Pulses or daal (also written as dal) are the edible seed of plants in the legume family. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization recognises 11 types of pulses: dry beans, dry broad beans, dry peas, chickpeas, cow peas, pigeon peas, lentils, bambara beans, vetches, lupins, pulses nes (minor pulses that do not fall in any other category).
There is a simply and broader category:
- Un-hulled or sabut (unpolished with the outer coat intact)
- Split with the hull left (the seed is split in half with the other layer intact)
- Split and hulled (polished and split in half)
These pulses are a very important part of the staple foods in South Asia and within the Indian cuisine. The dish is very easy to make and is very tasty. It is generally boiled with a bit of salt and turmeric, commonly cooked in the pressure-cooker. And topped with a fried garnish called tadka/tarka or bagar.
This garnishing is made with frying a few raw spices like cumin seeds, mustard seeds, hing (asafoetida), dried red chili and curry leaves. The tarka is varied with the type of daal that is being cooked, many add ginger, garlic and fried onion to it. This tarka is then layered on top of the cooked daal. In some regions of India, tomatoes, unripe mango or kairi and jaggery.
Daal is eaten with rice or flat-breads like rotis, chapati and naan. It is also used to make a dish called sambar in parts of South India. Also used to make pappu to be mixed with charu and rice.
Daal is very healthy and comprises a good portion of the protein required by the body, and is a good plant-based alternative to meat. It contains about 9% protein, 20% carbohydrates which include the 8% of fiber, and 1% fat. It also supplies a rich content of vitamin B, manganese, iron, phosphorus and folate.
Eating just half a cup of pulses everyday increases intake of fiber, protein, calcium and zinc, it also lowers intake of fat. It has a high level of soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps manage body weight, blood sugar and lowers bad cholesterol. Whereas insoluble fiber assists with digestion. And other important component is starch, a type of carbohydrate that acts like fiber in the body and has shown to have health benefits like improving dietary health and reducing cholesterol in the body,
Although hulling of a pulse makes for easy digestibility and cooking, refining the grains affects the nutritional value. Pulses with the outer layer intact are healthier than the polished version, as the outer layer has the most fiber content much like rice.