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Love Your Legumes

Updated: Oct 10, 2022




Legumes (beans, peas, lentils) are extensively grown worldwide. Legumes not only provide a fair amount of protein, slowly digested carbohydrates, and lots of fiber, but it's an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc folate, and magnesium. Moreover, it poses significant phytochemicals like saponins and tannins, known for their anti-oxidant and anti-cancerous properties. Indeed, legumes are a substantial addition to a well-balanced sustainable diet. Legumes have numerous nutritional benefits and are affordable and gentle to the environment. Legumes plants can fix nitrogen in the soil without adding fertilizers. This property of legumes has a tremendous environmental benefit, as it improves soil health. Crop rotation with Legumes is a green solution to reduce fertilizers and weedicides. Legumes have a special place on my daily menu. And why not? Being an Indian, I have grown up relishing a variety of meals. From everyday daal to salads, breakfast savory pancakes, soups, snacks, stews, dips, and desserts. These little gems are everywhere.



Good protein source: Legumes are a better source of protein. Unlike animal proteins, it does not come with saturated fat and cholesterol. In addition, legumes and cereals are complementary to each other. Combining legumes with rice, wheat, or other grain can provide all essential amino acids that help the body maintain the right muscle mass. Hence an ideal source of dietary protein for us. Add a diverse variety of beans and lentils to your meal to enrich the food with various amino acids.

High fiber: Legumes, having high fiber content, add bulk to our digestive waste in the intestine. Fiber feeds gut bacteria, and our gut bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids. Those valuable short-chain fatty acids get absorbed into our bloodstream and circulate throughout our system. So fiber works well for health issues like constipation and irritable bowel syndrome by improving gut health and stimulating bowel movement.


Phytonutrients: legumes are rich in specific phytonutrients like isoflavones, lignans, and protease inhibitors.

Soy food contains isoflavones, a type of Phyto estrogen linked to a lower risk of certain cancers, osteoporosis, and menopause problems.


Legume Health benefits


Weight loss:

Adding good legumes to your diet is a perfect strategy for weight loss. The combination of high protein and fiber suppresses appetite, automatically reducing high saturated fat and high cholesterol consumption. In addition, due to resistance starch, 20% of its starch gets undigested, resulting in less calorie intake that eventually lowers the risk of obesity and helps maintain optimum body weight and waist size.

Chronic disease:

Regular consumption of legumes may help prevent numerous chronic diseases. Dietary intake of legumes may reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol). An unprocessed form of legumes has significantly less sodium which may benefit heart health. Studies have shown that regular intake of legumes reduces the risk factor of coronary artery disease. Due to the low glycemic index and resistant starch, some starch remains undigested and passes to the large intestine, reducing glucose release in the blood. This property makes legumes perfect for controlling blood sugar and preventing diabetes. Minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber combined in legumes reduce the risk of several cancers.

Adding more Legumes to your diet:

You don't have to become a culinary expert to incorporate legumes into your diet. You can always have a variety of legumes in the pantry. It doesn't spoil quickly. You can have it in bulk as it is a handy tool for nutritious meals. Lentils are the easiest legumes to prepare. It takes just 20 mins to boil it. You can always soak and cook beans like kidney, lima, garbanzo, pinto, and others and store them in a refrigerator for a delicious soup, stew, salad, and wrap. The easiest way to boil legumes is by using a pressure cooker. It always comes in handy and consumes the least time and energy. Canned legumes are also a good option, but it is important to rinse them thoroughly two times to eliminate excessive sodium. I prefer to use dry ones as they are devoid of harmful preservatives. Moreover, I'll do fun things like sprouting and fermenting to increase its nutritional value.

Processes to enhance the absorption of nutrients from Legumes:

When processing legumes, traditional household procedures are still sustainable in retaining nutrients.


Soaking Legumes: Soaking and cooking are standard domestic processing methods to enjoy legumes. Soaking legumes reduces a variety of anti-nutrients like tannins, polyphenols, phytic acids, and lectins. Soaking legumes before cooking overnight or 24 hrs. takes care of all anti-nutrients, the actual reason behind digestive issues, including flatulence.


