Food Conversions & Cooking Times: Grains, Legumes & Pulses

Handy Kitchen Cooking Tips & Info

We’ve always encouraged everyone to cook their own grains, legumes and pulses when and where they can. Firstly, because freshly cooked food always tastes great, secondly because (hopefully) you will save some money over time and thirdly, because it’s basic and easy cooking skills that everyone can and should develop.

Avid home cooks will develop their own tried and true methods of how to cook the perfect rice and other grains (us included), but it takes practice. Don’t let this discourage you because remember, everyone had the same starting point; typically quick advice from some family and friends!

You can use the cooking instructions from packets, but even those are variable and sometimes undesirable. However, until we can develop our own cooking styles and things become second nature, it’s best to have some sort of guide.

Many years ago (after thoroughly soaking some chickpeas) we tried cooking them for the first time. Thirty-five minutes later and those things were still rock hard! We thought “what the heck is going on?!” Little did we know at the time that these legumes actually needed well over an hour to cook! We just assumed that since most beans take about 45-60mins that these would too. Cooking 101: if you are new to cooking (or a new food item), always double check the basics before getting started and don’t assume anything. It’s better to get the basics down and then you can wing it… particularly if you don’t want to waste money or are trying to make the most of your time; standing next to a pot for 1-2 hrs can be a big ‘ask’!

Last year we mentioned of how to cook chickpeas in a slow cooker; now it’s our preferred method to cook our legumes! What a time saver. Like us, not everyone uses traditional methods to cook their beans (legumes or grains); for some, the use of a pressure cooker will significantly reduce their cooking times. However, not everyone uses (or has) kitchen gadgets, so it’s always great to know how to go back to basics; which is exactly why we have created this table. It includes a variety of grains, legumes and pulses (although not exhaustive) with a comparison of dried verses cooked weights and approx. cooking times; this is particularly helpful if you come across a new food item with no idea of how to cook it (as mentioned above)!

 

Tips & Info
  • Our table tries to look at the average cooking weights by standard cooking preparation (on your stove top!); some of them are averages and some of them are estimates. However, as you can appreciate, cooking beans etc. is not a perfect system. Cooked weights of grains, legumes and pulses can vary due to a number of reasons including:

-over soaking.
-soaking beans in too little water.
-over cooking pasta or cooking it to an al dente texture.
-cooking grains in too much water.

  • When we cook our own dried pulses and legumes, we always weigh them afterwards and give an approx. equivalent for using a tinned variety.
  • Cooking times shown here are not indicative of quantities used.
  • This table does not include complete cooking instructions, e.g. if the cooking time includes steaming off the heat, tempering grains in oil, under cooking (if you’re entering your pasta straight into a sauce) and/or rinsing the grains/beans/pulses before or after cooking etc.
  • Overnight soaking typical means a time span of 8-12 hours.

Hopefully this table will give everyone (who needs it) a rough idea and a head start of how to cook grains, legumes and pulses; with any luck it will also help to organise your meal planning and prep… so you’ll have more fresh and deliciously cooked meals as a result!

Happy cooking everyone! 🙂

 

 

Sources:
-McCance and Widdowson’s ‘The Composition of Foods’. 5th Edition B Holland, A A Welch, I D Unwin, D H Buss, A A Paul and D A T Southgate. The Royal Society of Chemistry, 1991
-Feature Image: Play with your food By: Sacha Pop-Farrell_Flickr
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Plant-Based Proteins: It Really Isn’t A Mystery!

Diet & Weight Loss

Protein is essential, regardless of the type of lifestyle or diet we follow; it’s an important building block of life. Our digestion processes breaks down protein into amino acids that enables our bodies to perform a wide range of functions, such as: cell growth and repair, managing our metabolism and body processes (making hormones and enzymes) and also forming parts of our organs, muscles, bones, collagen, connective tissues, skin, nails and hair.

 

Besides the above, it can offer a high satiety level and depending on the source, comes bundled with a range of macro and micro nutrients, including: fibre, B-vitamins (niacin, thiamine, riboflavin and B6), Vitamin E, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and omega 3 fatty acids.

 

Every protein molecule consists of a chain of amino acids. There are many types of amino acids, but our body can only produce 11 ‘important’ amino acids that are used to make up proteins within our bodies. There are 10 essential amino acids that must be derived from protein-rich foods; good, quality protein sources (in adequate amounts) are essential as the body does not ‘store’ protein and therefore needs a regular supply from our diet.

