The Humble Chickpea & Why You Need Them In Your Life!
The humble chickpea is my favourite legume. They are so versatile, nutritious and delicious, and I love using it as an ingredient in my cooking!
Chickpeas go by a few different names – other names include garbanzo beans, bengal grams, egyptian peas, ceci beans and kabuli chana.
Chickpeas have been enjoyed for many thousand years – they were first cultivated in the Middle East in 7500BC, and enjoyed by many ancient civilizations including Greece, Rome and Egypt. Chickpeas are popular in Mediterranean, Indian and Middle-Eastern food. 64% of chickpeas are grown in India.
Environmentally, cultivating chickpea crops provides a natural way of combating disease in barley and wheat crops, resulting in less need for insecticide and fungicide use, which is great for the environment!
Top ticks for nutrition
When it comes to a nutrient-dense food then chickpeas are leading the pack.
Nutritionally, chickpeas are the bomb. They are rich in protein, carbohydrates, dietary fibre, antioxidants, iron, vitamins and minerals including folate, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, copper, manganese, choline, and selenium. Chickpeas are also packed with essential amino acids such as lysine, isoleucine, trytophan, and total aromatic amino acids.
Being high in dietary fibre means that chickpeas are great for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Being also high in soluble fibre means that chickpeas may help reduce the uptake of cholesterol into your bloodstream and maintain healthy blood sugar levels – therefore reducing your risk of developing heart disease and assisting in diabetes management.
Just one cup of cooked chickpeas contains:
- 269 calories
- 45 g of carbohydrate
- 15 g of protein
- 13 g of dietary fibre
- 4 g of fat
- 0 g of cholesterol
Healthy benefits of chickpeas
Chickpeas have been associated with a number of possible health benefits, from diabetes management, lowering cholesterol, bone health, reduction in blood pressure, optimal heart health, through to reducing cancer risks. For these reasons alone, it is worthwhile adding these little gems to your daily food regime.
- The high fibre content results in lower blood glucose levels, lipid and insulin levels, which is great for diabetes management.
- The iron, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin K in chickpeas helps to build and maintain bone structure and strength.
- Potassium-rich chickpeas help maintain low-sodium intake which in turn maintains low blood pressure.
- Chickpea consumption supports optimal heart health via the high fibre, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 content.
- The mineral selenium is not present in most fruits and vegetables, however, it can be found in chickpeas. Selenium helps the enzymes of the liver, which improves liver function and detoxifies some cancer-causing compounds in the body, and has also been reported to prevent inflammation and decrease tumour growth rates.
- Keep cholesterol levels in check with chickpeas. Research shows that including chickpeas in your diet lowers the amount of low-density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol, in the blood.
- Choline is a nutrient I didn’t know too much about until recently. The humble chickpea contains good levels of choline which will assist with sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory. Choline also helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.
- Chickpeas are great at keeping you regular. By eating chickpeas, with their high fibre content, you will have the best chance of a healthy digestive system and regularity.
Cook up a storm with chickpeas
The chickpea is an amazing ingredient. Chickpeas are really affordable and so versatile to cook and eat. You can enjoy them hot or cold, canned, dried or roasted.
Most people think of the humble chickpea just for its association to hummus, but these little gems can be added to soups, salads, pasta, and stir frys. You can also use them to create falafel and meatless patties, or as a base for almost any Indian dish.
Chickpea flour (Besan flour) can add fibre, protein, and an assortment of vitamins and minerals to gluten-free baking. You can also use this flour to make an eggless omelette or quiche.
In December 2014, vegan French musician, Joël Roessel, discovered that chickpea-derived liquid (aquafaba) could be used as an egg white replacement to make meringue. When this was discovered I went slightly overboard and started whipping up vegan pavlova, lemon meringue and macaroons, until my waistline told me to ease off a little. This discovery was ground-breaking as it meant there was no need to miss out on the meringue desserts that some of us plant-based crew love! If you want to find recipes so you can create some yummy desserts then check out this facebook group to get started.
Get snazzy in the kitchen
Try these chickpea recipes.