Sprouting legumes: sprouting or germination is commonly used in the east to make legumes palatable. Germination makes legumes taste good and provides better nutrition because it contains more essential amino acids. In the process, first, legumes are soaked for 24 hours in water and then spread in a wet cloth or germination basket for 48 hours or more.


Fermenting Legumes: Fermenting food is an Asian procedure or a gift from east Asia to the entire world. Fermentation not only improves the digestibility of Legumes but synthesizes several B vitamins (including Vitamin B12 in some cases), improves texture and flavor, and, most importantly, replenishes gut microflora. Indeed, it has numerous advantages over raw beans. Soy is the most widely fermented legume. Various fermenting legumes with salt/without salt into multiple products like miso, Soy sauce tempeh, and natto. Fermenting legumes is now very popular among western countries at the industrial level. Still, this wisdom is undoubtedly coming from East Asia, where fermenting has been practiced for thousands of years. In India, fermenting legumes with or without rice (mostly overnight to 24 hours, depending on weather conditions) made various steamed delicacies like idly and dhoklas for centuries.


Dried lentil nuggets:

When processing legumes, traditional household procedures are still sustainable in retaining nutrients. An exciting approach famous across India is the use of dried lentil nuggets or Badi, Vadi. Lentils are soaked, ground with spices, made into small chunks, and sundried for days. These nuggets can easily store for months and are used to enhance the meal's nutrition and flavor.



Legume based recipes


1. Basic black-eyed pea curry


This versatile bean curry is one of the regular entrées on my weekly menu. Easy to make and loved by all. It goes with rice as well as flatbreads perfectly. I follow the original soaking-boiling process for cooking beans. But the canned one is pretty handy in times of spontaneity. It is important to rinse it well before using it. I often customize it according to the availability of ingredients. I do add carrots and celery on several occasions. My mother-in-law has a unique way of preparing it by adding eggplants. The black-eyed pea is one humble bean that tastes well with many veggies like potatoes, celery, and carrots; here, I present the fundamental way to prepare Black-eyed bean curry without using oil.





Serves - (4-5)

Preparation time - 20 mins

cook time - 30 mins

Total time - 50 mins


Ingredients

Black-eyed bean - 1 cup (dried)

Onions- 1 medium

Tomatoes- 2 medium

Ginger-garlic paste - 1 tbsp.

Bay leaf- 1

Cumin seeds- 1 tsp

Asafetida – 1 pinch

Chickpea flour – 2 tbsp. ( Dry roast gram flour/chickpea flour on low flame for 2 mins)

Coriander powder – 1 tbsp.

Garam masala powder – ½ tsp

Red chili powder- ½ tsp – ¼ tsp (optional)

Black pepper – freshly crushed (3-4)


Directions


1. Soak lentils for 8 hours

2. Cook lentils with salt and water.

3. Take a pot: dry roast cumin seeds, bay leaf, and asafetida.

4. Add 2 tbsp of lentil broth. Sauté onions in broth for 3-4 mins until it is brown. Keep on adding 1 tbsp. The broth at a time if needed.

5. add ginger- garlic paste.

Sauté for 2 mins

6. Add chopped tomatoes

7. Add salt and turmeric powder

8. Add freshly crushed peppercorn.

9. Sauté the mixture till mushy.

10. Add roasted gram flour.

11. Add Cooked black-eyed peas.

12. Add garam masala /all-spice powder.

13. Cover the lid. Let it simmer for 5 mins.

14. Add lemon juice. Garnish it with cilantro.

15. Serve it hot with white or brown rice.



 



2. Roasted gram flour energy drink


Roasted gram flour drink is one of the popular energy drinks indigenously called 'Sattu,' widespread across India's northern part. Although roasted gram flour (Sattu) is used in many recipes and is pretty standard in Indian pantries, this drink made with roasted gram flour instantly fills you up and provides quick energy. This simple drink reminds you nutritious food needn't be fancy. It takes care of your little hunger and gives you instant energy without spiking your glucose level. It has a low GI value, and it gets digested slowly. That's why it has more excellent satiety value that makes you feel full for a longer time. It has a cooling effect. This drink contains protein, good fats, B- complex vitamins, minerals, and fiber. You can make this drink in both sweet and savory versions. I prefer to have it the salty way. I add roasted cumin powder and black salt for the extra kick.


