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Ayurveda, popularly thought of as Traditional Indian Medicine, is composed of two Sanscrit words AYUR “life” and VEDA “knowledge” – – its meaning is therefore Science of Life. This 5000-year-old system of healing from India recommends a vegetarian diet. The Ayurvedic diet is one that not only nourishes the body, but also restores balance of the 3 Doshas, which is essential for maintaining health. Depending on a person’s dosha, or physical body type, some foods can be beneficial, and others should be avoided. These same foods may have the opposite effect on another dosha. The science of Ayurveda teaches that right diet is the foundation of healing. For maximum health and vitality, the ideal diet is one that balances our individual doshas.

An important part of this diet are legumes/beans. Legumes/Beans are classified as lentils, beans, or peas, and all of them are basically seeds from specific plants. There are numerous varieties of legumes grown throughout the world, and they come in various shapes, sizes and colors. Legumes have been in cultivation for thousands of years. There are tropical or warm-region legumes and temperate or cool-region legumes. In many parts of the world legumes are considered extremely valuable dietary additions, because they constitute good and inexpensive sources of nutrition — generally high in complex carbohydrates, protein and fiber, and relatively low on fat.

Legumes are a rich source of protein and a staple food in many countries, such as India and the Middle East. Varieties of dahl (or dal), often mentioned in ayurvedic cooking, are legumes. According to ayurveda, legumes are astringent in taste. They help build all the seven types of dhatus or body tissue, especially muscle tissue, which makes them especially important for individuals on a vegetarian diet.

Not only are legumes highly nutritious, they are very versatile, lending themselves to all kinds of dishes and combining marvelously with grains, vegetables and spices, and they taste delicious, with a buttery texture and subtly nutty flavor.

In Ayurvedic nutrition, legumes are often a part of almost every meal of the day. They are also used to make desserts and snacks. The protein in legumes is a very different protein from that which is found in meat products, cheese, eggs, and fish. Vegetarian protein from legumes requires some effort to digest and individuals new to legumes will find it very helpful to use spices that help digestion such as asafetida, cumin seeds, fresh ginger, and black pepper. Adding these spices to legume dishes will help to reduce any side effect such as bloating or gas that beans are often associated with.

It is best to add legumes gradually, if they are new additions to your diet. With regular intake, your body will adapt to them and enable you to digest them better. You can increase your intake over time to levels that are comfortable.

There are three basic ways to prepare legumes:

1. Legumes are soaked in water overnight and then cooked the next day by being boiled in water. Spices can be added while cooking or lightly fried in oil or clarified butter after cooking. Vegetables and grains may be added while cooking to create hearty stews. These legumes can be poured over rice or used for dipping flat breads such as Indian chapati bread or Middle Eastern pita bread.

2. Legumes can be soaked for several hours and then ground into a paste with a food processor to make dumplings, fritters, and desserts.

3. Legumes can be ground into flours to make dough for breads and for desserts and puddings.

If you plan to make legumes a regular part of your diet, a pressure cooker will help speed up cooking times and cook in quantity without pre-soaking. It also helps to achieve legumes of extremely soft consistency, recommended for easier digestibility. Different pressure cookers have different time mechanisms, so you will have to experiment to figure out ideal cooking times for each variety of beans or lentils you cook.

According to Ayurveda the universe is governed by 5 elements: EARTH – WATER – FIRE – AIR – ETHER. In our bodies, these elements govern the 3 Dosha (the physical structure) and the 3 Guna (the mental structure).

VATA (light – soft – dry)
PITTA (fluid – warm – active)
KAPHA (cold – dense – slow)
SATVA (light – thin – quickening – virtue)
RAJAS (passion)
TAMAS (ignorance – inactive – heavy – obstruction)

Legumes/Beans have a high amount of hard-to-digest protein (whose metabolic by-product is nitrogen waste). Nitrogen is a gas, and all gases increase Vata. Because of this, Vata persons should not eat too much protein. Only a small amount of legumes should be eaten by a Vata person during a meal. Even tofu can aggravate Vata if it is eaten daily for a long period of time. Mung beans are the best high-protein food because they are the easily to digest and disturb the mind the least. Peanuts tend to cause the blood to clot and should not be eaten by someone who has a circulation problem. Cumin and coriander seeds help fire up the digestive fire. Asafetida, ginger and garlic keep Vata from being disturbed and turmeric keeps legumes from poisoning the blood,

Soaking legume for at least an hour before cooking, then throwing out the water, reduces intestinal gas which are caused by the increased Vata of peas and beans. If this doesn’t work, then cook the legumes first in water for five to ten minutes and throw out the water. In India lentils and peas are usually split. Splitting exposes more surfaces during cooking and gets rid of the indigestible outer coast. It is best to cook split pulses into a soup and eat with grains. The best legumes to eat are mung beans, chickpeas, tofu, red lentils and black lentils. Black lentils give strength, but are hard to digest. They should be cooked with extra asafetida.


Pitta people have the best digestion system of the three doshas. Almost all Legumes are good, except some Lentils. Over eating legumes can be a problem because they contain nitrogenous waste, which aggravates Vata and Pitta because of their acidity. Small amounts of legumes are good, except red and yellow lentils. For Pitta persons the best legumes are chickpeas, tofu, mung beans and black lentils.


Kapha persons should not over-eat legumes and they don’t need much because their bodies don’t need much protein. They should avoid the heaviest legumes such as kidney beans, soy beans and black lentils. Kapha persons can take small quantities of well-cooked tofu, but large quantities often increase Kapha. The best legumes are mung beans, red lentils, pinto beans and black beans.


Mung beans (Phaseolus aureous) are small cylindrical beans with bright green skin and yellow insides. They are eaten whole, split with skins on, split and hulled, or sprouted. They appear extensively in both Indian and Chinese cuisines. In ayurvedic cooking, they are used whole or, more commonly, split and hulled, which reveal small, yellow beans called mung dahl. These beans don’t need pre-soaking and are easy to cook to butter-soft consistency in a pressure cooker. They can also be cooked in a slow cooker or on the stovetop, but should be sorted and washed thoroughly beforehand.

The easiest to digest of all the beans is yellow split mung dahl. Yellow mung beans are green mung beans that has been hulled and split. This dahl helps to balance all three doshas and is the quickest cooking of all the dahls. It takes only 20 minutes to cook without any soaking time.

Mung beans are one of the most cherished foods in ayurveda. They are Tri-Doshic, meaning that they can balance all three doshas, especially when cooked with spices appropriate for each dosha. They are very nourishing, while relatively easy to digest, and do not generally create abdominal gas or bloating, the drawbacks of larger beans. Mung beans can be eaten on their own, or combined with rice to make Khichari, or combined with vegetables and greens to make hearty soups or ground into flour to be used to make rotis (Indian crepes) or added to breads. Turmeric, cumin, dried ginger and coriander are spices that work very well with mung beans. Persons recuperating are often recommended to eat Khichari, rice and mung beans, for a good level of nourishment without troubling the digestion.

Ayurvedic healers valuer the mung bean most highly, because it is very nutritious and delivers sustenance while being easier on the digestion than other beans. When cooked to butter-soft consistency mung beans can be digested even by the ill, the very old and the very young, and individuals with a weak digestive fire. Mung beans offer the astringent and sweet tastes, are cooling for the body, and light and soft. When combined with enhancing herbs and spices, mung beans are suitable for all the doshas.

According to modern nutritionists, mung beans offer 14 gms of protein per cooked cup. Mung beans are a good source of dietary fiber and phytoestrogens. They also contain vitamins A, C and E, folacin, thiamin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and copper.