Legumes such as lentils, beans and peas are practically a yogic way of life! Occupying a central role in a nutritious and sustaining diet, we would benefit from eating them in some form several times a week and are encouraged to do so by Yogi Bhajan. In terms of nutritional therapy, legumes are considered a superfood and with good reason!
- High quality protein: Legumes are a complete source of protein when eaten in combination with grains or seeds. A perfect example is our own delicious mung beans and rice, aka kicheree. Here’s the recipe.
- Energy source: A slow release carbohydrate, helping to keep our energy levels stable.
- Nutrient dense: A great source of vitamins and mineral, including iron and magnesium.
- Gut health: Full of fibre which feeds the good bacteria in the gut.
- Heart health: Lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Low in calories with less than 10% fat content.
Ok so that’s all the good stuff, but some of us are challenged by eating legumes, experiencing bloating and abdominal discomfort. This might be down to the oligosaccharides in legumes, which ferment in the lower intestine creating some undesirable results! Legumes also contain lectins, natural plant defences that we humans are unable to digest and can lead to digestive discomfort and phytates, which can prevent the absorption of some minerals in the meal in which they are eaten. Happily, research indicates that lectins and phytates are reduced drastically by cooking and sprouting. Here’s some great ideas for ways to use your sprouted legumes.
Top tips for improving digestibility of legumes:
- Soak dried legumes for at least 24hrs (lentils and split peas are the exception). Change the water a few times and drain and rinse again before cooking. Rinse tinned legumes until the clear of bubbles.
- Boil legumes for at least 10 minutes at the start of cooking, even if you are then going to add them to a soup or stew.
- Add a large piece of dried kombu seaweed to the water. Discard once legumes are cooked.
- Try adding fresh ginger slices, fennel or cumin seeds to the cooking water.
- Try adding a spoon of the anti-gas spices ajwain or epazote.
- If you are new to beans and pulses, go slow and build up gradually.
- Eat mindfully, taking your time and chewing well.
- Sprouting not only breaks down the phytates and lectins but the nutrient potential bursts forth and the protein content is increased. My favourite to sprout is mung beans – so easy and delicious on salads or added last minute to stir fries.
- Optimise digestive secretions to support processing legumes. Take a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, or a tablespoon of aloe vera or some lemon juice in a little water before eating. Bitter foods at the start of the meal will also help: rocket, chicory, endive and dandelion leaves as will adding fenugreek and turmeric to the your dish.
I’ll leave you with a delicious super simple spicy red lentil daal recipe.
YOGIC NUTRITION is a regular feature written by Anna Ranprem Kaur, a Kundalini Yoga teacher with more than eight years of experience, now also in her second year of a diploma in Nutrition Therapy and Naturopathy. In this monthly blog, Anna will share knowledge and explorations as she moves forward on her journey in nutrition. www.annakundaliniyoga.co.uk