This famous member of the legume family is known around the world for its unique nutty flavor and amazing health benefits. They’re particularly popular in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and India, and have been farmed in those areas of the world for thousands of years.
Today, India is the world’s leading producer of chickpeas—65% of chickpeas are produced there! Australia comes in second place with just 14%, while the US produces about 2%.
There are many reasons why chickpeas are such a staple in cuisines around the world. Firstly, chickpeas are one of the most nutritious superfoods. They are healthier than other legumes, such as peas, and contain all nine essential amino acids—meaning they’re a complete protein!
Secondly, they’re an amazing source of non-animal protein, as well as vitamins and minerals. They are especially high in vitamins A, E, and C.
Besides that, chickpeas can also be used as a coffee replacement! Coffee made from roasted chickpeas is caffeine free, packed full of great vitamins and minerals, and tastes great.
But what exactly will adding more chickpeas to your diet do to your health?
The Top Health Benefits of Chickpeas
Chickpeas help you manage your weight
Chickpeas are high in fiber. Since the human body is unable to digest fiber, fiber moves through the intestines undigested, acting as a sort of scrub brush that removes excess cholesterol and bacteria. This results in better heart and digestive health. That’s not all fiber does, though.
Foods that are high in fiber give you the feeling of “fullness.” So, you can eat less and still feel satisfied with your meal. For those trying to lose or control their weight, this is the perfect solution. Chickpeas contain about half of the necessary daily fiber intake for adults.
Chickpeas support blood sugar regulation
The fiber in chickpeas slows down the body’s absorption of other nutrients and food groups. That includes sugars such as carbohydrates. A slower, more controlled absorption of sugars makes blood sugar levels regular and easier to manage.
Similarly, the protein in chickpeas breaks down into glucose very slowly, meaning that there won’t be a spike in your blood sugar levels when you eat them. Chickpeas are a great source of protein—just one cup of chickpeas contains 14.5 grams of protein!
Chickpeas may promote mental health
One cup of chickpeas contains about 70.2 mg of choline, a key nutrient for brain and nervous system functionality. Choline is necessary for memory, muscle control, mood, and the general operation of the brain’s neurotransmitters.
Not only that, but chickpeas also contain magnesium, selenium, and zinc, all of which are known to help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Buying Chickpeas: What to Look For
You can find chickpeas—also called garbanzo beans—at any grocery store or organic food store. They may also be found at your local farmer’s market. Buying locally is always a plus but may not be an option for everyone.
If you’re buying canned chickpeas, make sure you look for a can that is not dented, cracked, or bulging. Those are all signs of improper storage and spoiled produce.
If you’re buying dried chickpeas, you’ll likely be able to see the produce through the bag. Make sure to choose a bag that doesn’t contain too many oddly colored or misshapen chickpeas.
Raw chickpeas can last at cool room temperature for about 3 years, but it’s recommended that they be consumed within 6 months. After that, their vitamin content begins to decline.
If you’re using canned chickpeas, make sure to rinse them off before cooking to lower their sodium content. If you’re worried about the sodium in canned chickpeas, you can find low-sodium and no-sodium canned chickpea options.
Cooking With Chickpeas
Chickpeas taste delicious when tossed into a salad, turned into soups and stews, mashed into hummus, and just about everything in between. There are endless ways to utilize this superfood in your everyday diet, making it easy to benefit from the nutrients this legume contains.
Whether you eat chickpeas straight out of the can, boiled, or mashed, the nutritional content will always be about the same. So, you can reap all the health benefits no matter how you prepare it.
Note that while hummus is made with chickpeas, it also often contains a large serving of carbs and sodium. By all means, enjoy hummus and the amazing health benefits of chickpeas, but try not to eat it more than a few times per week.
Chickpea pasta and flour also contain the same nutritional makeup as raw chickpeas. They’re a healthier alternative to regular pasta and flour and can be used to make all of the same things.
Not only are chickpeas filled with amazing vitamins and nutrients we all need in our diet, they’re also free of the more undesirable stuff like cholesterol and gluten.
Chickpeas are naturally gluten-free, making them the perfect ingredient in meals for those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.
To cook chickpeas, simply boil them according to the directions on the food label. Generally, canned chickpeas need about 30 minutes to cook, while dried chickpeas need 1½ to 2 hours.
For a simple chickpea soup, sauté, and boil vegetables of your choice. In a pot, add in broth, tomatoes, cinnamon, saffron, cilantro, and any other spices or herbs you’d like, then bring to a simmer for 30 minutes. Add in cooked chickpeas and serve hot!
If you’re interested in making a chickpea salad, try mixing together some cooked cauliflower, onion, chickpeas, and spinach. Coriander, garlic, salt and pepper, lemon zest, and olive oil make a tasty dressing!