The history of Chickpeas dates back to 3000 B.C when they were first cultivated in the Mediterranean area. Also known as Garbanzo Beans, chickpeas have remained popular with the Romans, the Greeks, and the Egyptians. While this legume remains popular in the Middle East and Asian regions, Western people add little of this food to their diet. When combined with rice or pasta, chickpeas can make as good a meal as meat, but with low fat.
Important health benefits of chickpeas
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest increased intake of vegetables and nutrient-rich foods that are not high in calories. Most Americans do not have healthy food choices. Despite the proven benefits, vegetables, especially legumes, get less attention when we decide on adding new foods to our diet.
Chickpeas belong to a category of legumes and are highly beneficial for health. This article will take you through the advantages of chickpeas, such as their role in weight control and diabetes management.
1. Chickpeas are a power house of nutrients.
A lack of balanced diet is a major risk factor for a lot of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, and heart illnesses. Amid millions of individuals who eat unhealthily, you have a choice to opt for foods well balanced in their nutritional content and having low or moderate calorie count. Chickpeas can be a good option here.
Chickpeas contain 64 percent carbohydrates, 23 percent protein, 6 percent fiber, 5 percent fat and 3 percent ash. They are a good source of iron, folate, vitamin A, copper, zinc, fiber and protein. Additionally, chickpeas have low-fat content: only 10 percent of which is saturated.
A 100 grams of boiled chickpeas contains the following nutritional content:
- Calories: 164
- Fat: 2.6 grams
- Dietary fiber: 7.6 grams
- Protein: 8.9 grams
- Calcium: 49-53 mg
A popular chickpea dish is Hummus. It is created from crushed chickpeas, spices, olive oil, lemon, and tahini. This combination provides even greater nutritional benefits compared to just chickpeas. Hummus can be used as a spread or a dipping sauce.
Individuals who add chickpeas or hummus in their diet have shown to have better intake of vitamins, iron, potassium, folate, and magnesium.
Bioactive elements in chickpeas
Chickpeas – both raw and cooked – also contain some bioactive elements that have additional benefits, for example, chickpeas have sterols, tannins, phytic acid, sterols, and isoflavones in them. These names might bring back the memories from some biochemistry class. Let me simplify this content for you.
Sterols have lipid-lowering properties.
Tannins are associated with controlled blood pressure.
Phytic acid is a nutrient that has its benefits and harms. It hinders the absorption of certain other nutrients, like zinc, hence called anti-nutrient. But, it is also an antioxidant and may play a protective role against cancer and kidney stones. In fact, scientists suggest that phytic acid content in whole grains may be the element responsible for redcued risk of colon cancer in whole-grain consumers.
Isoflavones protect against heart diseases, problems related to cognitive loss, and osteoporosis.
With chickpeas as the main ingredient, hummus can actually serve to replace high-calorie spreads and dip sauces in American foods with a better, nutritious option.
2. Chickpeas may help control weight.
There are various foods that do not add extra pounds to the waste. Generally, these foods are low in glycemic index, low in calorie count, and high in fiber content; they also have moderate amounts of protein. Chickpeas, as you have read, contain protein and fiber.
Protein does two things to control weight:
- It slows the digestion; hence you feel fuller for a long time.
- It increases appetite-suppressing hormones in the blood, and therefore, you do not feel the desire to eat frequently.
Fiber – just like proteins – also aids in slowing the digestive process.
What happens when your stomach is full?
You won’t open that fridge time and again and this will automatically reduce your calorie intake.
Research studies on chickpeas and weight control
A study was conducted to see the effects of two separate meals on a group of 12 women. Before meal #1, these women ate 200 grams of chickpeas, and before meal #2, they ate two white-bread slices. These women experienced a significant decline in appetite while having meal #1 as compared to when they ate bread slices before the meal.
Another similar study on the effects of chickpeas showed that individuals who ate more than 100 grams of chickpeas on a daily basis for a 12-week period ate less junk food and felt fuller as compared to the days they didn’t consume chickpeas.
Regular chickpea consumption in the participants of a study showed that these individuals were 53 percent less likely to have a high body mass index or obesity, compared to those who didn’t include chickpeas to their diet. Similarly, participants of a study who ate at least one serving of legumes each day could lose 25 percent more weight than the control group.
Chickpeas can be the legume of choice for weight control.
Although these are not large studies, and we need more evidence to support the claim, adding chickpeas to your diet are still worth an effort. Even if you don’t experience significant weight loss effects, you will always be adding the rich nutrition found in chickpeas to your diet.
3. Chickpeas help in diabetes management.
Individuals with diabetes are recommended to take foods with low glycemic index (GI). Such foods do not cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels after meals.
Low GI foods have shown to promote diabetes management more effectively, especially in type 2 diabetes. Additionally, chickpeas have fiber and proteins, which are known for their diabetes-friendly role.
Fiber has this ability to slow down the carb absorption in the blood. This makes the sugar levels rise slowly after meal times.
Studies on the role of chickpeas in diabetes
A 2004 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 19 individuals who ate a meal containing 200 grams of chickpeas had almost 21 percent reduction in blood sugar levels, which was not seen when these individuals ate wheat-based foods.