Preparation time: 5 mins

cook time: 0 mins

Total time: 5 mins

Serves: 1


Ingredients

Water- 8 oz

Roasted chickpea flour (Sattu) - 2 tbsp

Roasted cumin powder – ½ tsp

Lemon/ lime juice – ½ tsp

Black salt- ½ tsp


Directions

  1. Take a glass. Add all the ingredients in it except water.

  2. Add water to it. Adjust salt according to your taste.

  3. Mix and enjoy.





 


3. No oil hummus


Crisp veggies with hummus are fun to eat and a nutritious snack on playdates ( and on adult dates). Most kids love this dip. I tried making this dip, ditching the traditional method of adding olive oil to it. To my delight, it worked well perfectly. I love to add lots of herbs to the point that it looks beautiful green. Instead of plain cumin powder, I use freshly roasted cumin seeds and powder them in a mortar pestle. The aroma is too good, and I have always experienced that roasted spices immensely exceed the dish's taste.




Preparation time: 10 mins

cook time: 20 min

Total time: 30 mins

Serves: (3-4)


Ingredients

Garbanzo beans – 1 cup (soaked and cooked)

Garlic – 2 clove

Roasted cumin seed powder – 1 tsp

Cayenne pepper – ½ tsp ( or to taste)

Tahini (sesame paste) - 2 tbsp.

Lemon/lime juice – 2 tbsp.

Parsley/cilantro leaves - 1/2 cup

Salt - 1/2 tsp or to taste


Directions

1. Put garlic in a food processor/blender. Pulse to chop it roughly.

2. Add all the ingredients and blend them to a smooth, creamy paste.

3. Garnish it with some chopped cilantro/parsley.



 


4. Lima bean sundal


I first tasted this yummy lima bean sundal as a prayer offering in a Temple in my college days. It is typically made in large quantities in India's southern part, especially at festivals. I always wonder how they manage to make food so delicious in such a large amount. It's not just an ingredient and recipe, it's pure love and devotion that never fails to impress. At festivals, usually, onions are not added to the sundal; I have changed my recipe and added onions. Onions enhance the taste significantly when trying to make less oil version. To make this delicious snack, you can use any bean of your choice, like cannellini beans, black chickpeas, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, and green peas. You can add some greens to enjoy in salads or use them as a side dish. I eat it by filling in my veggie wraps with my favorite veggies. In the traditional recipe, black pepper is not used often; I try to add little black pepper in everything where turmeric is used, as piperine in pepper helps better absorption of curcumin present in turmeric.




Preparation time: 20 mins

cook time: 15 mins

Total time: 35 mins

Serves : (4-5)


Ingredients

Dry lima bean – 1 cup

Mustard seeds- ½ tsp

Split black gram- ½ tsp

Onion – 1 medium (finely chopped)

Asafetida- ¼ Tsp

Ginger- 1 tsp (finely grated)

Black pepper – 2 (freshly cracked)

Curry leaves- 1 sprig

Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp

Lemon juice- 1 Tbsp.

Salt – as per taste


Directions

1. Heat the oil in a pan.

2. Add mustard seeds and grams. Fry until they crackle and gram colors a little.

3. Add curry leaves and asafetida.

4. Add the onions and cook until it turns translucent.

5. Add ginger, salt, turmeric, and pepper. Stir it frequently for 2-3 minutes.

6. Add cooked lima beans. Lemon juice, desiccated coconut. Stir it nicely and serve.



 


5. Nourishing Khichdi


Khichdi is a one-pot soulful wholesome meal. Ayurveda has a lot to say about this fantastic dish. This soupy hot dish calms and clears your mind. As a kid, this tremendous dish was served to me almost every Saturday, even during my hostel days. I try my best to continue this tradition. Khichdi is one dish that will mellow you down and feed your soul. One of my favorite comfort food. The best part of this dish is it's effortless and quick to prepare (need to clean fewer dishes after mealtime). Khichdi is one food I would like to teach my kids before they join college. I use the pressure cooker to make this; You can always use a heavy bottom pot. Khichdi made in clay pots tastes the best. You can make khichdi in various ways; you can never go wrong with it. You can add any number of veggies choice. It is customizable.



