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Cereals, legumes, seeds and nuts – how much you should eat and why
We often plan our food blissfully unaware of what we eat and why. This happens in particular in regards to food groups that are an inherent part of our diet, such as dal and rice. But understanding the difference between them will help us plan our food better so that we can get the most out of them.
Cereals include rice, wheat, oats, barley, millets, sorghum or jowar, nachni or ragi, maize and breakfast cereals.
Tip: Ensure that 50 – 55 per cent of your total calorie intake is derived from cereal-based complex carbohydrates.
Legume is a broad group that includes beans, peas, lentils, pulses and even peanuts [Yes, peanuts or groundnuts are not nuts but belong to the legume family]. They are the best source of plant protein and are often referred to as vegetarian’s meat. The amount of protein in half a cup of kidney beans [rajmah] is equal to that present in about 25g of meat, minus the saturated fats and cholesterol of course. Beans and pulses are low in sodium and perfect for people with hypertension.
Although the protein content in pulses is higher than those in cereals [almost 2 – 3 times more than in rice and wheat], they lack an amino acid called methionine. Cereals have methionine in abundance and lack lysine, which is present in pulses. Thus, in Indian cuisine, we consume cereals with pulses, for instance rice with dals or idli with sambar.
Almonds, walnuts, pistachios and cashew nuts are some of the popular nuts.
Tip: Eat nuts in moderation; they are difficult to digest.
Some nutritious seeds are sesame, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
For planning a wholesome meal, include all the above-mentioned food groups in the right proportion. It will not only give you all the required nutrients, but also make your meals delicious.
To avoid flatulence associated with having beans, soak the beans overnight and cook them with a pinch of asafoetida, fennel and cumin powder.
This was first published in the November 2010 issue of Complete Wellbeing