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Chickpeas Nutrition Benefits the Gut, Heart & More
May 11, 2018
Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, are one of the oldest consumed crops in the world. In fact, they have been a part of certain traditional diets for over 7,500 years, and it’s not hard to see why when you take into account the benefits of chickpeas nutrition.
Today, chickpeas remain one of the most popular legumes across nearly every continent, and again, it’s not surprising why when we look at the benefits of chickpeas nutrition. Second to the soybean, the chickpea is the next most widely grown and eaten bean in the world. (1) Chickpeas are still included in the diets of some of the healthiest populations living around the globe, including those eating traditional cuisines that stem from the Middle East, the Mediterranean region and African nations too — whether we’re talking whole chickpeas or chickpea flour.
First and foremost, what are chickpeas? Chickpeas are a type of legume that offer a range of health benefits. Legumes are a member of the pea family and technically a seed pod. Other common edible legumes include lentils, peas, a variety of beans, soybeans and peanuts.
Why are chickpeas good for you? They help increase satiety, boost digestion, keep blood sugar levels stable, increase protection against metabolic syndrome and heart disease, and more. Chickpeas nutrition is a potent package of protein, vitamins and minerals, which is why they are often included in many healing diets, including the Ayurvedic diet and the Mediterranean diet. They are included in popular recipes found around the world, including being used as the main ingredient in hummus, which is commonly consumed almost every single day in places like Israel, Syria, Turkey, Palestine, Jordan and Egypt.
Chickpeas Nutrition Facts
One look at chickpeas nutrition and it proves what an amazing superfood these legumes really are. Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are a great source of plant-based protein along with fiber, iron, zinc, phosphorus, B vitamins and more.
Are chickpeas a starch or protein? They actually offer some of both. Beans, pulses and legumes are nutrient-dense foods and unique in that they provide a combination of protein, starch, fiber and minerals. Plus, they are low in calories and filling. Does this mean that chickpeas are a “good carb“? Yes, because the starch found in chickpeas is digested slowly and supports more stabilized blood sugar levels (more on this below).
One cup (about 164 grams) of boiled chickpeas contains approximately: (2)
- 269 calories
- 45 grams carbohydrates
- 14.5 grams protein
- 4.2 grams fat
- 12.5 grams fiber
- 1.7 milligrams manganese (84 percent DV)
- 282 micrograms folate (71 percent DV)
- 0.6 milligram copper (29 percent DV)
- 276 milligrams phosphorus (28 percent DV)
- 4.7 milligrams iron (26 percent DV)
- 78.7 milligrams magnesium (20 percent DV)
- 2.5 milligrams zinc (17 percent DV)
- 477 milligram potassium (14 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligram thiamine (13 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligram vitamin B6 (11 percent DV)
- 6.1 micrograms selenium (9 percent DV)
- 6.6 micrograms vitamin K (8 percent DV)
- 80.4 milligrams calcium (8 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram riboflavin (6 percent DV)
- 0.5 milligram pantothenic acid (5 percent DV)
Chickpeas nutrition also provides some vitamin A, C and E and niacin.
8 Benefits of Chickpeas Nutrition
What are the health benefits of chickpeas? With so many vitamins and nutrients, chickpeas benefit the body in a number of different ways. Here are the top eight benefits of chickpeas:
1. Provides Slow-Releasing Carbohydrates
Chickpeas, like all legumes, are a form of complex carbohydrate that the body is able to slowly digest and use for energy. This is essential, as all carbohydrates are not created equal; some quickly raise blood sugar levels and lead to “spikes and dips” in energy (these are called simple or fast carbs), while others do the opposite and give us sustained fuel (these are called complex carbs).
Even very low-carb diets require you to get at least 25 grams of carbs per day, and a small serving of chickpeas can help to provide some of these carbohydrates.
2. Helps Control Blood Sugar Levels
Are chickpeas good for a low-carb diet? In most cases, yes, because they are considered a “slow carb.” Chickpeas nutrition includes starch, which is a slow-burning carbohydrate that the body does not react to by suddenly spiking glucose in the blood. Unlike simple sugars — found in processed products like refined flour, white bread, pasta, soda, candy and most other packaged foods — the starches found in chickpeas take an extended period of time to break down once consumed.
