An important ingredient in Indian cuisine, Vigna mungo or the black gram (commonly known as urad dal in India) is a type of lentil that is mostly cultivated in the southern parts of Asia. It is a highly nutritious bean which is full of amazing health benefitting properties. Because of its medicinal and curative properties, Black gram is largely used in Ayurvedic medicine. Black gram is available in the whole form with its skin on, split form with its skin on or split form without its skin. Soaking this lentil prior to cooking will speed up the cooking time. It is also locally known as Udad dal, Uzhunu (Malayalam), Minumulu (Telegu), Adad dal (Gujarati), Biri dali (oriya), Uddina bele (kanada), urdu bele (Tulu), Ulunthu, Uluttham Paruppu (Tamil), while maash (Nepali), đậu muồng ăn (Vietnamese).
Nutritional value of Black gram
Vigna mungo is a nutritious bean that is rich in protein, dietary fiber and carbohydrates. Around 25% of its weight includes various proteins. Every 100 gram of urad dal offers, 18gm (72%) of dietary fibers, 1gm of Potassium (8%) and only 2 gram of fat. It is rich in vitamins like A, B1, B3 and C, and also contains moderate amounts of B complex vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. It is also a good source of several minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron.
Health benefits of Urad dal
Dense in nutrition, black gram is highly valued as a health food as well as a medicinal remedy for many health conditions. Some of the health benefits offered by black gram are as follows:
Black gram and skin benefits
Apart from being used as a culinary ingredient, black gram also finds use in beauty care because of its skin nourishing and rejuvenating properties. It offers immense benefits in maintaining a healthy and glowing skin. It provides moisturization to your skin and keeps it soft and supple. Sunburns and tanning can be removed with the help of a black gram face pack. Vigna mungo can act as natural bleach and its combination with lemon juice when applied to your skin, can help in lightening the skin tone. Black gram can also be used as a body scrub to exfoliate the skin and remove the dry and dead skin cells. This also helps in removing excess oil from your skin and in preventing acne and pimples. Black gram is effective in reducing the signs of aging such as wrinkles, dark spots, pigmentation, and fine lines. Here are some home remedy for various skin problems using black lentil.
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Home remedy for nourishing and rejuvenating the skin – Make a paste of soaked black gram and almonds and apply it on your face. Leave the paste on your face for half an hour and then wash it off. This remedy is useful in improving your complexion, nourishing your skin and also in getting rid of unwanted discoloration and tanning.
For soft and smooth skin – Mix together powdered black gram, glycerin, rose water and almond oil and apply this paste on to your face. Wash it off with cold water after about 15 minutes. This remedy helps in moisturizing your skin as well making it smooth and soft.
For removing sunburn and suntan – Soak a quarter of a cup of black gram overnight and then grind it into a fine paste the next day. Mix some yogurt with this paste and apply it on your face, hands, neck and other affected areas. Wash it off after 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat this procedure 3 or 4 times a week can help to get rid of sunburns and tanning
For eliminating acne and skin rashes – Mix together a teaspoon each of powdered black gram, powdered red lentils and orange peel with cucumber juice and apply this mixture to the affected areas. Once the mixture dries, wash it off with cold water.
For oily skin – A face pack made with one tbsp of black gram, one tbsp of fuller’s earth, one tsp of lemon juice and two tsp of honey, when applied to the skin is effective in removing excess oil.
For lightening your skin tone – Soak ¼ cup of black gram and a few almonds overnight and then grind them into a fine paste. Apply this paste on your face and wash it off after 20 minutes. This face pack acts as natural bleach and helps in lightening your skin tone.
For removing dead cells – Make a coarse powder with ½ a cup each of black gram and chickpea flour. Combine these powders with milk to form a paste and apply it over your body. This body scrub will help in exfoliating your skin as well in making it soft and smooth.
For Leucoderma – White Spots and Patches on Skin – A paste made from black gram powder and yoghurt is applied on the white patch as traditional remedy for leucoderma or vitiligo.
[Did you know? Red lentils can reduce excess oil from your skin and preventing acne. Read more.]
Black Gram and hair health
Vigna mungo is also beneficial for the healthy growth of hair. It promotes thick hair growth and prevents hair damage such as split ends and breakage. Applying a hair pack of black gram and fenugreek seeds can help in getting rid of dandruff and in preventing hair fall.
Try this home remedy for eliminating dandruff – Make a paste of black gram and green gram and use this mixture to wash your hair. This remedy helps in removing dandruff, strengthening your hair and also in keeping your hair clean and soft.
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Black lentil as source of protein
Vigna mungo is an excellent source of protein that is needed for building strong muscles and bones and in maintaining overall health. For people who do not eat meat, black gram is an excellent protein source as it delivers the recommended levels of protein.
Urad dal is good for your digestive system
Black gram is a rich source of both soluble and insoluble fibers that helps in improving digestion and also in increasing the bulk of your stool, thus enabling its easy removal from your body. It regularizes the bowel movements and hence is recommended for people suffering from digestive disorders like constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and piles.