 

 

If you have already decided to take the plunge and try a vegan lifestyle, even on a ‘flexi’ basis, I’m sure your more than aware of where your dietary protein is coming from.

It is one of the most common questions vegans or vegetarians get asked “where does your protein come from?”

Typical ‘westernised diets’ obtain protein from: meats, eggs, dairy, poultry and fish. These can all can be good sources of protein, but some of these foods are not ideal if we are watching our cholesterol, prefer to have alternative dietary choices or want to follow a vegan lifestyle! Good sources of plant protein include: nuts, seeds, pulses, beans and soya products; there is also some in grains.

 

 

Our Daily Protein Needs

For a ‘typical’ man or woman, the Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) for protein is:

0.75g Of Protein/Kg of Body weight (BW)/Day

For example….

  • A 70kg man needs 52.3g protein/D
  • A 58kg woman needs 43.5g protein/D

The average UK daily protein intake is: 88g for men and 64g for women. So it’s obvious that the current consumption is beyond the current recommendations.

NB: There is approximately 30g of protein in 100g of roasted chicken breast. So if you are having protein (from animal sources) at every meal in addition to grains etc, you can see how it quickly adds up!

 

 

Protein Combining

Various plant proteins are not considered ‘complete’ because they lack one or more essential amino acids, however they can be ‘combined’ as part of a meal, e.g. eating a grain and a legume. This is ‘protein combining’ which can result in a higher biological value of the food and provide complete proteins.

With any type of diet, it’s a good idea to look into how to make these ‘complete proteins’ (See Table 1);  the UK Vegetarian Society also gives a nice explanation.

 

Protein Combining: Meal Examples

 

Some of the major contenders for plant-based proteins…

 

Common & Nutritious Plant Protein Sources

Here’s a nutritional breakdown for some plant protein sources….

 

Nutritional Info: Protein From Plant-Based Foods

*Sources: 1,2,3

 

For example: If I consumed porridge made with 40g of oats, 15g of almonds, 10g of flax seed, 250ml soya milk and some berries, along with 2 standard fresh apricots, a 250g potato with 200g of baked beans and a small, a low-fat stir-fry with 150g tofu, a vegetable mixture (inclusive of dark leafy greens) on top of 65g of brown rice, I would be more than meeting my daily protein needs (it provides approx. 55g of protein); let alone whatever other fruits, vegetables or nuts/seeds/grains I decided to eat!

 

Photo by: nalm fadll Flickr

Photo by: nalm fadll Flickr

So let’s not let the food industry or anyone else dictate our dietary choices, because that’s what we have- choices.

Nature has so much to offer us, and there is such an assortment and amalgamation of cuisines… that I have to wonder why would anyone want to stick to a ‘typical westernised meal’ of meat and two vegetables anyway?

 

Whether you are trying to save money, are struggling financially, have decided to make some positive lifestyle changes to your health, or maybe even have a new ethical stance on animal welfare… rest assured, plant-based proteins are nutritious, varied and relatively cheap to buy; especially beans and lentils in their dried varieties.

 

We do not have to consume over-priced whey protein powders, meat, poultry, fish or any other animal products to meet our daily protein needs. With a carefully planned plant-based diet, we can reap the benefits of ‘complete nutrition’ and improve overall health. Whilst a high protein diet on its own is unlikely to cause you ill-health, if the source of the protein is from animal products high in fat, then your overall diet is probably unhealthy; if coupled with unhealthy lifestyle choices it can increase the risk of heart diseases, bowel cancer, stroke and possibly osteoporosis.

 

If you are unsure of where to start, there are lots of resources available…

  • The Vegan society
  • The Vegetarian society
  • BBC Foods (they have a decent supply of recipes that you can adjust to your personal preference)
  • An endless list of blogs that have personal recommendations of recipes and/or plant-based cook books.

 

And…

Photo by: Jena Jezy Flickr

Photo by: Jena Jezy Flickr

Don’t let all the chopping and meal planning discourage you, it comes with the territory and it’s essential to make sure your plant-based diet is ‘nutritionally sound’; like a lot of things in life, the best things take a little patience and perseverance but are worth it in the end.

 

Happy plant-based cooking everyone! 🙂

 

Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image by: qual dieta Flickr

 

Sources:
1. USDA Database
2. Foods Standards Agency (2002) McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods, Sixth summary edition. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemisty
3. Foods Standards Agency (2002) Food Portion Sizes, 3rd Revised edition edition. London:TSO