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.
By including various beans in various meals you can balance your meals and enjoy your favourite foods like rice (with rajma), pita bread (with hummus and veggies), bread (with baked beans). I can see that grin on your face!
Surprised? ….read along and enter a world of mindful eating and healthy living with me…
My oldest memory of the famous Rajma chawal reminds me of the Vaishnodevi tour where about 2 decades ago that was the only food available at this hill town. As a kid, I used to wonder why they serve only rajma chawal in the land of parathas, after all it takes so long to cook and longer to digest. Finally found the answer, it takes long to digest as it has low Glycemic Index, is high in fibre, protein, folate, iron and when combined with rice, which is high in carbohydrates gives you the required energy and muscle repair after such a long walk uphill and not to forget that it’s delicious too and uplifts the mood of the tiring devotees!
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 nut shell.
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’! People in Maharashtra swear by it! After all, it’s our very own desi burger! And it is also an excellent combo of chana dal (besan), potato and pav. It has got a bad name as it’s fried and one cannot stop after a single serve, but it does fill up your stomach thanks to the combo of protein + carb. Just remember to stop at one. Because greed lessens what is gathered.
Beans are rocking in the west too! People over there love their breakfast of ‘Beans on toast’ which again is a great couple. Yes, beans are canned as it’s convenient as a breakfast food, but you can prepare it at home too. 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!
Even your favorite Hummus can be eaten without guilt as again chick peas give you the required protein, fibre, iron, potassium and trust me it not only keeps you full for long but also gives you the required satisfaction of having your favourite meal. Combine it with your regular baked pita bread, some salad and grilled meat or cottage cheese and you have got yourself a feast (well, a treat for sure)
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 favorite Sindhi curry and rice too.
I hope you are getting the drift of where I am going with this. That’s right – 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, fiber and fat as they are usually cooked in some oil or ghee).
For those who are choosy about their beans don’t fret as there are so many varieties in the market to choose from. Soya beans, Green Gram (Moong), Dew bean (Mataki), Black eyed peas (Lobiya/chowli), Chick peas, black and white (kabuli chana), Lima beans/fava beans (Dried vaal). You all will be spoiled for choice!
And that’s not all, the wonders of beans are never-ending. They 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 everyday 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 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…