22 May 2017
6 min read
Legumes-from soybeans to peanuts, lentils, peas and chana-are so readily available to us in Nepal. These low-fat, high-protein foods are an integral part of our Nepali diet, yet their importance is often overlooked. This week, we take a closer look at chana and its benefits, and how you can jazz it up to enjoy it as a part of your healthy diet plan.
But first things first: Did you know that there are some downsides to eating legumes? (Here's looking at you, Paleo Diet!) Yes there are, and I think this comes as something quite surprising to most of us Nepalis since legumes are such a staple in our diet. So before you start going overboard with them, here are some things that you should consider:
- Gassy element: A certain carbohydrate found in legumes can cause digestive problems and bloating for some people. Thus, if you already have any digestive issues, then avoiding them would be the best bet.
- Lectins: A part of the protein family, legumes contain relatively high levels of lectins, which can lead to indigestion. There have also been cases of lectins upsetting the cells of our intestinal tract and damaging the intestinal wall.
- Not for everyone: Because legumes have high levels of uric acid, people with gout and/or arthritis should avoid legumes such as kidney beans (rajma) and chickpeas (kabuli chana).
Like with any other good, healthy food, moderation is key when it comes to legumes too. Preparation methods along with our style of cooking (which always involves soaking them overnight) results in the breakdown of anti-nutrients, like lectins, making them easier to digest, but you should still keep an eye on the quantity you consume.
NOTE: Legumes make for good proteins in a vegetarian diet, but it is suggested that you also include other vegetables, like green leafy veggies, to benefit from a more well-rounded nutritional profile.
Better known as kalo/ghode chana, this superfood is championed by most, if not all, fitness enthusiasts in Nepal. The chana-anda combination is my go-to post workout snack, and I have witnessed how the combo is readily available at gyms' canteens/cafes. It makes for a good option since we need to load up on protein after a gruelling workout, especially if it's weight training. Here are some of its other positive effects on our body and health:
- Curbs cravings and prevents bingeing: It stabilises your blood sugar level, which in turn controls your appetite.
- Great source of iron and protein.
- Healthier hair: It's loaded with nutrients, like zinc, magnesium and vitamin A, and beauty experts laud its role in preventing dandruff, hair loss and in promoting healthy hair growth.
Ok, I am not claiming to be an expert on this, but I have had my fair share of chanas in and around various gyms, and of course, not all are made the same way. Some are fried and served with the usual garnishings of onions and green chillies, while some are served in a light gravy. But to get the most out of its goodness, I would suggest sticking to the basics: Simply pressure-cook the chana, and have it plain boiled or with a nice squeeze of lemon and/or other toppings to taste.
Dry roasting retains chana's nutritional value and also ensures a longer shelf life. Sattu is high in insoluble fibre, meaning it's good for your digestive system.
Looking for an alternative to expensive protein shakes? How about a nice tall glass of sattu drink? True, it may not be fortified with other vitamins and minerals, as is the case with protein powder, but it is naturally packed with nutrients that will do wonders for your health. You can prepare the sattu flour yourself or you can buy some at your local supermarket. But if you want to whip up this goodness by yourself, what ingredients you use is up to you.
And although kabuli chana is most widely used, you can also make sattu flour from ghode chana.
TRY: After your workout, make yourself a sattu drink by mixing a tablespoon (or as desired) of ghode chana sattu into a glass of lukewarm water or low-fat milk. I actually tried a mix of black coffee and sattu, and it was surprisingly good! You can choose to sweeten it with natural honey. You may also prefer to strain the drink to avoid the grainy taste of sattu, but it is advised you consume everything since the sattu flour itself is very nutritious.