Kala Chana (Bengal Gram) is the smaller dark brown version of pale yellow chickpea (safed channa). It has a a rough coat, cultivated mostly in India and other parts of the Indian sub-continent, as well as Ethiopia, Mexico and Iran.
Although it has a brown skin, it remains yellow underneath, and has a nutty flavour and starchy texture when cooked. It’s a very versatile legume, with an important role in many Middle Eastern and Indian dishes. Kala channa is spliced, split and processed to produce chana dal – a type of lentil. Besan (gram flour) is a pulse flour made from chana dal. It is a staple ingredient in the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent, including in Indian, Bangladeshi, Burmese, Nepali, Pakistani and Sri Lankan cuisines. It is gluten-free and a rich source of protein, fiber, iron, potassium, manganese, vitamin B6 and thiamin.
Nutrition Table (as per USDA National Nutrient Database)
Health benefits of Besan (gram flour) are as follows –
- Helps Lower Cholesterol: Gram flour contains healthy unsaturated fats which help in lowering the cholesterol level of the body.
- Controls Diabetes: Owing to its low glycemic index, it is a great food for diabetics. Use it in your rotis, paranthas as a replacement for flour. Glycemic index of chickpea is just 10.
- Helps improve health of the heart: Besan has high soluble fiber content which is beneficial for the health of the heart. It is also endorsed by the Heart Care Foundation.
- Healthy alternative for Gluten: Since besan does not contain gluten, it is a great substitute to wheat and other gluten containing grains, for those people who are allergic to gluten.
- Helps getting rid of iron deficiency: Being rich in iron, consumption of besan on a daily basis can help your body recover from iron deficiencies like anaemia.
- Useful in pregnancy: Gram flour is rich in folate, a vitamin which takes care of the foetus’ brain and spinal cord development and ensures a healthy well developed baby.
- Helps during fatigue: Gram flour is a good source of the vitamin Thiamin which helps the body in converting food into energy.
- Helps regulate mood and appetite: Besan is rich in vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is an important component involved in the synthesis of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin plays an important in mood and appetite regulation.
- Helps regulate blood pressure: The magnesium content of besan helps in maintaining vascular health and it also helps in the regulation of blood pressure.
- Helps in strengthening of bones: The phosphorous in gram flour combines with calcium in the body to help in the formation of bones.
Kala Channa or Bengal Gram is commonly used to make a curry based dish in India. Channa Dal is used as in it is to make the dal dish in India. Besan forms the base for savory snacks like dhoklas, bonda (spiced potato curry balls dipped in a batter of besan and deep-fried), potato vadas, pakoras etc. It is the main ingredient in the preparation of gujarati dishes like kadhis (where it plays the role of thickening agent), khandvis (cooked and flavored besan rolls) and farsaan items like boondi, phafra etc. In Sindhi cuisine, besan is used to prepare koki – a shallow-fried snack made with besan, onions, anardana and other spices. Coarsely ground besan is also used in the preparation of famous Indian sweets like mohanthaal, mysore pak, laddoos etc.