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Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are a type of legume. The most common type has a round shape and a beige color, but other varieties are black, green, or red. Their nutrients have various health benefits.

Like other legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas are rich in fiber and protein. They also contain several key vitamins and minerals.

This article looks at why chickpeas can be a healthful choice and how to cook with them.

chickpeas in a bowlShare on Pinterest
The protein in chickpeas may be beneficial for skin health.

Chickpeas contain a range of nutrients, including protein, which is necessary for bone, muscle, and skin health.

For people who are cutting down on meat consumption, a dish of chickpeas and rice, for example, can contribute a significant amount of protein to the diet. A cup of chickpeas provides almost one-third of an adult's daily protein needs.

The nutrients in chickpeas may also help prevent a number of health conditions.

Diabetes

One cup of chickpeas, weighing 164 grams (g), provides 12.5 g of fiber.

Fiber may benefit people with diabetes, and the American Diabetes Association recommend chickpeas as a source of dietary fiber.

A 2014 study concluded that eating at least 30 g of fiber per day could help reduce inflammation in people with type 1 diabetes.

A 2018 review of meta-analyses found that a high fiber diet may help lower blood glucose levels and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume 25.2–28.0 g of fiber a day, depending on age and sex.

Chickpeas can play a role in a healthful diabetes meal plan. See our 7-day plan here.

Bone health

The iron, calcium, and other nutrients in chickpeas can all contribute to healthy bone structure and strength. Chickpeas can play a role in the diet of people who want to prevent osteoporosis.

Blood pressure

To prevent high blood pressure, experts recommend limiting the intake of added sodium, or salt, and increasing the intake of potassium.

Current guidelines recommend that adults consume at least 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium per day.

A cup of chickpeas, weighing 164 g, provides 474 mg of potassium.

People who use canned chickpeas should check how much sodium the manufacturers have added. Cooking with dry chickpeas can help limit the amount of salt in a meal.

Adults should keep their sodium intake below 2,300 mg per day, while people aged 51 or over and those with risk factors for cardiovascular disease should consume less than 1,500 mg per day.

Which other foods could help manage blood pressure? Find out here.

Heart health

The fiber, potassium, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and selenium in chickpeas all support heart health.

Fiber helps decrease the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels in the blood. Chickpeas contain no cholesterol.

Here, learn more about foods that support a healthy heart.

Cancer

Free radicals are toxic substances that accumulate in the body, as a result of metabolism and other factors. As these toxins build up, they can damage cells and lead to a variety of health problems, including cancer.

Antioxidants help the body remove free radicals, and the selenium and beta carotene in chickpeas act as antioxidants.

A cup of chickpeas contains 6.1 micrograms (mcg) of selenium. The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) recommend that adults consume 55 mcg of selenium a day. They also note that selenium's antioxidant activity may help protect the body from cancer.

In addition, there is evidence that fiber, which chickpeas contain, can help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

Can a person's diet help prevent breast cancer? Find out here.

Cholesterol

A small 2006 study found that participants had less low density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad," cholesterol in their blood when they ate a diet with added chickpeas, compared with a diet with added wheat, for 5 weeks.

The researchers noted that the fiber in chickpeas may be responsible for the reduction in LDL cholesterol.

Which foods should you choose or avoid when managing cholesterol? Find out here.

Mental health

A cup of chickpeas contains 69.7 mg of choline, which helps with brain and nervous system function. Choline plays a role in mood, muscle control, learning, and memory, as well as the body's metabolism.

The ODS recommend that adults consume 400–550 mg of choline a day, depending on sex and whether they are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Some research suggests that a selenium deficiency may increase the risk of cognitive decline in older people. This would imply that selenium can support cognitive health, including memory and thinking.

Can dietary choices have an impact on depression? Find out here.

Digestion and regularity

Fiber helps keep the digestive tract healthy and promotes regularity. Chickpeas are a good source of fiber.

Weight management and satiety

Dietary fibers function as bulking agents in the digestive system. Bulking agents increase the feeling of fullness after eating, and protein has the same effect.

Feeling fuller for longer after eating can help reduce the appetite and lower a person's caloric intake.

Find some more tips on losing weight here.