Another relatively large, 12-week study found that the fasting insulin levels significantly reduced in individuals who ate more than 700 grams of chickpeas per week. Fasting insulin levels are important in controlling blood glucose levels.
Other studies found that humus attenuates the effects of high glycemic index food and significantly lowers the blood glucose levels 45 minutes after consumption of a carbohydrate-based meal.
The fat content in hummus is 4-5 times higher than chickpeas. This helps delay the gastric emptying and hence, slow absorption of carbohydrates in the blood. Furthermore, hummus has a lower GI as compared to chickpeas, which may explain for better glucose control in studies comparing chickpeas and hummus effects.
Keep in mind that hummus, when consumed in high proportions, is also adding to extra calories to your diet.
Some studies suggest that pulse consumption, including chickpeas, reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. Therefore, chickpeas and hummus are useful when you have diabetes and also, when you don’t have it.
4. Chickpeas are heart friendly.
Cardiovascular diseases account for 17.7 million deaths each year, which means 31 percent of the global deaths are attributed to heart problems. A healthy lifestyle together with heart-friendly diet may prevent us from becoming a statistic.
Chickpeas have shown positive effects on the most important organ of your body – heart. They contain magnesium and potassium, both of which have a boosting effect on heart health. These two nutrients prevent high blood pressure – a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.
A research study showed that after an eight-week consumption of chickpeas, overweight and obese individuals had a decrease in systolic blood pressure.
The fiber content in chickpeas reduces bad cholesterol. An animal study showed that rats that were fed high fat along with chickpeas in the diet had improved lipid profile as compared to the rats that were fed only high-fat diet.
A 12-week human study on 45 people showed that individuals who consumed more than 700 grams of chickpeas per week had a reduction in their total cholesterol level by an average of 16mg/dL.
Adding chickpeas to your diet can help improve your health and protect your heart against diseases. Of course, this is advised in combination with a healthy lifestyle. One simply can not expect to have an excellent lipid profile by chewing on both chickpeas and fatty food.
5. Chickpeas reduce the risk of certain cancers.
A short chain fatty acid, Butyrate, has shown to induce apoptosis and suppress cell proliferation. These two mechanisms are important in preventing cancer growth in the body. Butyrate has specifically been studied for its role in reducing inflammation in colon cells, which may reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Daily consumption of almost 200 grams of chickpeas promotes the production of this bioactive compound. Not only this, but chickpeas also contain Biochanin A, saponins, and lycopene, which are all associated with reduced risk of certain cancers.
Chickpeas also contain reasonable amounts of vitamins and minerals that may add on to the benefit of cancer prevention. Of course, no one food can specifically prevent cancer; there are hundreds of types of this disease. However, we can still use whatever little knowledge science has successfully discovered in the prevention category of cancer.
Including chickpeas in our diets may lessen our risk of having this dreadful disease.
6. Chickpeas have positive effects on gut health.
The gut is referred to as the second brain of our bodies. The symptoms of unhealthy gut extend far beyond the digestive system.
The dietary fiber in chickpeas helps in eliminating toxic matter from the colon; it eases bowel movements.
In a research study consisting of 12 weeks, people who ate more than 100 grams of chickpeas daily had improved bowel functions, including softer stool consistency, compared to those people who did not eat chickpeas.
Many studies have been conducted on dietary fiber. Here’s a summary of the findings of studies done on the benefits of dietary fiber:
Dietary fiber also knows as roughage, is found in varying quantities in plant-based foods. Although fiber is indigestible, it still plays an important role. Diets rich in fiber may protect against heart diseases, diabetes, obesity, constipation and other digestive system-related issues. Soluble dietary fiber also maintains the pH of the gut, hence preventing the growth of unhealthy gut bacteria, which may produce cancer-causing substances.
Unhealthy gut bacteria can also cause medical conditions of the digestive tract, for example, irritable bowel syndrome and colorectal cancer.
Related article: Do you suffer from poor gut health? Find out here
As a health conscious consumer, you can significantly increase your fiber intake by adding chickpeas and hummus in your diet. Also, include a lot of fruits and fresh veggies in your diet.
Chickpeas are easy to incorporate into your diet.
A quick glance across the legume section in the superstore and you would know that chickpeas are incredibly cheap. Chickpeas are affordable everywhere, no matter whatever part of the world you live in. They are available as both canned and dry form.
Most canned foods lose some nutrients during the process, but here’s the good news. Chickpeas do not lose any nutritional content when canned.
If you are not interested in making hummus from the newly bought chickpeas, there are other ways they can be included in the diet.
Add them to vegetable soups, eat them in roasted forms, put a handful of chickpeas in your salad bowl, incorporate some in tacos.
Risks associated with taking chickpeas
Some people complaint of intestinal gas, bloating, and discomfort as a result of chickpea and other legumes consumption. This results because we lack the enzyme – alpha-galactosidase – needed to digest galactans in legumes. However, this shouldn’t stop you from buying chickpeas. Here are a few options to prevent this problem:
- Introduce chickpeas slowly into your diet.
- Do not use the water used to soak dried chickpeas. Drain it and then boil them in separate water.
Chickpeas are an excellent way to fulfill our weekly legumes intake. They can be used as hummus and other forms, and make for delicious varieties of foods. Based on the emerging evidence on the benefits of chickpeas, their consumption in moderation can improve the nutrient profile of our diet.