Have you looked at Dal nutrition labels at the back of your lentil packets recently?
What, (Gasp!!) it shocks me that you don’t go to your local grocery store, turn packages around to study nutrition labels?
No, You don’t??…
Ahh!!…That is just me, then?….:)
Fortunately for me, the Indian stores uncle knows me well and leaves me to do my weird research of obsessing over food labels.
Here are my main take-aways from studying lentil labels obsessively:
Indian companies need to publish more accurate food nutrition labels*
Very few Indian companies publish proper nutrition labels. Most of them stick a basic label on the back of packets, hoping nobody is going to question them.
Take a look at this – Himalaya Brand. They have slapped the same label on all the dals.
Or look at the famous organic 24 Mantra brand. They have the exact same 10g of protein in all dals. What is the probability that all the different lentils have the exact same levels of protein in 1 serving?
They also have the exact same label for toor dal and masoor dal.
The Indian Government (FSSAI) should focus on making those requirements mandatory instead of getting into random, unnecessary fights with food companies.
Calm down, lady!! What is the big deal?
So, you may be wondering, what is the big deal? A dal is a dal…you want protein, you eat dal..Why do you want to know the exact breakdown of nutrients?
First of all, knowledge is power!! Only if you are empowered with the right data, can you make better decisions. If you are paying good money for these brands, why can’t they tell you exactly how much of nutrition is in their product?
Let’s consider an example – People say eat whole grains. That’s a blanket statement. There are so many grains, where should you start? The nutrition labels in grains (done by companies like Bob’s red mill or the USDA website) gives you more information and power. Now we can specifically address problems like – Are you looking for more fiber?- eat barley. Are you looking for more protein? – eat wheat or amaranth
Lentils, however, is such a fundamental Indian product and strength. I was unable to find detailed information on say, Urad dal, on a large scale basis. Each brand publishes whatever they want.
Lentils Nutrition – What is consistently true then?
Having said that, I was able to cross-check 3 brands (Khazana sold at Costco, Bob’s red mill and Swad brand) and was able to make a few common, conclusive observations as listed below the 2 tables:
Khazana Brand: 100g serving
|Fiber (g)||4||2.3||17 (69% DV- Whoa!!)||2.69||16|
|Iron (%DV)||22||15||20||19||30 (Wow!!)|
Swad Brand: 1/4 cup serving
Finding #1: Chana dal – Rock star among lentils!!
The biggest problem for us South Indian vegetarians: We eat rice (carbs) + lentils (protein + carbs) + potato (more carbs) + sweets (Gahh..most carbs). You get the point.
1 of the major nutrient that can slow down the absorption of these carbs is – Drumroll please….FIBER!! When I saw the fiber levels in chana dal, I did a double take!! Surely, it was a mistake – 69% of daily value of fiber is insanely high. So, I double checked it with Bob’s red mill, with the USDA website, with Swad…still everyone seems to agree…chana dal has huge amounts of fiber hidden in that little nugget of a lentil.
So, if you are a diabetic, embracing chana dal might be in your favor. I think people know this already. My uncle, who is a doctor, back in the 70’s, used to advice my mom to make more chana dal for the family. Tamilian cuisine, is not particularly fond of chana dal – maybe a masala vada, here and there. But, I really think we need to embrace toor dal a little less and increase using chana dal more. If the price of tur dal skyrockets again, maybe instead of being grumpy about it, we can use it to our advantage next time.
Finding #2: Masoor – A hidden superstar!!
Masoor is such an underrated lentil (atleast) in the South Indian diet. But, it seems to be a leader among dals for Iron content. Most Indian vegetarians/ vegans are deficient in iron.
There is only so much greens a person can eat, and eating masoor seems to be an easy way to bump up the iron levels. Also given its relatively high fiber and protein content, I am quite impressed with it and wish to include it more in our meals. I made sambar today with masoor instead of toor and it came out pretty well. Poor toor dal, it is not getting any love from me these days!! But, the masoor, that was in the back of the closet, is now front and center.
For more fiber, eat chana dal.
For more iron, eat masoor dal.
Having said that, all dals are a great food source. They are all a great source of plant protein and soooo good for you.
Just don’t get into a rut of using the same dal over and over. Nature is so clever, it has hidden something special in each ingredient. The more diverse your eating habits, the more of the nutrition spectrum you will cover.
1. *I am not dissing on the quality of the above brands. I love Himalaya, Mantra and use all of them. This is in no way – a judgement on the quality of the lentils, just the accuracy of the nutrition labels.