Anemia

Without iron, the body cannot deliver oxygen to its cells, and this can lead to iron deficiency anemia. Symptoms include weakness and tiredness. In severe cases, life threatening complications can arise.

A cup of chickpeas contains 4.7 mg of iron, or between a half and one-fifth of a person's daily requirement, depending on the individual. It also provides some vitamin C, which helps the body absorb iron.

Here, find some dietary tips and meal plans to help deal with iron deficiency.

The following table shows the amount of each nutrient in 1 cup of chickpeas, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

It also shows how much of each nutrient a person should consume each day, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The requirements vary, however, according to age and sex.

NutrientsAmount in 1 cup of chickpeas (164 g)Requirements per day
Energy (calories)2671,800–3,200
Protein (g)14.446–56
Fat (g)4.220–35% of daily calories should be fat
Carbohydrates (g)44.7, including 7.8 g of sugar130
Fiber (g)12.522.4–33.6
Calcium (mg)80.41,000–1,300
Iron (mg)4.78–18
Magnesium (mg)78.7310–420
Phosphorus (mg)274700–1,250
Potassium (mg)4744,700
Zinc (mg)2.58–11
Copper (mcg)0.6890–900
Selenium (mcg)6.155
Vitamin C (mg)2.175–90
Folate (mcg)280400
Choline (mg)69.7425–550
Beta carotene (mcg)26.2700–900
Vitamin E (mg)0.615
Vitamin K (mcg)6.675–120

For people following a vegan or vegetarian diet, chickpeas are an excellent choice, as they provide protein, iron, selenium, and B vitamins.

People can buy chickpeas all year, dried or canned, in grocery stores. Their nutty flavor and buttery texture make them easy to add to any meal.

Preparing dried chickpeas

1. Sort and wash: Depending on the supplier, there may be small rocks, dust, or other debris in the package.

2. Soak: Leave the chickpeas in water overnight, or until they split easily between the fingers. Soaking dried legumes reduces the cooking time, helps break down ingredients that can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, and removes some harmful substances in raw legumes.

3. Cook: Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then place them in a pan with plenty of water. Simmer for 2 hours on the stove until they are tender. Remember to top up the water from time to time.

Other options include cooking them:

  • in a pressure cooker for 1 hour
  • in a slow cooker for 4 hours on high heat or 8 hours on low heat

Tips for eating

Quick tips for incorporating cooked or canned chickpeas into a diet include:

  • tossing chickpeas, vegetables, and a variety of other legumes — such as beans and lentils — in vinaigrette to make a protein-rich salad
  • sprinkling some canned or roasted chickpeas into a salad to add texture and a nutty flavor
  • using chickpea flour when baking to add fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals
  • blending chickpeas with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and tahini to make hummus, which can be a dip or spread
  • adding chickpeas to a vegetable soup or stew to add nutrients, and serving with whole-grain rice for complete protein
  • using chickpeas to replace some or all of the meat in soups and stews
  • mixing chickpeas with any spice for a delicious side or snack
  • making falafel by mashing chickpeas with cumin, garlic, chili, and coriander, separating the mixture into small balls, and frying them until they are crisp

Or, try some of these healthful recipes:

People should not eat raw chickpeas or other raw pulses, as they contain toxins and substances that are difficult to digest.

Even cooked chickpeas have complex sugars that can be difficult to digest and lead to intestinal gas and discomfort.

Introduce legumes into the diet slowly so that the body can get used to them.

Fiber and IBS

Some types of fiber may make symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, worse.

Anyone with this condition should ask their doctor for advice about which forms of fiber to consume.

Chickpeas and potassium

Beta-blockers are a type of medication that doctors often prescribe for heart disease. They can cause potassium levels to increase in the blood.

Potassium can help manage blood pressure, but too much can be harmful for the kidneys. People who use beta-blockers should consume high potassium foods, such as chickpeas, in moderation.

Dried and canned chickpeas and other chickpea products are available for purchase in grocery stores or online.

    Q:

    I have heard that people can die from not boiling kidney beans long enough. Is this also true of chickpeas?

    A:

    It is not a concern for chickpeas. Red kidney beans have high amounts of phytohaemagglutinin, which interferes with cellular metabolism. Chickpeas do not contain this substance.

    Miho Hatanaka, RDN, LD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.