Dal or lentil is a staple food of India and most Indian vegans and vegetarians get their protein from it. We are blessed with a variety of dals and pulses which add a distinct taste to our diets. While they form an essential part of our meals, each one of them have their distinct health benefits. Nutritionist Neha Chandna tells us the various benefits of popular dals consumed in India.
All dals have 70% carbohydrates and 30% proteins. But these proteins are not complete proteins as found in non-vegetarian foods. When combined with roti/ rice, the dals become complete protein sources which is excellent for vegetarians to meet their protein needs and maintain muscle health.
30g of raw dal gives 7g of protein. Dals also have resistant starch which acts like fibre in the body and helps control blood sugar levels, clears bowels, aids in weight loss, etc.
Health benefits of Dals
Toor Dal: A very popular and preferred dal in India, toor dal is light and yummy. Apart from protein and fibre, it contains folic acid which helps prevent anaemia and is also important for pregnant women as it is essential for foetal development and can help prevent neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida. It is low in calories so is good for people who are on weight loss diets. It also helps control blood sugar levels.
Moong Dal: When you think of dal rice, the first thing that comes to your mind is moong dal which is commonly known as yellow dal. It is used for making the legendary dal tadka and dal fry. It is eaten on a regular basis in every indian household in combination with rice and vegetables. Moong dal is a dieter-friendly dal rich in iron and potassium. Iron helps maintain haemoglobin levels and potassium helps reduce blood pressure, a boon for hypertensive people. It is extremely light and can be easily eaten when you fall ill and even by pregnant women. Moong dal is used for making soups, stews and purees. Boiled moong dal is also used for making delicious spicy parathas.
Chana Dal: A variety of dal which is deliciously thick. Chana dal is rich in B-vitamins which help energise you. It is full of fibre which helps diabetics to control their blood sugar levels. It also has potassium and folic acid. The fibre in it helps lower cholesterol levels preventing heart problems.
Masoor Dal: Just like the other dals, masoor dal helps reduce blood sugar levels especially controlling the blood sugar spikes after a meal, controls hypertension, prevents anaemia and lowers cholesterol. It can be cooked with vegetables, spinach, pulao or added in your chicken or vegetable soup.
Urad Dal: It is most commonly used by south Indians to make dosa, idlis, etc along with rice making it a complete source of protein. Urad dal is rich in iron, folate, fibre, potassium. It is also a good source of calcium which is important for vegetarians and elderly people who require high amounts of calcium for maintaining bone health. It also boosts your energy and keeps you active.
In order to gain maximum benefits of these dals, have 2 servings of dals/pulses per day. You can also add dals to your soups, rotis, tikkis, salads, etc. Alternate between the various types to get essential nutrients from all of them.
Neha Chandna is a well-known dietician and nutritionist. She is also a certified Reebok Aerobics instructor and was a university topper in Dietetics from SVT. In the last three years, she has worked as a nutritionist for gyms and various fitness trainers and is also a consultant for doctors and physiotherapists. She deals helps various people with their nutrition needs â€“ sportsmen, obese people, diabetics, etc. She also helps those suffering from diseases like thyroid, osteoporosis, PCOS, etc. She also holds workshops and seminars for corporates like HDFC, Standard Chartered Bank and other organisations including BPOs and MNCs. She also writes for magazines like New Woman, Beauty and Salon, etc.