comes legumes. Legumes will do all this for you. Legumes, easily available vegan food, are easy to cook. Keep in mind legumes are not something that is coming from Jupiter: we know many of them in our everyday life. Any kind of beans, chickpeas, peas, kidney bean and lentils are all legumes. And, oh! the list will continue as its goodness.
Understand Legumes and its purpose: Legumes are rich source of B-Vitamins and also provide calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium in addition they are low in fat and high in fiber. What A Wonder food!! Legumes are plants whose fruit is enclosed in a pod. Basically, there are four basic types of legume, namely:
Apart from being the good source of protein, Pulses also contain substantial quantity of minerals, vitamins, crude fiber etc. They are similar to meats, poultry, and fish in their contribution of these nutrients, also considered as alternative of meat.
Bean is a common name for large plant seeds of several genera of the family Leguminosae (Pulse Family), which is used for human or animal food, with edible seeds or seed pods.
Split Beans/ Pods consist of the dried, and split whole bean seed. They may be with skin on (Chilkewala) or Skin off.
Pulse is a “grain legume” which has one to twelve seeds of variable size, shape, and color within a pod, include crops like dry peas, dry beans, lentils, chickpeas and many.
Dal is a dried pulse which has been split. You may keep Dal in the pulse category.
COLORFUL WORLD OF LEGUMES:
- Chick Pea/garbanzo – are seeds of Cicer arietinum. They are the brown-colored beans of a legume plant. These are green when raw and turn brown when dried. Puréed chickpea is the basis of hummus
- Pigeon Pea/ Congo Pea/ Red Gram (Tur Dal) – seeds are of Cajanus cajan and are 25% protein, can be eaten fresh or as split dried peas, are most commonly used for dhal in India.
- Field Pea (Matar)- The round seed of Pisum sativum, borne in a pod, widely eaten as vegetable is a highly nutritious food, having a high protein and fiber content contain a unique assortment of health-protective phytonutrients the polyphenol.
- Kidney Bean (Rajma)– These beans of Phaseolus vulgaris are kidney shaped and are especially good in simmered dishes where they absorb the flavors of seasonings and the other foods with which they are cooked. Both dried and canned kidney beans are available throughout the year.
- Mung Bean (Green Gram) – Vigna radiata are light yellow in colour when their skins are removed. Although whole mung beans are also occasionally used, beans without skins are more commonly used.
- Black Gram (Urad) – Vigna mungo usually the whole urad bean, and the split bean with interior being white is called Urad Dal, the main ingredient of dosa and idli.
- Lentil (Lens esculentus) – They grow in pods that contain either one or two lentil seeds that are round, oval or heart-shaped disks. May be sold whole or split into halves with the brown and green varieties.
- Cowpea- are pale-colored legumes with a firm black-colored, eye-shaped spot.
- Adzuki beans are small, round, reddish-brown legumes popular in Asian dishes. They are commonly used to make desserts, such as red bean ice cream.
- Soybean – widely grown for its edible bean which has numerous uses. The plant is classed as an oilseed rather than a pulse by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Have historically been called “meat of the field” or “meat without bones” We will talk about soybean in our next issue.
Staying Heathy: What do we do when we want to trim down and stay thin? The first thing that comes in our mind is ‘Fast’. I wonder if that path is right! How about the idea of filling up on foods rich in legumes, fruit and veggies! Just a small serving of beans has a great deal of fiber. Fiber is a crucial element in losing weight since it takes the body longer to digest. This helps to make the person feel fuller, for a longer period of time. The fiber in beans also causes blood sugar to rise more slowly, helping to stave off hunger pangs for a longer period of time while providing energy.
Pulses (Dried Legumes seed) are integral part of of Indian diet supplementing cereals. If you are thinking of a lifeline vast vegetarian source of protein then you must think and go for pulses since unlike non vegetarian food they are the cheapest and rich source of protein. Apart from being the good source of protein, Pulses also contain substantial quantity of minerals, vitamins, crude fiber etc. These foods are excellent sources of plant protein, and also provide other nutrients such as iron and zinc. They are similar to meats, poultry, and fish in their contribution of these nutrients, also considered as alternative of meat.