Preparation time: 10 mins

cook time: 25 mins

Total time: 35 mins

Serves- (3-4)


Ingredients


Split moong – ½ cup

Tiny grain rice- ½ cup

Green beans- ½ cup (chopped)

Carrots – ½ cup

Green peas – ½ cup Fresh or frozen

Onion – 1 medium (chopped)

Turmeric powder – ½ tsp

Salt – to taste

Garam masala powder – ½ tsp ( optional)

Cilantro- small bunch( washed thoroughly and chopped)


Directions


1. Heat a pot, and dry roast split moong till golden as the aroma comes. Take it out in a dish and rinse it. Rinse rice as well.

2. Heat the pressure cooker, and add mustard and cumin seeds. Allow it to crackle.

3. Add a bay leaf and asafetida. Stir it for 2-3 sec.

4. Add chopped onions to it. Add 1 Tbsp. Water and sauté the onions till golden brown. Add little water at a time if needed.

5. Add salt and turmeric.

6. Add rinsed moong and rice to the pot and stir it well

7. Add 3 cups of water and let it boil on a medium flame.

8. Add all the veggies. Cover the pot. If you are using the pressure cooker, wait for a whistle. Switch it off after one whistle. If you are using a pot, it mostly takes 20 – 30 mins to cook perfectly. Khichdi should be soft soupy consistency. Add water if needed.

9. Add garam masala—Cook for five more mins.

10. Garnish it with cilantro leaves.



 


6. Veggieful- a savory pancake


This is a typical weekday breakfast. You need to finely chop various veggies in a chickpea flour batter and make pancakes out of eating. It's a pretty popular Indian breakfast, given how easy, wholesome, and the amount of nutrition it has. Moreover, it keeps you full till lunchtime. I always prefer a hearty, wholesome breakfast as it refrains me from munching unhealthy food till lunchtime. Every time you put some healthy stuff in your mouth, you not only keep your belly happy, but you also avoid all the mood swings and keep your skin and hair ( to name a few) happy and healthy. Vegetable pancakes are a better way to sneak some veggies inside that you usually won't prefer because of taste. My little one never likes mushrooms, but she happily eats veggie pancakes as it is difficult to make out individual tastes among many veggies. You can add all vegetables of your choice or according to the availability of vegetables. Any combination of vegetables like onions, spinach, kale, zucchini, bottle gourd, mushroom, spring onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes goes so well. Herbs like cilantro and parsley nicely enhance their taste.



Preparation time: 15 mins

cook time: 7 mins ( per pancake)

Total time: 57 mins

serves: 3


Ingredients

Roasted gram flour/ besan- 1 cup

Mushroom- 2 (finely chopped)

Spinach – ½ cup (finely chopped)

Zucchini – 1 (grated)

Onion – 1 small (finely chopped)

Turmeric powder – ½ tsp

Green chilies – 1 finely chopped (optional)

Black pepper – 2 (freshly crushed)

Oil – 1- 2 tsp for one pancake (any cold-pressed oil of your choice)

Salt- to taste

Water – to make a batter.


Directions


1. Mix all the ingredients. Whisk it properly.

2. Add little water. Whisk it. Make a pancake batter consistency. (Do not pour too much water, as little at a time if needed.)

3. Heat a girdle and grease it. Pour a ladle full of batter. With the help of a spoon, spread the batter uniformly.

4. Pour 1- 2 tsp oil (any cold-pressed oil of your choice).

5. Cook both sides till it turns golden brown.

6. Serve it hot with chutney or dip.


 


7. Black chickpea rice


It is an easy, healthy recipe, and my kids love it. What other reason do I want to make this rice dish more often? The only thing to remember is to keep black chickpeas soaking overnight. Anyway, it's a ritual in my house, soaking one or other beans every night. I cook it for lunch and serve it with yogurt-based chutney or raita. I boil it with a bit of salt. While cooking black gram, one should take care of its softness. You can say a chickpea is cooked perfectly If you can mash it with your finger. Over-boiled beans will break apart, and under-boiled will make the dish dry. A