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
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.
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
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)
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
Water- 8 oz
Roasted chickpea flour (Sattu) - 2 tbsp
Roasted cumin powder – ½ tsp
Lemon/ lime juice – ½ tsp
Black salt- ½ tsp
Take a glass. Add all the ingredients in it except water.
Add water to it. Adjust salt according to your taste.
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
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