Are chickpeas good for diabetics? Yes, they are a safe source of carbs even for people who benefit from a lower-carb diet. Starches contain natural sugars called glucose, which the body uses easily for many essential functions, but glucose can be troublesome for people who are prediabetic or who have diabetes. The process of digesting and utilizing the glucose found in all beans and starches is drawn-out, which is extremely important for diabetics, who have trouble reaching a stable blood sugar level after contain sugars due to a resistance to insulin. (3)
3. Increases Satiety and Helps with Weight Loss
Chickpeas are high in both protein and fiber, which helps make you feel full, curb food cravings and hopefully reduce unhealthy snacking. Studies have shown that consuming fiber is correlated with having a lower body weight. (4) Beans make a filling addition to any recipe because of their fiber, complex carbs and protein.
Chickpeas nutrition has macronutrients that work together to give us a feeling of being full after eating, while also helping control our blood sugar levels and therefore maintaining our energy. Frequently consuming foods like fat-burning garbanzo beans is an excellent way to aid in healthy and sustainable weight loss. The feeling of satiety makes you less likely to snack on empty-calorie, processed junk foods between meals, which can stall your weight loss.
Chickpeas are even more filling if you pair them with other nutritious whole-foods, like vegetables or organic goat cheese. Because they are so low in calories but high in essential fiber and protein, they are a perfect food for those that need to lose some weight but who are watching calorie intake.
4. Improves Digestion Thanks to a High Fiber Content
Chickpeas are among the top high-fiber foods with roughly six to seven grams per half cup serving. Unfortunately, the modern western diet that many Americans consume leaves them deficient in dietary fiber.
A major benefit of chickpeas nutrition is helping reduce constipation. Fiber facilitates in healthy digestion by quickly moving foods through the digestive tract, helping decrease symptoms of IBS and constipation. (5) Fiber works by drawing fluids from the body and binding them to the bulk of forming stool, which contains toxins and waste that must be removed from the body. Fiber also helps balance pH levels and bacteria within the gut, increasing healthy bacteria while also decreasing unhealthy bacteria. An imbalance in gut flora bacteria is often linked to many different digestive problems.
The high amount of fiber in garbanzo beans is responsible for its filling effect and helps improve digestion, but it does much more than this. Fiber aids in heart health, helps control blood sugar levels, and guards against cancer, heart disease, diverticulosis, kidney stones, PMS, obesity and more.
5. Helps Protect Against Heart Disease and Cancer
Cardiologists’ favorite benefit of chickpeas nutrition is that it supports heart health in a number of ways. Chickpeas have been shown to help balance unhealthy cholesterol levels, reduce hypertension and protect against heart disease in multiple ways.
This may be partially due to the high amount of fiber found in chickpeas nutrition, which helps people avoid overeating and gaining harmful excess weight, especially around the vital organs. (6) Fiber works to create a gel-like substance in the digestive system that binds with fatty acids, helping balance cholesterol levels. Both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber have been show to be important in helping control and manage hypertension. (7)
Beans help keep the arteries clear from plaque buildup, maintain healthy blood pressure levels, and decrease the chances of cardiac arrest and stroke. In fact, studies show that having just one daily serving (about 3/4 cup cooked) of beans of any kind can help decrease chances of a heart attack and help balance “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Consuming beans has also been shown in animal studies to have protective benefits against cancer, in particular colon cancer, due to their high fiber content. (8) Garbanzo beans were demonstrated in research on mice to help stall cancerous cells from further forming. (9) Because beans keep the digestive system, including the colon, free from harmful bacteria and toxic buildup, they create a healthier overall environment where pH levels are balanced, inflammation is reduced and therefore cancer cells cannot proliferate like they can in an unhealthy environment.
6. Provides Essential Vitamins and Minerals (Including Folate and Zinc)
Chickpeas nutrition boasts high levels of iron, zinc, folate, phosphorus and B vitamins, all of which are especially important for vegetarians and vegans who may be lacking in these essential nutrients due to avoiding animal products. Chickpeas are also a great source of folate. Folate is important for helping the body effectively produce new cells, as it plays a role in copying and synthesizing DNA. It also helps the body utilize other B Vitamins in addition to protein (in the form of amino acids).
A deficiency in folate can contribute to anemia, poor immune function and poor digestion, and for pregnant women, a deficiency can lead to neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Chickpeas nutrition also includes zinc. Zinc is an essential trace mineral that plays a role in over 100 important enzymatic reactions in the body.
7. Has An Alkalizing Effect
Legumes have an alkalizing effect on the body, which helps balance pH levels by combating the high level of acidity that is common in most modern, western diets. When chickpeas are combined with a source of healthy fat, like olive oil — which is the case with hummus — nutrient absorption is further increased. Additionally, chickpeas are a good source of three nutrients that help to reduce common symptoms associated with PMS: magnesium, manganese and vitamin B6.