2. Please remember, I am not a nutritionist. I just study numbers and report them. This does not cover hormonal, ayurvedic and other aspects of these lentils. Consult your doctor before making any major changes to your diet.
I appreciate your discussion of nutritional details of several dal.
A problem with many, perhaps most, nutritional information is that the “serving” sizes are frequently ill-defined. In an ideal world, in this instance, the nutritional information would be for some specific mass (weight) of dried dal. That way, the caloric content would be clearly related to an unambiguous quantity. It is surprisingly hard to find data for properly specified amounts, but perhaps the nutritional labels do that as part of the requirement, though as you point out, the labels are suspiciously similar for different items.
Hi Avery, I completely agree with your astute observation. Best way to reduce any variation would be to measure by weight. Unfortunately, a lot of home cooks (including me) prefer using cups, which introduces its own set of variations. 1/4 cup full or 1/4 cup just below the line. American cup or Indian cup measure, etc. Your point is spot on!!
Thanks for doing the legwork and putting together the tables. Saved me a lot of time … and grief 🙂
You are welcome!!
An interesting article that is well written. Thanks!! and I loved your humour as well.
I love lentils, they are a healthy and also a great vegan alternative to meats.
As a type 1 diabetic, I totaly share your obsession with food labeling of lentils. Am constantly trying to get ACCURATE carb and fibre counts for these dals as well as the various grains.
I have seen 1c of red lentils rated as low as 25g of carb and as high as 65! The main issue is specificity: are they cooked/uncooked? Shelled/unshelled. Portions: 1cup : Is that a usa cup (240ml) or Canadian cup (250) or british cup (235?). Also, by specifying volume, we are left with vunerable to packed/unpacked cups, big or small grains, which can have a difference of up to 30% on the actual amount of grain. And it’s not just labels; if we search the net it gets even worst. Further, when they say ‘cooked’ what exactly defines cooked? My cooked (pilaf consistency) will have less water in the finished serving than one of the more hummusesque pastes. As a carb counting diabetic, 30% difference can send me into insulin shock or sent my sugers sky high. Usually, in Canada, the quoted carb count “includes” the fibres. Usually, but not always. So again 60g carbs of which 25g is fibre, is “Actualy” 35g digestable carbs, and this is what we count into insulin calculations. But many international brands don’t do this, so it’s hard to know, really, just how many grams of carb a given serving contains. For these reasons, I rarely have lentils anymore — which is a shame.
Where oh where can we find a consistent listing of carb, fibre, prots based on dry, raw, simple, foods? I have this for rice, which is fairly consistent, surely it must exist for lentils?
I hear you….and share your pain. Bob’s red mill has some good, consistent data; but I agree other companies need to step up. I hope the FSSAI (Indian FDA equivalent) soon starts requiring these numbers from the Indian companies as well. Here’s hoping…..
Thanks for posting your detailed thoughts. It really highlights how much this information is needed and useful to all.
hello folks..just came across this website browsing which lentil has the lowest potassium content. My husband is a CKD patiend under dialysis and I would like to know which dal I can give him without his kidneys worsening in condition.His potassium content in blood is very high and is advised NOT to take any food that contains high potassium. So if anyone would be kind enough to share the knowledge of potassium content in Tuvar,Moong and Masoor dal with me, I would appreciate highly.
Hi Shashi, I am not a nutritionist. Hence, I am unable to answer the details of your question. But, I wish you all the best. My dad had similar issues, and I can empathize with your problem.
Thank you Swetha…sorry to know your dad also has same problems…does he take any dals at all?
He’s no more…but during the dialysis time, he was on a very restrictive diet. I am quite certain dals were very restricted. My mom knew his diet in more detail. They also gave him some protein shakes and his water intake was very controlled too.
oh! 🙁 I am so sorry
All i give my husband is bell peppers,beans carrots celery onions stirred in lil oil and mixed with rice.
Kidney ailment is such a punishment. 🙁
Thank you Swetha
Yes, it is a punishment. Yes, I understand completely.
My mom has CKD as well. Her creatinine went upto 9.6. Doctor strongly recommended dialysis . She had dialysis twice and ended up in hospital due to severe caugh and congestion. She is doing dr. Khader Vali diet after hat For kidney patients. Her creatinine dropped from 8.8 to 4.1 in 40 days. No dialysis. She ate mostly little millet and kodo millet, lot of white vegetables. They are low in phosphorus and potassium. Bottle gourd, radish, keera, cabbage, califlower and bell pepper. She ate keera and water melon daily.
