The popular Indian food combination of Dal Chawal or lentils with rice serves as a well balanced meal.

Across India, pulses or lentils are paired with cereals, and combinations such as dal-chawal, idli-sambar, dal-roti, dal-kachori, are extremely popular. For most, pulses are a significant protein source in the vegetarian diet, cheaper and more accessible.

Notably, proteins are essential for normal growth and development, and cereals provide the body with energy. Besides the fact that pulses and cereals make a delicious food pair, there is sound scientific reasoning behind why they are consumed together.

Perfect nutritional pairing

In particular, cereals are rich in the amino acid methionine but low in lysine, whereas pulses are rich in iron, Vitamin B and calcium. When sprouted, they are a good source of Vitamin C too. The pairing of rice with lentils creates balanced meals, with all the essential amino acids.

While the amount of protein required by the body is different for each age group and differs based on varying activity levels, the ideal ratio for consuming cereals and pulses is 8:1 (8 parts cereal, 1 part pulse).

Different kinds of preparations

Dals can even be fermented prior to consumption, as is done in Southern India. This repopulates the gut with healthy microbes. To benefit from this protein-carbohydrate combination, it is best to eat “sabut” dals, or dals with the outer shell intact, in conjunction with brown rice.

But if you want to shake up the mundane routine of dal chawal, make a dal salad with cold, semi-cooked dal, and an assortment of vegetables. You can layer this on top of a rice cracker, or some savory biscuits. Another healthy snacking option is hummus and warm pita.

Those switching to high-fibre dal chawal, may add some hing (asafoetida) for better digestion of fibre. However, if you have irritable bowel syndrome, then avoid fibrous foods, since these lead to bloating and griping. Instead, you can go for “dhuli” dals and polished rice.