Since chickpeas are alkalizing, they are a healthy addition to an alkaline diet. (10)
8. Great Source of Plant-Based Protein
Are chickpeas a good source of protein? Yes, especially if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays an important role in nearly every function in the body, including our vital organs, muscles, tissues and even hormone levels. Consuming enough healthy protein helps you to naturally slow aging. Proteins that we acquire from our diets help create hemoglobin and important antibodies, control blood sugar levels, help with muscle building and maintenance, give us lasting energy, fight bacteria, make us feel full, and help heal wounds and injuries too.
Chickpeas nutrition not only contains important protein, about 15 grams per cup of cooked beans, but also has many other nutrients and fiber too. Those who are most as risk for not consuming enough protein are children, vegans and vegetarians. Not eating adequate amounts of protein on a regular basis can result in muscle weakness, fatigue, low energy, eye problems like cataracts, heart problems, poor skin health, imbalanced hormone levels and more.
Because chickpeas are a completely plant-based source of vital protein, they are an excellent choice for non-meat eaters who need to be sure to consume enough of this macronutrient. Chickpeas are often eaten with grains or vegetables, for example in stews or in hummus that is eaten with pita bread; these foods luckily work together to make up a “complete protein.” This means they contain all of the building blocks of protein, called essential amino acids, that are necessary for the body to acquire from food in order to use for body function and energy.
Chickpeas in Ayurveda and TCM
Chickpeas are used extensively in cuisines of India, where the Ayurvedic diet first originated, and also in certain Asian countries where Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is still practiced today.
- Chickpeas are commonly used to make curries and are one of the most popular vegetarian foods in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh — where vegetarians diets have historical significance. In India, chickpeas are called kadale kaalu (Kannada) or chana. For people who avoid eating meat and animal products, chickpeas and other beans are a major source of protein.
- You can find chickpeas in many varieties of dal (also called dhal), which are included in Ayurvedic cooking and consumed just about daily. Legumes/beans are viewed as being valuable because they are very inexpensive but great sources of nutrition.
- According to Ayurveda, legumes are astringent in taste. Legumes are said to increase “Vata” energy, meaning they support higher energy levels but also might contribute to gas and “dryness.” It’s recommended that chickpeas always be cooked with lots of oil, garlic or ghee to reduce dryness and support digestion. Chickpeas are also said to help build bodily tissues, including muscle tissue.
- In Ayurveda, beans are almost always soaked before cooking and combined with spices to help improve digestion. Spices that are used with chickpeas include asafetida (hing), cumin, fresh ginger, turmeric and black pepper, which may reduce bloating or gas. (11)
- In Traditional Chinese Medicine, legumes/beans are also an important source of protein, fiber, antioxidants and many nutrients. Eating beans daily is encouraged to help the major organs function properly and to prevent disease formation. Black foods, including black chickpeas and black beans, are especially valued for their ability to support kidney and liver health. (12)
- In TCM, it’s recommended that beans be combined with rice or another whole grain in order to make a complete source of protein. Beans, rice, vegetables and fermented foods are commonly eaten together as part of “one pot meals” that are popular in TCM diets.
- According to TCM theory, the benefits of consuming chickpeas and other beans like adzuki, black, white and mung beans include strengthening the heart, helping with bowel movements, improving blood pressure and blood sugar, detoxification, protection against cancer, building body strength, and losing weight.
Chickpeas vs. Garbanzo
Chickpeas and garbanzo beans are the same things (from the same plant family) — they are just two different ways of describing the same legume. In the U.S., they are usually called chickpeas, while in Europe they tend to be called garbanzo beans.
Chickpeas/garbanzo beans grow on trees and are a type of pulse, with means they come from a seedpod that contains two or three peas, similarly to how green peas looked before being de-shelled. There are actually more than 17 different varieties of chickpeas, but we mostly consume three main kinds of chickpeas or garbanzo beans: (14)
Desi chickpeas, which are mostly cultivated in India and have small, darker seeds and a rough coat; Bombday chickpeas, which are also normally harvested in India but have a larger size; and Kabuli chickpeas, which come from Europe or Africa and have a large size and smooth coat. All three types offer the same health benefits and can be used interchangeably.
