Are Chickpeas Healthy? Why This Nutritionist Calls Them ‘Nutrient Powerhouses’

Since childhood, I have been a chickpea addict. I have long praised the health and nutritional benefits of this powerful plant as a nutritionist. As a plant-based chef, I am impressed by the many ways chickpeas can be used in savory and sweet dishes. Here are some reasons why chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) should be a staple of your diet, and tasty ways you can enjoy them.

Are Chickpeas Healthy? Why This Nutritionist Calls Them 'Nutrient Powerhouses'

What are chickpeas?

Chickpeas belong to the pulse group, which is a distinct subcategory among legumes. Pulses are also beans, lentils, and dry peas. They are dried edible seeds from legume plants that are low-fat and high in fiber and protein. Pulses are not legumes made from higher-fat legumes like soybeans and peanuts. Fresh peas and beans are also not considered pulses.

Chickpeas are one of the most popular pulses worldwide. They originate from the Middle East. There are many different varieties including the European pale yellow variety that is popular in the US. Chickpeas can be found in the same aisle as canned and dried bagged beans at the grocery store.

Chickpea plants grow up to 2 feet tall with tiny, feathery leaves, and small white or reddish-blue flowers. A pod can contain one to three peas measuring approximately a half-inch in diameter. Chickpeas are called Garbanzo in Spanish-speaking countries.

Chickpea nutrients

Chickpeas are rich in nutrients. The US Department of Agriculture database shows that a cup of cooked chickpeas contains 269 calories, 14.5g of protein, 4.25g of fat, and 44.9g of carbohydrates. There is also 12.5g of dietary fiber. This is more than 44% of the daily recommended fiber intake.

Chickpeas also contain key vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants. According to a study published by the journal Nutrients, those who eat chickpeas or hummus regularly have higher intakes not only of fiber but also of vitamins A, C, folate, magnesium, potassium, and iron.

One cup of cooked chickpeas provides more than 80% of the daily value of manganese. This mineral is essential for the body to make energy, protect cells, and strengthen bones, blood clotting, and immunity. A similar-sized portion also contains a substantial amount of nutrients.

This includes over 70% for folate which aids in the making of DNA; 26% to iron which helps carry oxygen throughout our bodies; 20% for magnesium which regulates blood sugar and muscle function; 14% for potassium which is required for blood pressure control as well as the kidney, heart and nerve function; and 17% zinc which supports immune function. According to a 2020 report, antioxidants are linked to protection from heart disease and cancer as well as neurological diseases.

Chickpea health benefits

Chickpeas naturally contain no gluten and are therefore not an allergy or intolerance trigger. They are also extremely healthy. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, consumption of chickpeas or other pulses reduces the risk of type2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, as well as increases good gut bacteria that supports digestive health and are anti-inflammatory. According to government data, regular chickpea/hummus users are more likely than non-chickpea/hummus eaters to have lower BMIs or waist measurements.

An Australian study asked 42 volunteers for their normal diets. They were then instructed to consume 3.5 ounces of chickpeas each day for 12 weeks. Then they would return to their regular diets for one month. Participants’ food diaries showed that they consumed less of all food groups, especially grains, during the chickpea experiment.

Chickpeas have many other health benefits than nutrition

Chickpeas and pulses are very eco-friendly. Pulses are drought-friendly (pulses require only a tenth of the water of proteins), and frost-hardy. They also enrich the soil, which decreases the need to use chemical fertilizers. They are also easily available and inexpensive. A 1-pound bag with 13 servings of dried chickpeas costs less than $1.50. A 15.5-ounce can with the same number of servings is about $0.85.

Chickpea side effects

Although you might feel more gas when you increase your chickpea intake, research has shown that your body will adjust. This was actually tested using beans in a study. 40 volunteers were asked to add half a cup of canned carrots each day (the control), as this veg is known to rarely cause GI symptoms.

About 35% of bean eaters experienced an increase in flatulence within the first week. Note: 65% did not. Only 19% of those surveyed reported excess gas by week 2. The number of people who reported excess gas continued to fall weekly, dropping to 3% in week eight. This is the same response that was given to carrot-eaters.

Chickpeas belong to the same family as beans so you can expect similar digestion adjustments. You can dry chickpeas by soaking them in water overnight. The soaking water will then be used to remove natural compounds from pulses that trigger gas production. You can also reduce bloating by thoroughly rinsing canned chickpeas after draining.

Bottom line

Chickpeas have many benefits, including reducing gas and bloating. My clients should consume half a cup of pulses each day, including chickpeas. This can be used as either a source of protein or as a source of fiber-rich carbohydrates. Although you can eat more, it is best to start with smaller amounts to allow your body to adjust.

Drink plenty of water to aid your body in absorbing the fiber chickpeas offer. BPA-free canned chickpeas are a cost-effective, easy-to-use, shelf-stable, and ready-to-eat choice. To reap the many benefits of canned chickpeas, you should make them a staple.

Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor. She is also aNew York Times bestseller and a private practice performance nutritionist who has consulted with five professional teams.

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