At times, Indian cuisine may seem like the antithesis of good health, but it does possess some fantastic gems like dal. Nearly all its ingredients promote digestion, are anti-inflammatory and are antioxidants, says Sheeba Majmudar, a nutritionist and herbalist from Verita Advanced Wellness.
Although there are numerous varieties, dal is replete with salubrious ingredients like garlic (research says it possesses antioxidant properties), ginger (said to help reduce muscle soreness), chilli powder (an excellent antioxidant that also helps increase your metabolic rate), turmeric (possesses antibacterial and anti- cancer properties) and fenugreek (has the ability to regulate blood-sugar response). And that’s just the tip of the dal iceberg.
Why Is Dal So Nutritious?
This is dal’s winning point: lentils – or rather, beans and edible seeds, which are high in protein but low in fat, and very nutritious. A version of dal uses chickpeas, and it is as healthy as its lentil cousin. Chickpeas comprise more than 20 per cent protein and contain good amounts of folate and zinc. The variety that includes kidney beans are equally amazing, too, as those beans contain antioxidants that can prevent hardening of your arteries, say researchers at North Dakota State University in the US. In fact, a single serving of dal can pack 32g of protein, a whopping 14.5g of fibre and around 12g of fat – most of it polyunsaturated (healthy) fat from the beans. Worried about the bad gas? Fear not because the prolonged cooking that dal requires helps break down the beans into simple sugars. (In fact, the lentils literally break apart.) This allows them to be easily digested.
Protein-wise, the combination of dal and rice can be all a vegetarian needs. Amazingly, this combination – either by purpose or unwittingly – represents a dish that’s nutritionally protein-perfect. “The lentils in dal provide complementary proteins and some essential amino acids,” says Majmudar. “Grains like wheat (in chapati) or rice provide the other half of the nutritional combination. This forms a dish that is a complete protein source.”