Most of the time we find white/beige chickpeas in grocery stores, but other shades of chickpeas also exist. For example, you may be able to find pink, green or black chickpeas in certain health food stores. Black chickpeas are popular in India and sometimes called Kala Chana. Is there a difference between white chickpeas and black chickpeas nutrition? Overall, white and black chickpeas have similar nutrition profiles and benefits. The black color of some varieties of chickpeas is an indication that they provide certain antioxidants, especially polyphenols and flavonoids, but you’ll essentially get the same of benefits of chickpeas despite what color you choose.
Where to Find and How to Use Chickpeas
What do chickpeas taste like? They are one of the most versatile beans/legumes in terms of taste, having no bitterness and less “earthiness” than other legumes. They have a firm texture and a flavor that sometimes is described as mild and nutlike. When mashed, they are creamy and a great addition to spreads, batter and dips.
Here are some common questions regarding how to purchase and prepare chickpeas:
What type of chickpeas should you purchase?
Chickpeas can be found in dried, precooked/canned or precooked/frozen varieties. Many people feel that beans made from scratch- meaning from dried form- taste the best and hold their texture more so than precooked kinds.
Canned, precooked beans are a great option when you don’t have time to prepare beans from scratch, although many brands of canned beans use the chemical BPA in the lining of their cans, which is a toxin you want to avoid leaching into your food.
Look for organic varieties of canned beans that are certified “BPA free” in order to avoid this chemical winding up in your beans. The good news is that precooked beans, either in canned or frozen form, often have the same nutrient levels as freshly made beans, so as long as you buy a high-quality kind, you can conveniently enjoy beans even when you’re in a pinch.
Look for dried chickpeas in the “bulk bin” section of your favorite health food store, where you will likely be able to find organic dried beans for sale at a very low cost. Dried beans remain fresh for a long time, so you don’t need to worry about buying too much and having them spoil.
Why should I soak chickpeas?
It’s best to soak all dried beans overnight prior to cooking them, which helps make them more digestible, aids in absorption of their nutrients and decreases cooking time. Keep some dried beans in your kitchen for whenever you have some extra time to cook. Soak them for about 12–24 hours before cooking, which shortens cooking time considerably from about two hours to 30 minutes.
There is some concern about the phytates and tannins that are naturally occurring in garbanzo beans — and all other beans and legumes too. This is why soaking is recommended. These compounds are often called “nutrient blockers” since they can lower nutrient availability in some cases. Soaking and sprouting beans helps eliminate phytic acid and may greatly increase mineral absorption in addition to making the beans more digestible and less gas-forming.
It’s believed that one of the reasons phytic acid has become a health concern today is because we no longer practice food preparation techniques, such as sprouting or sourdough fermentation, which kills off a high amount of phytic acid. Therefore people are consuming much more of it than ever before.
A diet high in phytic acid can potentially create mineral deficiencies and even lead to leaky gut syndrome, tooth decay, bone loss, osteoporosis and more. Many of the vitamins and minerals that are naturally found in beans are actually bound to phytic acid so it is difficult to absorb them. Phytic acid not only decreases the available minerals in your food, but can also leach minerals from your bones and teeth where they are stored.
In order to avoid consuming too high of levels of phytic acid, it’s best to buy organic beans that are also labeled GMO free, since phytic acid is much higher in foods grown using modern high-phosphate fertilizers than those grown in natural compost. Also try soaking and sprouting your beans (and grains too) since this can help to reduce phytic acid by around 50–100 percent.
Do you have to drain chickpeas?
I recommend you rinse canned beans to reduce the sodium content and freshen up the taste. You can also try simmering canned and rinsed beans in some vegetable stock to further plump them up and enhance their flavor.
Can you eat raw chickpeas?
This is not a good idea. Chickpeas must be mature and cooked before being consumed. Otherwise they are very hard to digest, and many of their nutrients won’t be absorbable.
How do you cook dried chickpeas from scratch?
If you can remember, pre-soak chickpeas and other beans the night before you want to cook them. This allows you to cook them with minimal effort and in shorter time. Cook dried beans by combining about three cups of water for every one cup of dried beans, allowing them to boil for about 1.5 to two hours over low heat. Once the beans are soft, they are ready to eat. You can make them in large batches and easily freeze them so you always have some available.
How do you cook chickpeas from a can?
Chickpeas from a can are already cooked, so you don’t need to cook them again. You can reheat them in a pot to warm them. I recommend reheating them in broth (such as bone broth) to give them more flavor.
How do you make roasted chickpeas?
