Dal (also known as dahl) is an Indian term for a thick soup-like stew made from
different varieties of legumes (usually lentils), onions, and a variety of pungent spices. It’s a staple in Ayurvedic cooking, a supremely nourishing dish, and quite easy to digest. Chef Jeannette’s version is a spice-rack come to life, featuring cumin, coriander, garlic, ginger, and turmeric, all superstars in the spice kingdom.
Moong dal is made of split mung beans. They tend to turn mushy in a soup, making them a perfect choice for the consistency of a thick dal, and they cook more quickly than brown or green lentils. Chef’s version is about half vegetable/half moong, making it lower carb than most options. We also opted to skip the traditional basmati rice for the same reason. The ingredient list is a bit long, but more than half of them are herbs and spices, so the dish comes together pretty easily.
I know the Paleo folks don’t much care for beans or legumes because of the lectins (proteins in grains, beans, and legumes that can cause problems for some people), but in my experience, only about 10 percent of the general population is “lectin-sensitive.” For everyone else, legumes are among the healthiest foods on the planet.—Dr. Jonny
Featured ingredient: Lentils
Lentils are small, disk-shaped legumes that grow on an annual bush-like plant native to central Asia. They’re used throughout the Mediterranean region and the Middle East, and they’re especially popular in India where they’re mixed with spices and cooked to a purée called a dal.
There are at least 50 varieties of lentils, in addition to the brown variety most common in the west. The ancient Greeks used them for making bread, and the crisp Indian crackers known as pappadams that are often served with lentils are made from lentil flour.
But lentils’ real claim to fame—and the reason they got a “star” in my book, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth—is that they are positively loaded with fiber, especially soluble fiber. Soluble fiber provides food for the good microbes in your gut, and helps control blood sugar by delaying the emptying of the stomach and slowing the entry of sugar into the bloodstream. That’s why high-fiber foods such as lentils have such a low glycemic load. Because fiber slows down digestion, it can help blunt the spikes in blood sugar and insulin that can cause you to be hungry again an hour after a low-fiber meal. Those blood-sugar spikes can also contribute to diabetes, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome, while making weight loss very difficult.
High-fiber diets have been consistently associated with better weight management, as well as improved glucose control for both diabetics and non-diabetics. High-fiber diets are also associated with lower risks for cancer and heart disease.
In addition to whopping 16 grams of fiber, a cup of lentils also provides about 18 grams of protein. Lentils are also a good source of at least seven minerals.
Notes from The Clean Food Coach
The Instant Pot is a useful, versatile tool for healthy, fast food preparation. It’s reasonably priced and saves on space because it takes the place of multiple bulky kitchen appliances. I regularly use one to sauté, slow cook, pressure cook, and make rice and even sous vide! If you don’t have one, a pressure cooker will work fine with the extra step of sautéing on the stove top. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, add more liquid and simmer the contents in a soup pot on the stovetop until everything is tender, about 30–40 minutes.
Try our Quick Vegetable Dal recipe.