Q&A: Is Unpolished Dal and Chawal good for you?

  • Praveesh Gulati
  • 1433

What can Indian house hold  do without the humble dal chawal!?  It might surprise you but this staple dish is probably not living up to its nutrient standard. Don’t know what we mean by that? Well, allow us to demonstrate.

The argument at hand is polished vs unpolished rice and pulses. The store bought packets of these ingredients have gone through a number processes to get to your plate and along the way, it lost its potency when it comes to nutrients.

We love our rice and dal and not only is dal delicious but it is also integral to a vegan’s diet as it is high in protein. Pilafs, pakodas and the good old kitchadi can all be taken that step further if we choose to go with the raw ingredient, and not the shiny ones we see in front of us.

What is the polishing process?

There are many variants in the market today and the glossy pulses or long-grain super white rice all look fancier but don’t have as many health benefits. In fact, the process in many cases involves polishing through water, oil, marble powder and leather. Yes, leather! This gives it that added luster. This process not only robs it off essential nutrients but also makes it non-vegan.

Still not convinced to go with unpolished?

Sometimes the rice and dal that hasn’t been sold over a long period of time, goes back to the manufacturer for re-polishing. Which is in turn, sent back to the stores to sell, this time around, it’s just empty calories striped of any real nutrients.

It’s safe to say that the more raw or untouched the produce the better it is for health. Unpolished rice and pulses have more fiber and tastes better. In fact, it’s common knowledge that brown rice, is just white rice that hasn’t been polished. 

In terms of nutrients, brown rice’s outer layer is abundant in healthy fats. It’s an excellent source of manganese. Manganese helps keep our bones strong and healthy, and also helps to synthesize cholesterol and fatty acids. Brown rice is also high in selenium, which is instrumental for the protection of the body’s cells from free-radicals.  According to Global Naturopath  ‘The complete milling and polishing that converts brown rice into white rice destroys 67% of the vitamin B3, 80% of the vitamin B1, 90% of the vitamin B6, half of the manganese, half of the phosphorus, 60% of the iron, and all of the dietary fiber and essential fatty acids. Fully milled and polished white rice is required to be "enriched" with vitamins B1, B3 and iron.’

The list of negative aspects is the same for pulses. Dal that is heavily processed takes longer to cook. Just like rice they are high in soluble fiber which helps lower blood cholesterol levels and insoluble fibre that helps with healthy digestion.  Polishing dals cause it to lose this important fibre.  Besides being very high in protein, according to cicilsiptic.com ‘Some of the key minerals in pulses include iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc. Pulses are also particularly abundant in B vitamins including folate, thiamin and niacin’ - Making them vital for any diet.

So, why do we have more polished options in the market?

The main reason most manufacturers prefer to polish their produce is because of a larger shelf life. Polished rice and dals can keep upto 8 months or more. Whereas unpolished, usually needs to be consumed within 6 months and stored in a cool, dry environment.

Another argument is that polishing takes away any chemicals of pesticides that could still be on the grain, protecting you from any harm. However, this isn’t a great argument, as there are options that are organic and chemical free, which are just as easily available.  

The other reason is because people like shiny-glossy things. Yes, this isn’t a joke, it’s purely just an aesthetic thing. White rice looks better, so does shiny mung dal – well to some it does.

Have we convinced you?

The next time you go shopping, read your labels and make sure you get the non-polished variant.

Like this post?

Read: Eat Local, Eat Fresh - From the Farm to the Table

Read more: Q & A: Does Your Toothpaste Contain Chlorine?


Praveesh Gulati

I believe in a balanced lifestyle. I'm obsessed with dogs and the vegan coffee at Starbucks.

Never Miss A thing

Get the latest scoop on all things vegan.