Soaking and sprouting the legume improves the bioavailability of certain minerals, vitamins and protein present in them. During the process of soaking and germination (Sprouting) the anti-nutritional factor phytates present in legume decreases, hence there is increase in overall nutritional value. Soak, Sprout or Cook – do what suits your body.
Who Should Eat and how much: Because of their high nutrient content, consuming beans and peas is recommended for everyone, including people who also eat meat, poultry, and fish regularly. It’s important to eat about two (2) servings a day of legumes/beans. Some good choices include black beans, chick peas (or hummus), lentils, peas, and soybeans (or tofu, soy milk, etc.) According to the Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).Legumes are good sources of fiber, protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and B vitamins.
How to eat: Cooking involves basic four easy steps: Clean, Rinse, Soak and Cook. Few beans can be enjoyed without cooking in salad form or may be cooked with spices, onion and other vegetable as you like. The soaking and cooking time varies with the type of beans. Usually the soaking time is 8-10 hrs. Try not to use the water in which the legume has been soaked.
Furthermore, soaking and sprouting the legume improves the bioavailability of certain minerals, vitamins and protein present in them. During the process of soaking and germination (Sprouting) the anti-nutritional factor phytates present in legume decreases, hence there is increase in overall nutritional value. Soak, Sprout or Cook – do what suits your body.
Availability in Market: They are available in dry, canned, and frozen forms most common is the dried form. But the nutritional value difference is not very great other than a minor difference in salt level. In Supermarket, you may find legumes in three forms:
Dried – Bulk dried beans are the most inexpensive option. Many people also believe it’s the most flavorful.
Canned – Canned beans are usually very high in sodium, but are easy to cook (most are ready to eat out of the can).
Frozen – Full beans ready to eat and heat.
Assess quality of Legume before buy: Smart buying is key. Keep in mind some critical factors to pick better quality legumes:
Moisture Content & Temperature: Shouldn’t be damp, grain bag temperature. shouldn’t be higher than the ambient
Odour: No unwanted biochemical changes giving off odour, Foul smell
Cleanliness: No physical impurities.
Infestation: Absence of insects or other living organism, no white spots on seed indicating existence of eggs. There shouldn’t be clustering of grain.
It is recommended to use a coating of vegetable oil to prevent the infestation by pulse bettle (pulse bettle is an insect). Try to keep the product in moisture proof, air tight container, which has low thermal fluctuation structures.
Benefits- Beans in your diet can help you In Many Ways: In our large intestine the breakdown of some of the fibers and carbohydrate causes Flatulence. This can be avoided by slowly increasing your intake of legume, soaking well before you cook and also by thorough cooking. There are many more advantages:
Legume help prevent heart disease; the complex carbohydrates in beans lower the glycemic load in the meals. Then their unique combination of magnesium, copper, fiber, and alpha-linoleic acid will boost your insulin sensitivity, help prevent blood clots, and drop your risk of a heart attack.
Legume help prevent cancer- plant chemicals, esp., isoflavones and phytosterols are associated with this reduced risk. Beans contain phytochemicals, which naturally fight cancer and free radicals, which ruin your cells and tissues through oxidation. The phytochemicals neutralize the free radicals before they do damage.
Legume also help lower cholesterol: the flavonoids in beans are natural antioxidants. As such, they work against the free radicals before they can attack cholesterol and oxidize it. That’s important because oxidized LDL cholesterol contributes to atherosclerosis.
Legume help with weight loss: Beans could be the single best food for weight loss. If you eat more beans despite eating more calories, you will weigh less than someone who does not eat beans and eats lower calories as well.
Legume help manage diabetes- A good amount of complex carbohydrates and protein provides a slow, steady source of glucose. This is the super benefit of eating low glycemic index foods.
Pulses do not contain gluten which means they are suitable for people who are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease.
Let’s summarize: Legumes are a healthy, versatile and unique Choice. Give a twist to your unique healthy diet, add legumes to it since they are affordable, easy-to-prepare, highly nutritious food and available throughout the year in fresh, frozen, canned or dried forms, and are a great source of protein.
Here you go for a twist. Wish you all happy eating and healthy living!
(Food Technologist from Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) India, Rashmi is a food, agricultural and bakery science scholar; currently lives in Hong Kong)