Home remedy for digestive disorders – A decoction obtained by boiling black gram in water is effective in treating indigestion and other digestive disorders like diarrhea, dysentery and dyspepsia.
Black gram keeps your heart healthy
Black gram has been found to be beneficial in boosting the health of your heart. The fiber in this lentil is effective in reducing cholesterol and the potassium helps to balance the effects of sodium, thus helping in lowering high blood pressure. Nutrients like folate and magnesium found in this lentil helps in preventing damage of the arterial walls. Magnesium increases blood circulation and helps your heart function at its optimum best. Studies also show that black gram can help reduce lipids and cholesterol in body. Hyperlipidemia, risk factor for atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases can be treated with black gram. These black seeds have ability to inhibit process of absorption of lipids and cholesterol.
Black gram boosts your energy
If you are constantly suffering from fatigue and tiredness, including black gram in your diet can help you become active. The high amount of nutrients like iron in this lentil raises your energy levels and keeps your active for a very long time.
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Black gram has anti-inflammatory properties
Ayurvedic medicine considers black gram as an excellent remedy for treating inflammation and joint pain owing to its potent anti-inflammatory properties. Studies with black gram extract confirm anti-inflammatory properties. A hot poultice of this lentil placed on the affected area will help in relieving the inflammation and the pain associated with it. Massaging the area with oil containing Vigna mungo is also helpful in reducing pain and inflammation
Black gram increases immunity
While being used as popular lentil, its use has been common in traditional Ayurveda where it has been used to treat various diseases. It is traditionally believed to be food which increases immunity. In a lab study with black gram extract, researchers were able to observe its ability to stimulate immunity in rat.
Home remedy for pain and inflammation of the joints – A decoction obtained by boiling black gram with rock salt and sesame oil, when applied to the affected areas is found to be beneficial in reducing pain and inflammation. This is particularly helpful for people suffering from joint pain and arthritis.
Vigna mungo and male reproductive health
According to Ayurvedic medicine, Vigna mungo has aphrodisiac properties and helps in increasing the count and motility of sperms. It is also found to be good for treating premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. This is traditional home remedy for increasing the sperm count in males – Heat some ghee (Clarified butter) and fry black gram in it, until it changes to light brown color. Let it cool and then blend the fried lentil to a fine powder. Consuming two teaspoons of this powder along with cardamom powder and sugar or honey twice a day may help in increasing the sperm count and motility in males. It is also useful in treating erectile dysfunction and improving sexual potency.
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Urad dal for diabetic patient
Vigna mungo is a good food option for people suffering from diabetes as it is rich in fiber. A diet containing high amounts of fiber helps in controlling blood sugar levels and prevents spikes in these levels especially after a meal. A wonderful home remedy for diabetic patients to keep their blood sugar levels under control is to take black gram (germinated) along with half a cup of bitter gourd once a day for about four months.
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Vigna mungo health benefits for bones
Black gram is rich in proteins and minerals like calcium, phosphorus and magnesium that promote the growth and maintenance of healthy and strong bones. The nutrients in this lentil strengthens your bones and prevents conditions like osteoporosis, which is characterized by a decrease in bone density and bone mass, thus making your bones easily susceptible to breakage and fractures.
Black gram is good for pregnant women
Pregnant women are often advised to include black gram in their diet because of its high nutritional value. Black gram is a rich source of iron, which is needed for the production of hemoglobin and increased blood circulation. It is also high in protein, dietary fiber and nutrients like folic acid that is not only good for the expecting mother but also for the fetus as it helps in preventing birth defects.
Other uses of black gram
In traditional Ayurvedic practice, black gram is used in treatment of various nervous system disorders including paralysis.
Healthy recipes using Urad dal
The famous South Indian recipes of dosa, idli or wada are made mainly from urad dal and rice. Where as Dal Makhani, a north Indian delicacy is preparation of urad dal using spices. Papad are other popular Indian food which includes urad dal.
Here is recipe of Urad dal rice – Roast around ½ cup of black gram or split urad dal till color turns light brown. In a pan add 1 tablespoon of butter / ghee and add paste of 5-7 garlic cloves and pinch of asafetida powder. Add about ½ cup of grated fresh coconut and stir for a minute. To this add 2cups of washed rice and roasted black gram. Heat till all ingredients are mixed well. Add 3 cups of water and place a lid on the pan. Bring to boil and simmer till the rice is cooked. Garnish with some grated coconut and serve with curry.
Lentils have been valued for their nutritional benefits since ancient times. Vigna mungo is one of the healthiest lentils packed with nutrition and health benefitting properties. Incorporating them in your diet is highly recommended as they are a rich source of protein, dietary fiber and other nutrients that contributes to the overall improvement of your health.Image Credits: Flickr - Madlyinlovewithlife, Flickr - Soma Rathore, Flickr - Ganga108