Chickpeas, also known as ‘Kabuli Chana’, ‘Chole’ in India or called Garbanzo beans in other countries, is one of the most versatile beans of them all. Chickpeas are naturally delicious with their soft and creamy texture, these beans can be used in curries, and gravies, or can be made into delicious dips, even base for salads and fillings in sandwiches and wraps. Chickpeas have now started replacing meats in any and every meat-based recipe as an adaptation for vegans. In recent times, chickpeas have even been used to make some delicious desserts!
They have been used in Middle Eastern preparations for ages. India is one of the largest producers of chickpeas in the world.
One of the toughest challenges that vegans face in maintaining their lifestyle is that it is hard to find a solid protein source that is plant-based. Apart from that, looking for replacements for meat or any other animal-sourced products that give creamy bases like cream, butter, cheese etc. This is where chickpeas come into play.
The naturally neutral taste and creamy texture of these beans help them to take up the role of any and every replacement. Though they are available in canned and dried form, they are more commonly used as dried beans in India.
The best part is that chickpeas are not just a mere replacement for meat, but in fact are a powerhouse of nutrition on their own too. Chickpeas in itself is a whole meal that can support a healthy vegan lifestyle. Eating chickpeas on a regular basis can have many health benefits. Let us have a look at the nutritional contents of chickpeas.
Nutritional Content in Chickpeas
Like most legumes, chickpeas are packed with fibre and plant-based protein. Apart from that, chickpeas also are rich in many Vitamins and minerals.
A cup of cooked chickpeas can provide around 200-240 g of dietary fibre. They also contain anything around 12-14g of protein. They are a great source of carbohydrates, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and selenium. They also are full of Vitamins like Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin E, Folic acid, Beta Carotene etc.
This ensures that chickpeas are a whole meal in itself and can easily be the base of most plant-based diet forms.
Health Benefits of Chickpeas
We just got to know how chickpeas are enriched with nutrition. This also makes chickpeas a great food loaded with several health benefits. Below mentioned are a few of the known health benefits of chickpeas.
Helps with weight management: We have just seen that chickpeas are a great source of fibre and protein. The combination of protein and fibre helps to slow down the process of digestion, thereby making the person feel satiated for longer. This in turn helps to reduce the intake of additional calories in subsequent meals.
Additionally, some studies have supported that regular chickpeas consumption improves a person’s body mass index (BMI) which speeds up one’s metabolism also.
Helps to regulate blood sugar: Chickpeas on their own have a relatively low glycaemic interest, which is an indicator of how quickly blood sugar levels spike in the blood. So consumption of chickpeas will not dangerously spike your blood sugar levels.
Additionally, chickpeas are rich in fibre, and the presence of fibre in foods slows down digestion, so even the existing carbohydrates and sugars in chickpeas do not get released suddenly and help maintain a regular blood sugar level.
Helps improve digestion and relieve constipation: People who suffer from digestive troubles are often the ones who do not consume enough fibre in their daily diet. Chickpeas contain fibre that is soluble in water. So it mixes with water and adds bulk to the stools.
Also, soluble fibre aids the proliferation of the ‘good bacteria’ in the gut. It also helps to reduce the growth of the ‘bad bacteria’. These factors help to ease digestive troubles and promote healthy gut health. It regularizes healthy bowel movements.
These features are also known to help reduce the chances of digestive troubles like irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, and even chances of colon cancer.
Helps to build muscles: Being an excellent source of plant-based protein, chickpeas contain a good amount of amino acids. This helps with the growth, development and repair of body muscles. This is especially important for those who do not consume any other source of animal-based protein like meat or eggs.
Helps maintain heart health: Though it may sound strange, chickpeas have a positive effect on the heart as well. Chickpeas are rich in minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium etc. These minerals help in lowering and maintaining blood pressure, which in turn helps to maintain good heart health.
Also, the soluble fibre present in chickpeas is said to be beneficial in reducing triglycerides and bad cholesterol in the blood (LDL), which reduces the incidence of heart diseases.
May Help Reduce the Chances of Cancer
Some researchers support that eating chickpeas regularly may play a role in reducing the chance of certain types of cancers like colon cancer.
This is because chickpea consumption helps in reducing inflammation in colon cells. Also, chickpeas have been found to contain saponins. Saponins are a plant compound that is known to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells.
Additionally, the minerals and vitamins present in chickpeas especially Vitamin B complex, are said to be beneficial in reducing the chances of lung cancer and breast cancer.
Helps to improve brain health and nerves: Chickpeas are a known source of minerals like zinc, magnesium etc. These play a vital role in improving nerve functioning.
Also, chickpeas contain choline, which is crucial in maintaining brain health. Choline also is said to have a role to play in the growth and development of certain neurotransmitters.
Helps with iron deficiency management: Chickpeas are a known source of iron. Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells as well as other important functions including brain development, metabolism, physical growth etc.
Consuming chickpeas on a regular basis helps to replenish iron stores in the body.
India is the largest producer of chickpeas all over the world, Chickpeas are very easily available here. Also, they are a comparatively cheaper source of nutrition as compared to expensive protein and nutrient supplements. They are easy to cook and very tasty to eat. Hence are a great food to consume on a regular basis.
While canned and ready-to-use chickpeas may be available, in India the dried versions are far more commonly used. Simply soak the chickpeas overnight and cook it in a pressure cooker for a few whistles. And healthy and delicious chickpeas are ready to be used as you like.