Natural Health Tips

Chickpeas: Packed with Vitamins, Protein and Minerals

Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are an excellent nutritional choice as they are high in fiber, protein and rich in minerals that support the metabolic and digestive system.

Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum) are versatile legumes that have a delicious nutlike taste and buttery texture. They come in varieties of black, green, red and brown, as well as the most commonly eaten beige colored beans.

Chickpeas provide a good source of folate, manganese, copper, and the antioxidant Vitamin E, which promotes the ability of white blood cells to fight infections, as well as zinc, needed for healthy cell growth. They contain protease inhibitors, which halt the DNA-destroying action of cancer cells. Chickpeas are a good source of isoflavones, plant chemicals that are converted in the gut into a substance that mimics the hormone estrogen, helping to prevent estrogen-related conditions such as PMS and breast cancer. These beans are further beneficial for women's health as they are very high in iron, and women in particular tend to be deficient in iron. High in fiber and flavonoids, chickpeas help to keep the digestive system health and stabilize blood sugar. When combined with whole grains such as brown rice, chickpeas provide a high quality protein. They are also considered more digestible than other beans, making them a better choice for people who suffer from excessive flatulence after consuming beans.

Health Benefits

Like other beans, chickpeas are rich in both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. Research studies have shown that insoluble fiber not only helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.

Evidence suggests the consumption of chickpeas may be beneficial for correcting dyslipidaemia (when the concentration of cholesterol or lipids in the blood exceeds normal limits), and preventing diabetes.

Chickpeas are an excellent source of the trace mineral, molybdenum, an integral component of the enzyme sulfite oxidase. This enzyme is responsible for detoxifying sulfites and converting them into less harmful sulfates in the body. Sulfites are a type of preservative commonly added to prepared foods like salads and dried fruit, and if not correctly converted it can cause headaches, disorientation and lead to neurological fatigue. Therefore it is essential that the body's molybdenum stores are sufficient enough to detoxify these sulfites.

Tips for Using Chickpeas

  • Chickpeas are available dried or canned, whole, split or ground into flour.

  • Dried chickpeas can be sprouted or cooked. If cooking them, first soak them in cold water for at least six hours or overnight, then rinse well before boiling.

  • Canned chickpeas (without added sugar or salt) are ready to eat and are almost as nutritious as dried.

  • Chickpeas are great in soups, stews and curries, and are a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking where they are the basic ingredient of hummus and falafel.

References

  • P. Nestel, M. Cehun, A. Chronopoulos. Effects of long-term consumption and single meals of chickpeas on plasma glucose, insulin, and triacylglycerol concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr 79:390-395 (February 2004)

  • Yang Y, Zhou L, Gu Y, Zhang Y, Tang J, Li F, Shang W, Jiang B, Yue X, Chen M. Dietary chickpeas reverse visceral adiposity, dyslipidaemia and insulin resistance in rats induced by a chronic high-fat diet. Br J Nutr. 2007 Oct;98(4):720-6. Epub 2007 Aug 1. PMID: 17666145.