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Chickpeas – Are they good for you?

Yes! Chickpeas are good for you.

Chickpeas have been around for seven thousand years and are the healthiest food you can eat. Be it falafel, hummus, sattu or roasted chickpea snack, the buzz around chickpea is not unaccounted for.  They are extremely nutritious and bestow several health benefits.

What are chickpeas?

The tiny round beige colored beans which we know as kabuli chana are the super nutritious chickpea. They are a type of pulses belonging to the legume family. The most common type is the round and beige colored kabuli type; other varieties include the red, green and the desi black chana.

Chickpea go by their Spanish name the Garbanzo beans.  They have a nutty, buttery flavor and a creamy texture. They are quite versatile and can be included in the diet in several ways.

How are chickpeas good for you?

Chickpeas are teeming with healthy nutrients. They are high in protein and fiber making it a go-to-food for all.

A single cup of chickpea can fulfill 20% of your daily requirements of protein and fiber.

Chickpeas are bursting with B-complex vitamin like thiamin, riboflavin, panthotenic acid, folic acid, niacin. B-complex vitamins, though required in less amounts by the body, are extremely significant. They act as co-factors to enzymes that regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium are abundantly present in chickpea. In fact, 1 cup of chickpea provides 4.7 mg of iron i.e. half to one-fifth of a daily requirement, depending on the individual, of course!

Roasted chickpea snacks or hummus with veggies or glass of sattu is a good way to add goodness of chickpeas to your diet.

What are the health benefits of chickpeas?

These small beans are small but pretty mighty when it comes to protecting your health. Chickpeas are a real super food.

Did you know that Chickpea are the most extensively studied pulse/legume in context to health benefits?  According to all these research, chickpea can solve not one not one but many of our health problems.

1. Chickpea helps in weight loss

Chickpeas help in weight loss in multiple ways. Firstly chickpeas are alkaline in nature. They have an alkalizing effect in the body and our bodies can burn fat and lose weight faster in an alkaline pH.

Secondly, Chickpea have two potent weapons that can tackle your weight issues like a pro – the proteins and fiber.

Fiber is well known for adding bulk to the food thereby delaying digestion and promoting a feeling of fullness. Proteins promote satiety as well as increase the secretion of appetite suppressing hormone- the Leptin.

Protein and fiber work synergistically to control appetite which automatically lowers your caloric intake throughout the day thereby aiding your weight loss endeavor; A win-win situation, Right?

An Australian study, published in a journal called Appetite, accentuates the role of chickpea in weight loss evidently.

42 volunteers were asked to eat about 100 gm of chickpeas daily in addition to their usual diets for 12 weeks, and then return to their typical diets for a month.

On evaluating their food journal it was found that they ate less of every food group especially grains during the 12 week period (i.e. when they were eating 100gm of chickpea everyday). The participants reported that they felt fuller while eating chickpea. It was also noted that when they returned to their typical diet (i.e. no chickpea) for a month, their intake of processed snacks increased.

Does your weight loss diet have chickpea in them?

If not then, add them real quick. Adding a bowl of roasted chickpea a snack when hungry works best when on a weight loss diet.

2. Chickpeas are good for your blood sugar

It’s time to get serious about our blood sugar levels, diabetes or not.  An imbalance in blood sugar level is linked to heart disease, obesity, PCOS, and certain cancers.

The food we eat is broken down to its simplest form -the glucose (or as we know it sugar).  The glucose from the food is then taken up by cells under the direction of the insulin. The type of food we eat directs how fast or slowly our blood sugar levels rise.

So, how does chickpea help in managing blood sugar levels?

Chickpea are a low glycemic food and are high in fiber and protein, putting them on top of the list for diabetes friendly foods.

The combination of protein and fiber are best when it comes to battling erratic blood sugar levels.  They promote a steady rise in blood sugar levels so that body has enough time to clear it (take up in the cells).  Blood sugar levels remain normal, you stay healthy.

Chickpea is a safe source of carbohydrates for people with diabetics and consuming as little as ½ cup of day has shown to prevent Type 2 Diabetes.

3. Chickpea and gut health

This may come as a surprise, as for years chickpea consumption has been linked to gastric discomfort and bloating.

But truth be told, chickpea are quite beneficial to your gut health.

Chickpea are good source of fiber which acts as a laxative and bulking agent preventing constipation and keeping digestive tract healthy.

Chickpeas contain a type of oligosaccharide called, raffinose. Raffinose is a soluble fiber which is fermented in the colon by the good bacteria in the gut i.e. bifidobacterium.

As the oligosaccharides are broken down by the bacteria, butyrate -a short chain fatty acid is released.  Now this butyrate is a source of energy for the colon cells, reduces inflammation in the colon wall and regularizes colon activity as well as prevents colorectal cancer.

