Chickpeas are legumes grown mainly in temperate and semi arid climates. They are a good source of protein, fibre, resistant starch, oligosaccharides, sterols, calcium, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, folate and antioxidants including carotenoids and isoflavones (1,2,3). But their benefits go beyond the nutrients they contain. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of including chickpeas in your diet.
Chickpeas for Protein
The protein content of chickpeas is between 25g-27g per 100g depending on the variety. This protein includes significant amounts of the essential amino acids with the exception of the sulphur-containing amino acids. However, combining chickpeas with grains creates a complete protein (3). Traditional diets often combine chickpeas in this way, eg: hummus with pitta bread, chickpea curry with rice and Moroccan chickpea tagine with couscous.
Chickpeas for Intestinal Health
Raffinose is an oligosaccharide found in chickpeas. Research in which participants were given either 200g of chickpeas or 5g of raffinose a day as part of their normal diet found that the balance of bacteria in their intestines improved, with increased numbers of beneficial bacteria and reduced pathogenic and putrefactive bacteria. The researchers conclude that chickpeas and raffinose have the potential to improve the intestinal microbial composition in humans thus promoting health (4).
Chickpeas for Satiety
Chickpeas are very low on the glycaemic index meaning they will not tend to upset blood sugar or insulin levels. One study found that while consuming about 100g of chickpeas a day the participants ate less of all other food groups and notably fewer processed snack foods. The chickpeas increased satiation and bowel function also improved (5).
Chickpeas for Cardiovascular Health
Pulses such as chickpeas have been shown to be helpful in the prevention and management of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (6). A review of research into the effect of pulses on cardiovascular disease found that eating 130g of pulses a day significantly lowered LDL cholesterol levels compared with the control diets (7,8).
A long term study looking at the effects of protein intake from animal or plant foods on metabolic syndrome found that participants getting a significant amount of their protein from legumes and nuts were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome. They were also less likely to gain weight or increase their waist circumference than those getting most of their protein from animal sources (9).
Chickpeas Against Cancer
Legumes, including chickpeas have been shown to contain anticarcinogenic agents which are especially effective in the early stages of carcinogenesis. It has been observed that in countries with a high consumption of legumes, the incidence of colorectal cancer is lower (10).
Chickpeas to Lower Acrylamide
You might have heard about the negative effects of acrylamides found in baked goods such as crackers, bread, snack foods and crisps. They are formed when carbohydrates are cooked at high temperatures and appear to have carcinogenic effects. Adding chickpeas or chickpea flour when baking such foods increases their nutritional value and reduces the acrylamide content (11).
Chickpeas and Anti-nutrients
Despite being a highly nutritional element of the human diet, chickpeas also contain various anti-nutritional compounds, including protease inhibitors, phytic acid and lectins that may impair the utilization of nutrients (1). Soaking followed by cooking or germinating chickpeas are both effective methods to reduce the anti-nutritional factors and to increase the amount of protein available (11,12). Germination, or sprouting, of chickpeas also improves their nutritional value (13).
Take a Dip
Hummus is a nutrient-dense dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and sometimes herbs or spices. Consumers of chickpeas and hummus have been shown to have higher intakes of dietary fibre, vitamins A, E and C, folate, magnesium, potassium, and iron as compared to non-consumers (14). Hummus can be used as a dip or spread with vegetables, pitta bread, baked potatoes or oat cakes.
Take a Crunch
Although many consumers know that pulses are nutritious, long preparation times often put people off using them regularly. However crunchy cooked and dried chickpeas are now available as snacks. Pulses cooked and dried in this way have been shown to maintain appreciable amounts of resistant starch, protein and fibre making them a good alternative to crisps (15).
- 1. J Agric Food Chem. 2017 Jan 11;65(1):6-22. Health Risks and Benefits of Chickpea (Cicer arietinum) Consumption. Gupta RK, Gupta K, Sharma A, Das M et al.
- 2. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2013 Feb;64(1):69-76. Technological properties, antioxidant activity and total phenolic and flavonoid content of pigmented chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) cultivars. Heiras-Palazuelos MJ, Ochoa-Lugo MI, Gutierrez-Dorado R. et al.
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- 12. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2002 Winter;57(1):83-97.Nutritional composition and antinutritional factors of chickpeas (Cicer arietinum L.) undergoing different cooking methods and germination. El-Adawy TA.
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- 15. Foods. 2013 Jul 25;2(3):338-349. Nutritional Profile and Carbohydrate Characterization of Spray-Dried Lentil, Pea and Chickpea Ingredients. Tosh SM, Farnworth ER, Brummer Y, et al.