Chickpeas have been cultivated for over 8,000 years and are now the second most important pulse crop in the world, after soy beans.
Chickpeas provide all the essential amino acids, and are good sources of vitamin B1, vitamin B6, folate, copper, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and zinc. As long as you select chickpeas that are not canned in brine, and boil them in unsalted water, their sodium content is also minimal which is great for your blood pressure.
There are two main types of chick pea which vary in size, shape and colour.
- The larger Kabuli chickpeas, often called garbanzo beans, have a thin seed coat and are usually pale in colour, ranging from white to cream.
- The smaller Desi chickpeas, which are also known as chana or gram, have a thicker seed coat and different varieties range in colour from tan to green and even black.
Chana dahl is a spicy Indian dish made from Desi chickpeas which have been peeled and cut in half to resemble split lentils.
Chickpeas are a surprisingly good source of antioxidant polyphenols, which might account for their anti-inflammatory action. Blonde Kabuli chickpeas provide around 147mg polyphenols per 100g weight, while red and black desi chickpeas provide over 450mg polyphenols per 100g – including isoflavones and lignans which have a weak oestrogen-like action.
Researchers have found that soaking dried chickpeas at room temperature for 22 hours, followed by steaming for 1 hour, is the best way to preserve their antioxidant polyphenols.
Sprouting chickpeas provide the richest content of polyphenols overall, however. You can sprout your own by soaking dried chickpeas in water overnight, then placing in a sprouting jar or rack and leaving for 2-3 days.
Rinse teh sprouting chick peas twice a day with fresh, cold water.
Don’t leave your chickpeas sprouting for longer than 3 days, however, or they will start to taste bitter.
Chickpeas and weight loss
Chickpeas are a good source of protein and soluble fibre. Adding them to a meal helps to fill you up, increase satiety and suppress hunger, as well as reducing blood glucose swings. This makes chickpeas a great option to include in a weight loss.
A study involving 30 people, who were classed as obese, asked participants to follow either a low-calorie diet that included 4 servings (160g – 235g cooked weight) of chickpeas, lentils, peas or beans per week, or a similar diet providing the same amount of calories, but which did not include chickpeas or other pulses.
After 8 weeks, those eating the chickpeas and other beans achieved a significantly greater weight loss (7.8% total body weight loss, equivalent to 7.8kg for someone weighing 100kg) than those following the non-chickpea diet (5.3% total body weight loss).
After taking the weight loss into account, those eating chickpeas also had significant improvements in levels of inflammatory chemicals, blood pressure and total cholesterol.
Chickpeas and plant hormones
Chickpeas are a rich source of oestrogen-like plant hormones known as isoflavones and lignans. These interact with oestrogen receptors in the body to provide a useful hormone boost when oestrogen levels are low. Including chickpeas in your diet can help to reduce menopausal hot flashes and nightsweats.
How to add chickpeas to your diet
You can add chickpeas to soups, stews, casseroles and curries, or eat them as a side dish to accompany meats or fish. Chickpeas are used to make falafel, and are combined with lemon juice, olive oil and sesame seed puree (tahini) to make humus.
Healthy chickpea snacks
Chickpea snacks provide a tasty and nutritious alternative to potato crisps, and are available roasted (like nuts) or as delicious organic chickpea puffs.
Chickpeas are gluten-free, making them a healthy snack for people with gluten intolerance.
In fact, I’m enjoying a bag of HIPPEAS Cheese & Love as I write this. Supplying 90kcals per pack, and just 0.2g salt, they are made with organic chickpeas (39%), organic rice, organic sunflower oil, organic cheese and natural organic flavourings. What’s not to like?
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