Other green vegetables such as snake gourd and okra just once a week.
She was diagnosed with CKD 4 years back. Every summer in hyderabad her numbers used to get worse. But this summer she improved. She stopped coffee completely and replaced with ambali made with little millet and kodo millet.
For breakfast about 5 days a week she ate idly with 1 part urad dal and 4 parts millet (either little or kodo). With cilantro and mint chutney.
Please try. It helps. She is taking her tablets as well sodium bicarbonate prescribed by her nephrologist and also phosphorus blockers as she has high phosphorus. Her insulin dose has reduced with diet change.
Thank you PK. I was told White Long Grain rice is lower in potassium and phosphorous content than millet.
If you search for masoor or other dal and myfitnesspal.com, it has nutrition content with potassium in the second chart.
Oh, sorry, it doesn’t have full information for other dals like moong dal.
Thanks! So hard to find info on relative nutrition of dals and legumes. And they are a large part of Indian diet!
Similar article on Amino Acid matching of Dals and whole grain would be very useful.
You are welcome. I will try to put out more info as I research more. I appreciate your comment!!
A well-researched blog on the dal. You have thoroughly explained the details of the dal with the amount of nutrition.
Thanks for sharing this post with us.
Thank you, Ritesh!!
Recently my husband and i have been diagnosed with high LDL and borderline pre diabetic. I was researching and trying to find some distinctive changes in our diet, I am glad i came across your well explained daal analysis. Thank you for all your research and efforts to share it with all.
Thank you Mimi for your kind comment!! 🙂
Thanks for your information!! Are the quantities for cooked dal or uncooked?
Hi, The values are for uncooked.
If you notice the USDA database – Whole Urad has cray fiber / serving – like some 90% or so.
The value of fiber is around 28% (28.6 g per 100g portion). Here’s my link.
Could you please post where it says 90%, because that seems way too high.
Oops – sorry about the spelling error – I meant to say crazy amt. of fiber
Thank you for this article. It was very helpful. What do you think could cause the difference in fiber reporting between brands (like Swad, Khazana and Bob red mill)? There is still a substantial difference.
I can only venture a guess on diff reasons like: maybe – The FDA (US gov food org) vs FSSAI (Indian gov food org) may have different requirements/enforcement practices from their food manufacturers. It could be the variations in the breed variety. Also, an Indian cup size is different from the American cup size measure. etc…
I think, over time, the numbers will converge closer as nutritional testing and awareness gets more popular. But, for now, unfortunately, we have to work with the numbers we got.
This was a brilliant article. Knowing about the nutrients in our food is so important! I read food labels in the store, too, but this was such a smart and useful analysis! You really put a ton of relevant information all in one place. I shared this article with my diabetic parents. Thank you!
Hi Shirin, Thank you for your kind comments! Much appreciated!
Interesting post and it aligns with my thoughts too. Channa dal also has a tendency to create a gassy situation for many people. Adding ginger, hing etc is the only known remedy I know of. Are there other useful tips to make it more digestible? I also hear about Horse gram and Black urad dal being quoted as protein and fiber rich, but a quick nutrition facts search tells me otherwise. Any experience researching those?
Thanks for the nice information! Vegetarians have a hard time avoiding carbs. Salads, nuts and paneer alone don’t cut it. We need a filling meal. It will be greatly helpful in finding good ways to have a satisfying nutrient dense meal without too much carb.
Fermenting and sprouting the legumes are the best way to reduce the gassiness. With chana dal, I throw away the soaking water even if it is only soaked for 20 minutes and I have found that it helps. Regarding the protein and fiber content for things like horsegram and urad dal, I have written another blog post:
I think there is also brown Mansoor ( one with skin?) . Do you think that’s better with more iron and fiber?
Also with the plain masoor, do you recommend soaking since as it is it’s the fastest cooking dal?
Yes, the one with skin has more iron and fiber.
Soaking is better to reduce the anti nutritional factors like physic acid and tannins. But as you mentioned, it makes very little impact on the cooking time given it is such a fast cooking dal.
Thank for the really good information!
According to Ayurveda, Mung bean is best.
Thanks, helpful information 👍
Thank You. This helped me a lot. Although, adding which one is good for your tummy with less gas content would be helpful for people like me who has a Gaseous body. Not sure to find that one.