Roasted or baked chickpeas can easily be made in the oven to give them an extra crunch. Once they are cooked, add a little oil to a flat baking pan/sheet, place your chickpeas on the pan, and cook for about 15 minutes. Try adding spices or sauces like tamari to give them extra flavor.
Chickpeas are enjoyed just about everywhere in the world, and it’s no wonder considering their versatility, palatable taste and numerous chickpeas nutrition benefits. What can you use chickpeas for at home?
- One of the most popular things to do with chickpeas is to make hummus, a spread made out of mashed chickpeas, olive oil, tahini (ground sesame seeds), lemon juice, and sometimes garlic and herbs. Is hummus really good for you? Yes! The benefits of hummus are similar to those of chickpeas, however hummus has an advantage because it also provides healthy fats from tahini and olive oil.
- Other ideas for using chickpeas include adding some stews, soups, bean tacos, salads, or even mashing some and adding them to baked goods.
- Chickpea flour (made from dried and ground chickpeas) can be used to make gluten-free flatbread (traditionally called socca), dense quick breads, flat cakes or pancakes, muffins, coatings for meat or fish, and to bind sauces/gravy. Chickpea flour is also called gram flour or besan.
Chickpeas are also commonly added to Indian curries; consumed frequently in Portugal as part of Rancho, a meat, bean and pasta dish; enjoyed across Italy and France in stews, pastas and served with seafood; ground into chickpea flour, which is used to make bread and pitas across the Middle East; added to desserts and sweets in the Philippines; and popularly added to salads and soups in North America and Europe.
Try using chickpeas (called garbanzo beans in some recipes) in these creative ways:
- Hummus Recipe
- Pumpkin Blueberry Pancakes (try using chickpea flour)
- Add chickpeas to this Bean and Quinoa Salad
- Try using chickpeas in this Spicy Bean Dip Recipe
- Zucchini Falafel Recipe
Chickpeas are a legume of the plant family Fabaceae. Domesticated chickpeas have been found in regions of Turkey and Greece with records dating back thousands of years to Ancient times. It’s believed that garbanzo beans were first consumed by Ancient Mediterranean populations between 7500–10,000 years ago and then spread to southern France and Germany shortly after.
In classical Greece, the beans were often included in sweet desserts and were even consumed raw. Ancient Roman populations prepared the beans in broths, roasts and stews, or enjoyed them as snacks. It’s believed that centuries ago populations associated chickpeas with the philosophical god Venus because the beans were believed to offer powerful health benefits related to reproduction.
The use of chickpeas spread across the Middle East in the years to follow, becoming a staple in nearly every nation’s traditional diet, as they still are today. While chickpeas have been popular worldwide for centuries, they are only recently moving into the spotlight in North America, where the rise in popularity of Middle Eastern recipes like hummus and falafel have introduced many new people to how great chickpeas can taste. People across the U.S. now commonly consume chickpeas due to their many culinary uses and noted health benefits.
Can chickpeas give you gas? Yes, it’s definitely possible that they will. Beans/legumes can increase gas and bloating due to their high fiber content and also because of the types of carbohydrates they contain. I recommend eating small servings and also soaking beans before cooking them to help improve digestion.
Try preparing beans from scratch (dried form) and soaking them overnight first. This helps cut down on certain compounds that can cause digestive problems and block mineral absorption. If you aren’t accustomed to eating high amounts of fiber, gradually introduce more into your diet instead of consuming a large amount of fiber-rich beans all at once. This will help ease digestion and avoid unwanted symptoms.
Should you be concerned about having a chickpea allergy? For example, chickpeas are legumes, so are chickpeas related to peanuts (a common allergy)? Chickpeas allergies are not nearly as common as peanut allergies, however they can still cause reactions in some people. Stop eating chickpeas if you notice signs of allergies, such as itchiness, a swollen throat, digestive issues, bloating, water eyes, etc.
- Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are legumes that are in the same plant family as green peas, soybeans and peanuts. They are one of the most popular beans consumed around the world, especially in places like India, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Africa.
- Chickpeas nutrition is a great source of plant-based protein and fiber, iron, zinc, phosphorus, folate, B vitamins and more.
- Chickpeas nutrition benefits include providing slow-releasing carbs, fiber and protein; helping balance blood sugar; improving satiety and weight loss; alkalizing the body; protecting the heart; improving digestive health; and providing vitamins and minerals.
- You can use chickpeas to make hummus, stews or soups, Indian curry or dhal, flat breads, and other baked goods in order to take advantage of all chickpeas nutrition has to offer.