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.
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Fast facts on chickpeas:
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Possible health benefits of consuming chickpeas
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; and for people with type 2 diabetes higher fiber intake may have improved blood sugar, lipids, and insulin levels.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a minimum of 21-25 grams of fiber per day for women and 30-38 grams per day for men.
2) Bone health
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 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 (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 suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be a challenge, however, chickpeas offer a source of fiber that is well-tolerated by some IBS patients.
Unfortunately, IBS-sufferers who are following a low-FODMAP diet do have to restrict chickpeas.
Nutritional breakdown of 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 grams of carbohydrate
- 15 grams of protein
- 13 grams of dietary fiber
- 4 grams of fat
- 0 grams 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.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are extremely important in ensuring that the body functions properly. The body can produce some, known as nonessential amino acids, when they are needed. Essential amino acids, however, cannot be made in the body and, therefore, must be consumed in the diet.
Most non-animal sources of protein, including legumes like chickpeas, lack the essential amino acid methionine, while whole grains lack lysine. The combination of legumes with whole grains such as brown rice, whole-wheat bread, or pasta produces a complete protein that contains all of the essential amino acids. Research has shown you don't need to combine incomplete proteins at a single meal. The body can combine proteins from meals throughout the day to make complete proteins as you consume them.
How to incorporate more chickpeas into your diet
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 - in water for 8-10 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.
Or, try some of these healthful and delicious recipes using chickpeas:
Potential health risks of consuming chickpeas
Legumes contain oligosaccharides known as galactans - complex sugars that the body cannot digest because it lacks the enzyme alpha-galactosidase - which is needed to break them down. Because of this, 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.
Chickpea consumption 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.