Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Posted by Nandita
There is always this confusion among my friends between beans, peas, legumes and lentils. I'll try and sort them out first.
Legume is the name of the family under which all peas, beans and lentils fall. Technically anything under these three categories can be called a legume. All these are plants that have pods with tidy rows of seeds inside.
Beans - Beans grow well in warmer climates. These grow in pods on a bush and are mature for harvest in 85-115 days. Chick peas, mung beans whole and split, matki, black eyed peas, fava beans, pinto beans, navy beans, black beans are examples of beans.
Peas - Pea plants grow well in cooler climes and they grow on vines. They are mature for harvest in 70-90 days fresh green peas, dried yellow or green peas - whole or split.
Lentils - The lentil can be called a cousin to the beans. All lentils are lens shaped, lens being the Latin word for lentil. The size and appearance of lentils varies depending on the variety. Some lentil varieties are Tur dal (yellow), Masoor dal (brown with skin and orange with skin removed), Chana dal (yellow gram), Mung dal (split mung beans, deskinned)
The most versatile food group
You can turn out dishes to fit in almost any course with this amazing food group. Go through the list below and you'll realise what I am talking about.
Spreads like Hummus
Steamed snacks like Handwo
Pancakes like 4 lentil pancakes
Curries like Paruppu Usili
Dals like Lasooni Dal Palak
Pilafs like Dal Khichdi
Desserts like Paruppu Payasam
Legumes are health boosters
- A high quality source of protein sans the cholesterol and saturated fats
- Excellent source of dietary fibre
- Rich in iron, zinc, calcium, selenium,folic acid and anti-oxidants
- A low glycemic index (GI) / glycemic load (GL) food
- May help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes mellitus, obesity and cancer due to the above advantages
Amino acids are the building blocks that proteins are made up of. Dairy and meat usually contain all of theEAAs and are considered to provide complete proteins. But legumes are lacking in atleast one of the EAA and therefore they need to be combined with other seeds or wholegrains during the day.
Some examples of complementary meals that provide all EAAs are brown rice and beans, Idlis (steamed south Indian food) made with udad dal and rice, refried beans in a tortilla roll, etc.
Combating the 'gas problem'
One problem that many people face in eating this group of foods is bloating and intestinal gas due to non-digestion of raffinose sugars. Let this not prevent from enjoying this healthy food group. There are ways and means to deal with the gas problem.
- Never cook legumes in the water they have been soaked, because this water is loaded with raffinose.
- Add a pinch of baking soda while cooking the legumes. In addition to removing raffinose sugars, it also helps the reduce cooking time.
- If you are using canned beans, then thoroughly rinse them in lots of water. This will also help reduce the salt content.
- Cooking legumes with a pinch of asafoetida is an age-old Aurvedic technique that helps prevent build up of intestinal gas.
- If you are not used to eating legumes, start with a small serving and gradually increase the quantity.
- If you still get into 'trouble', there is always Beano to rely on.
Tell us about your favourite legume recipes. If you have blogged about them, post a link in the comments to share with us. I'll share the black-eyed peas burgers that I made for dinner last night.
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This Post was written by Nandita from Saffron Trail.
Text and photographs © 2007 Nandita Iyer