Originally cultivated in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, have spread their culinary influence across the world. They also come with a range of potential health benefits.
Though the most common type of chickpea appears round and beige, other varieties can be black, green, and red.
Like other legumes, such as beans, peas, and lentils, chickpeas are high in fiber and protein, and contain several key vitamins and minerals.
In this article, we will give a nutritional breakdown of chickpeas and explain their potential health benefits.Fast facts on chickpeas:
Here are some key points about chickpeas. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- Chickpeas are sometimes known as garbanzo beans.
- They are featured extensively in the Mediterranean diet and Middle-Eastern food.
- They are a good source of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber.
- Soak them in water for 8 to 10 hours before cooking for the best results.
Though the most common type of chickpea appears round and beige, other varieties include colors such as black, green, and red.
Chickpeas have been associated with a number of possible health benefits.
Chickpeas are particularly high in fiber. Studies have shown that people with type 1 diabetes who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels.
For people with type 2 diabetes, higher fiber intake may improve blood sugar, lipid, and insulin levels.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a minimum of 21 to 25 grams (g) of fiber per day for women and 30 to 38 g per day for men.
2) Bone health
The iron, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin K in chickpeas all contribute to building and maintaining bone structure and strength.
Though phosphate and calcium are both important in bone structure, the careful balance of the two minerals is necessary for proper bone mineralization – consumption of too much phosphorus with too little calcium intake can result in bone loss.
Bone matrix formation requires the mineral manganese, and iron and zinc play crucial roles in the production and maturation of collagen.
Adequate vitamin K consumption is important for good bone health because it improves calcium absorption and may reduce urinary excretion of calcium, making sure that enough calcium is available for building and repairing bone. Low intake of vitamin K is associated with a higher risk for bone fracture.
3) Blood pressure
Maintaining a low-sodium (low-salt) intake is essential for maintaining a low blood pressure, however increasing potassium intake may be just as important because of its vasodilation effects. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, fewer than 2 percent of United States adults meet the daily 4,700-milligram recommendation.
4) Heart health
The high fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B-6 content all support heart health. Chickpeas contain significant amounts of fiber, which helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease.
In one study, those who consumed 4,069 milligrams of potassium per day had a 49 percent lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed less potassium (about 1,000 mg per day).
Although the mineral selenium is not present in most fruits and vegetables, it can be found in chickpeas. It helps the enzymes of the liver to function properly and detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in the body. Additionally, selenium prevents inflammation and decreases tumor growth rates.
Chickpeas also contain folate, which plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair, and so helps prevent the formation of cancer cells from mutations in the DNA. Saponins, phytochemicals present in chickpeas, prevent cancer cells from multiplying and spreading throughout the body.
High-fiber intakes from chickpeas and other legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.
Vitamin C functions as a powerful antioxidant and helps protect cells against free radical damage.
Research shows that including chickpeas in the diet lowers the amount of low-density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol, in the blood.
The choline in chickpeas helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory. Choline also helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.
8) Digestion and regularity
Because of their high fiber content, chickpeas help to prevent constipation and promote regularity for a healthful digestive tract.
9) Weight management and satiety
Dietary fibers function as “bulking agents” in the digestive system. These compounds increase satiety (a feeling of fullness) and reduce appetite, making people feel fuller for longer and thereby lowering overall calorie intake.
Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions. Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like chickpeas decreases the risk of obesity, overall mortality, diabetes, heart disease, promotes a healthful complexion, healthful hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight.
10) Irritable bowel syndrome
Although chickpeas do not ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, they can be helpful to people affected by the condition.
Patsy Catsos, a registered dietitian and author of “IBS – Free at Last!” suggests that increasing fiber consumption in individuals who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be a challenge. However, chickpeas offer a source of fiber that is well-tolerated by some IBS patients.
Unfortunately, people with IBS who are following a low-FODMAP diet do have to restrict chickpeas.
Raw chickpeas should not be consumed due to the harmful substances found in uncooked legumes.
One cup of cooked chickpeas contains:
- 269 calories
- 45 g of carbohydrate
- 15 g of protein
- 13 g of dietary fiber
- 4 g of fat
- 0 g of cholesterol
Note: it is not recommended to eat raw chickpeas, or any other pulses due to the content of toxins and anti-nutrients. These components are reduced with sprouting and cooking.
Additionally, chickpeas contain vitamin K, folate, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, choline, and selenium.
Besides being an excellent vegan and gluten-free source of protein and fiber, chickpeas also contain exceptional levels of iron, vitamin B-6, and magnesium.
Diet and recipes
Chickpeas are available all year and are often found in grocery stores either dried and packaged or canned. They have a nutty flavor and buttery texture that allows them to be easily incorporated into any meal.
When preparing dried chickpeas:
Sort them: It is important to pick out any small rocks or other debris that may have wound up in the package.
Wash and soak them: Soak chickpeas in water for 8 to 10 hours before cooking in order to achieve optimum flavor and texture. It’s possible to tell they are finished soaking when they can be split easily between the fingers. Soaking dried legumes reduces the amount of time needed to cook them, and also helps remove some of the oligosaccharides that cause gastrointestinal distress as well as harmful substances found in raw legumes.
Cook: Once they are finished soaking, chickpeas are best cooked by simmering for a few hours until tender.
Quick tips on incorporating chickpeas into a diet:
Hummus is a quick and tasty dip that is made using chickpeas.
- Toss chickpeas and a variety of other legumes with any vinaigrette for an easy protein-packed bean salad. Add some rice to make it a complete protein.
- Sprinkle some canned or packaged roasted chickpeas over a salad to add a nutty flavor and to broaden the variety of textures.
- Chickpea flour can add fiber, protein, and an assortment of vitamins and minerals to gluten-free baking.
- Purée chickpeas with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and tahini to make a quick and tasty hummus, which can be used as a dip or spread.
- Add chickpeas to vegetable soup to increase its nutritional content.
- Mix chickpeas with any favorite spices for a delicious side or snack.
- Mash chickpeas with cumin, garlic, chili, and coriander, then separate the mixture into several small balls. Fry the balls until they are crisp and then serve them inside pita bread to create a traditional Middle Eastern falafel.
Legumes contain oligosaccharides known as galactans, or complex sugars that the body cannot digest because it lacks the enzyme alpha-galactosidase. This enzyme is needed to break these sugars down. As a result, the consumption of legumes such as chickpeas has been known to cause some people intestinal gas and discomfort.
Anyone who experiences symptoms when eating legumes should introduce them into their diet slowly. Another option is to drain the water used to soak dried legumes. This removes two oligosaccharides, raffinose and stachyose, and eliminates some of the digestive issues.
Chickpeas and potassium
Beta-blockers, a type of medication most commonly prescribed for heart disease, can cause potassium levels to increase in the blood. High-potassium foods such as chickpeas should be consumed in moderation when taking beta-blockers.
High levels of potassium in the body can pose a serious risk to those with kidney damage or kidneys that are not fully functional. Damaged kidneys may be unable to filter excess potassium from the blood, which could be fatal.
It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with a variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.
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