Legumes are a central part of an Ayurvedic diet. High in easily-digested protein, grounding and affordable, legumes have a lot to offer. We keep our cupboards stocked with a variety of dried legumes. Mix them with different grains and a 60:40 combination of augmenting and extractive vegetables and you can create a different meal every day of the month.
Don’t beans cause gas?
People who struggle with digestive issues often say that legumes give them gas, so they avoid eating them entirely. Our response: It’s not the legumes causing gas, it’s the habits that you had before that meal that are to blame.
Agni, or digestive fire, is the cornerstone of health. When you can digest your food well, you get the most prana from what you eat and you feel and look your best. But when agni is weak (common ways agni is weakened include not chewing thoroughly, eating poor combinations of foods or overeating in one sitting), heavier foods, such as legumes or dairy, can be a bit harder to digest. The result is that as the legumes are broken down, their extractive nature pushes out gas that is already present from improperly digested food.
There are several steps you can take to improve agni and eat legumes daily with no excess gas. First, most legumes should be soaked overnight and cooked with fresh water. Second, cook legumes with digestive spices, such as cumin, coriander and fennel. Finally, include kombu in your cooking water. Kombu is a type of sea vegetable that breaks down the proteins in legumes to make them easier to digest. Kombu, like all sea vegetables, has the added benefit of reducing the effects of radiation on your body and has the salty taste. It’s great to include on a regular basis.
Should you use canned beans?
Agni is strengthened by eating freshly prepared food. Leftovers, or any food that has been cooked more than 24 hours before eating lacks prana. Canned beans were cooked months -- even years -- before you pull them off the shelf. While it may seem easier, eating canned beans robs you of vital life force that is the key to good health and longevity. A pressure cooker is an Ayurvedic cook’s best friend. In 15 to 30 minutes, you can enjoy freshly cooked legumes and stronger agni. Here’s a handy guide to purchasing and using a pressure cooker.
Make the commitment to planning your meals a few days to a week in advance, then soak the legumes you’ll eat the night before that day. It’s easy to get into the rhythm of self-care!
Smooth split peas with kombu
A nice variation of this dish is to use half split mung beans and half split peas. They will cook at the same rate and create a nice, smooth consistency. You can also mix up the fresh herbs -- we love mint in the summer.
Preparation time: 25 minutes, mostly unattended
1/2 cup split peas, soaked overnight for or at least 8 hours
2 Tbsp. ghee or sunflower oil
1/2 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
3/4 tsp. fennel powder
1 Tbsp. kombu flakes or one 2 to 3 inch strip, cut into small pieces
Sprinkle of fresh chopped basil or cilantro
Heat oil in a pressure cooker and add the spices, cooking until the aroma comes up to meet you. Add the soaked split peas and 1½ cups warm water. Cover and bring to pressure. Turn down the heat just enough to maintain the pressure and cook for 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and allow the cooker to sit for 15 minutes with the lid on to come out of pressure. Sprinkle the peas with basil or cilantro and serve warm. If you like your split peas very smooth, you can blend for 30 seconds.