We have all grown up listening to the popular old saying, ‘Apple a day keeps the doctor away’. But why should apples get all the limelight when we have our humble beans, which are as competent as apples? And not just that! Beans are a foodie’s best friend. Think about any meal and you will be able to find beans/lentil/legumes to complement it.
Surprised? … read along and enter a world of mindful eating and healthy living with me…
Do you know why rajma rice is the staple food in North India? It’s because rajma takes longer to digest as it has low Glycemic Index & is high in fibre, protein, folate & iron. When combined with rice, which is high in carbohydrates it gives the required energy and fuels the muscle repair after long walks or treks.
So what is this Glycemic Index (GI)? It is a measure of how fast and how much a food raises your blood glucose/sugar levels! The body breaks down carbohydrates from the foods we eat and converts them to glucose. After eating, the time it takes for the body to convert carbohydrates and release glucose into the bloodstream varies, depending on the type of carbohydrate. Foods with higher GI values raise blood sugar more rapidly promoting conversion and storage of excess sugar as fat in the body. This is because the body cannot consume that much sugar released in the blood. Whereas, foods with a low GI will cause a slow and steady rise in blood glucose levels, thus giving the body more time to actually use that sugar for energy. So, that’s GI in a nutshell.
Now let’s have a look at the foods we love and how the presence of beans helps us eat what we love.
The list starts with ‘Vada pav’, our very own desi burger! It is an excellent combo of chana dal (besan), potato and pav. Sure, it’s fried but it’s a good combo of protein & carb. Hence, it’s a wholesome meal if you have just one. Portion is everything.
People in the west love their breakfast of ‘Beans on toast’ which again is a great couple. Canned beans are good but home-cooked beans are better. Bread is fermented but will not harm so much if you toast it. Toasting further reduces the glycemic index. So it’s a win-win!
Hummus is made from chickpeas which contain the required protein, fibre, iron, potassium. Combine it with your regular baked pita bread, some salad and grilled meat or cottage cheese and you have got yourself a feast. It not only keeps you full for long but is downright delicious.
Move towards southern India and your humble Idli/Dosa with sambhar is a great example of Rice + lentils combo (which is high in phosphorus, iron, folate, manganese, copper, Vit B1 and potassium) along with healthy veggies in it. Cereals contain 6-12% protein, which is generally deficit in lysine and provides more than 50% of daily protein intake. Among cereals, rice protein is of better quality than the others. When Rice and Dals are eaten together, the protein quality improves due to mutual supplementation between cereal and pulses protein. The former being deficient while the latter being rich in lysine. Now, all that coaxing of our moms to make us eat dal-rice makes sense! The same applies to your favourite Sindhi curry and rice too.
Combine low GI foods with high GI foods and you won’t have to worry about what is healthy for you. Beans are the simplest addition, as they provide all nutrients in one (carb, protein, fibre and fat as they are usually cooked in some oil or ghee).
There are plenty of types available. Soya beans, Green Gram (Moong), Dew bean (Mataki), Black eyed peas (Lobiya/chowli), Chickpeas, black and white (Kabuli chana), Lima beans/fava beans (Dried vaal).
Beans also contain a wide range of cancer-fighting plant chemicals, specifically, isoflavones and phytosterols, which are associated with reducing cancer risk. Beans are also helpful in lowering cholesterol, reducing the risk of osteoarthritis, improving bone density, boosting enzymes, controlling high blood pressure and preventing birth defects! I already consider them as magical legumes!
So go ahead, have your favourite Dal tadka, Maa ki dal and chole bhatura, yes you heard it right! Bhatura, when eaten with chole, balances the glycemic index of the meal. So you don’t have to feel guilty anymore while indulging yourself in this scrumptious Chole bhature – but remember to stop at one Bhatura. If you are hungry have extra Chole 🙂
So as we said, “Beans every day will keep the weight gain at bay.”
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Hitanshi is a Dietician and lifestyle management coach and connoisseur of healthy food. She has more than 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and believes that the recipe for happiness lies in healthy living. She is a food blogger, frequent traveller and a firm believer in eating right and not eating less.