It is said that your gut is your ‘second brain’ and we want our gut to be as healthy as our brain right?

Chickpeas produce gas, is the most common myth people have with regards to eating chickpea.

Chickpea contain resistant starch which take time to be digested and may give you gas.

However it is found that soaking or cooking chickpea breaks down the stubborn sugars and makes it easier to digest as well as prevents gas formation.

You can soak chickpea for 6 hours to 12 to 24 hours.  Soaking also reduces cooking time. Cooked, Boiled or roasted chickpea are a few ways you can safely add chickpeas to your daily diet.

In a study conducted in Arizona state university one group of volunteers were asked to add ½ cup of carrot and another ½ cup of beans in their diet.

It was found that during the first week only 35% of the people eating beans complained of gas and by the next week the complainants were down by 19%. The number continued to decline each week—to 11% by week four, and down to 3% by week eight.

So if gas and bloating has been stopping you from adding this super food to your diet than you have nothing to worry.  Just give your body time to adapt and see it act.

4. Chickpea and mental health

Surprised, Right?

Mental health is a significant aspect of health. Our nervous system and brain require several nutrients to function efficiently. The dearth of any of them can affect our moods, muscle control memory and metabolism. One such nutrient of utmost consequence is choline

We require up to 500mg of choline per day for our brain and nervous tissue to function perfectly. You know what? One cup of chickpea provides up to 69.7mg of choline, which is quite remarkable.

Other nutrients that help with functions of the brain and nervous tissue include- folic acid, magnesium, selenium and antioxidant, all of which are packed in abundance in our super nutritious chickpea.

Next time you feel low or cranky try replacing the unhealthy snacks like chip or candies with a handful of roasted chickpeas and see the difference for yourself.

5. Chickpea are rich in antioxidants

Every day, every minute, free radicals are produced in our bodies produced due to constant wear and tear. As free radicals accumulate, they damage cells and interfere with the functioning of various organ systems. Free radicals are harmful and need to be neutralized.   This is where the antioxidants come in for the rescue.

Chickpeas house a  unique supply of antioxidants that protect us from the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. They contain valuable amounts of antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and betacarotene but are brimming with the potent phytonutrients.

There are two types of the phytonutrients in chickpea

  1. Phenolic compounds – ferulic acid, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and vanillic acid, found in the interior portions of the beans.
  2. Flavonoids like quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin, generally found in the outer layer of the beans

Another antioxidant found in abundance in chickpea is magnesium.  Magnesium plays a key role as antioxidant within the energy producing unit of the cell (mitochondria). One cup of chickpea can provide nearly 85% of the Daily Value (DV) for this key antioxidant.

Chickpea, depending on their thickness and color also house significant amounts of the anthocyanins.

6. Chickpeas promote heart health

A bowl of roasted chickpea a day can keep all your heart troubles at bay.

Chickpea with its super powerful fiber helps remove the ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) from the body. They contain a sterol known as sitosterol which is structurally similar to cholesterol and thus interferes with absorption of cholesterol from the intestine.

The rich antioxidant profile of chickpea also offers protection to your heart.  Although chickpeas are not a fatty food but they still contain a commendable amount of omega 3 i.e. the alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA). Each cup provides up to 70-80 mg of ALA.

7. Chickpeas protects against cancer

Yup, cancer too, chickpeas have everything to promote good health.

Chickpeas have all nutrients to fight cancer as well as protect us from harmful carcinogens.

Good proteins, omega 3, antioxidants and essential micronutrients – a perfect mix to keep your body healthy and your immunity strong.

Chickpeas like soybeans contain o-methylated isoflavone, compound- the Biochanin A.  Biochanin A is a plant estrogen that is highly effective against cancer cells.

Chickpea contains several Isoflavones- the Gylcetein, Genistein, Diadzein and Formonontein to name a few, which are known to reduce risk of post menopausal cancers and osteoporosis.

We have already discussed the role of fiber in fighting colorectal cancer and antioxidants which reduce the oxidative stress and remove the free radicals, a well known cause of cancer.

With numerous health benefits to offer, chickpea should definitely be an integral part of an anti-cancer diet program.

The conclusion

From everything that we have discussed so far, chickpeas are undisputedly a super food. Though not popular as the ‘so-called Healthy’ energy bar, Roasted chickpea snacks are the snacks of the future.

Chickpea are versatile and can be added in numerous ways in your diet. Boil it to add them to soups and curries or make a hummus and use as dips.  Roasted chickpea can be flavored with spices to make a healthy snack on-the -go.

So fella’s, binge on this super nutritious bean which is indeed a next gen super food.

Author avatar
Dt. Fatema Arsiwala
Founder, SnackAart

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