8 Health Benefits of Chickpeas: Why This Legume Should Be In Your Diet
If you aren’t including chickpeas in your diet, you may want to start. Also known as garbanzo beans, these tasty legumes are versatile and nutritious food and offer numerous health benefits. Chickpeas can lower blood sugar, improve weight management, and protect against heart disease and cancer. They’re also one of the best plant sources of protein.
The chickpea is a pulse, which is another name for a dry, edible seed. Other pulses include lentils and dry peas. Pulses offer health benefits that differ from other types of legumes, such as soybeans and peanuts.
Continue reading to learn about the many health benefits of chickpeas.
Chickpeas are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein. A one-ounce serving of chickpeas can provide you with nutrients as diverse as:
They also contain small amounts of important unsaturated fatty acids, including linoleic acid and oleic acid.
2. Good Source of Essential Amino Acids
One serving of chickpeas contains three grams of protein, which makes them a good addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet.
The amount of protein in chickpeas is comparable to that of other legumes, such as lentils and black beans. However, the quality of chickpea protein is better than that of many other legumes.
Chickpeas contain all of the essential amino acids except for methionine, which can be obtained from seaweed, sesame seeds, Brazil nuts, and oats.
Unable to make them itself, the body must obtain all nine essential amino acids from food. It uses these acids to make protein. Because plant proteins contain fewer amino acids than animal proteins do, the body can’t rely on them entirely.
Individuals on a vegetarian diet should pay attention to their amino acid intake to make sure they are eating foods with all nine essential amino acids. Adding chickpeas to a vegetarian diet is one way to make sure you’re getting enough protein.
3. Control Hunger
Foods high in protein and fiber, such as chickpeas, may help control the appetite. Protein and fiber work together to slow digestion, which can keep you feeling full longer. Slightly increasing your protein intake may help you eat less throughout the day and at meals.
A 2017 study examined the effects of consuming chickpeas on blood sugar, appetite, and calorie intake at the next meal. One group of female participants ate one cup of chickpeas prior to a meal, while another group ate two slices of white bread. Those who ate chickpeas had lower blood sugar levels and ate fewer calories at their next meal.
Another study found that participants who added an average of 104 grams of chickpeas to their diet daily for 12 weeks ate less processed snack food. They also reported feeling fuller and having better bowel function.
Keep some chickpeas or hummus on hand to snack on if you get hungry in between meals to keep your appetite under control and prevent overeating.
4. Weight Management
In addition to helping control hunger, chickpeas are a fairly low-calorie food. Studies show that overweight individuals who eat more low-calorie foods are more likely to lose weight and maintain their weight loss than those who eat high-calorie foods.
One study found that individuals who ate chickpeas regularly were 53% less likely to be obese and 51% less likely to have elevated blood sugar levels. Another study found that people who regularly ate pulses—including lentils, chickpeas, and peas—lost more weight over a period of six weeks than those who did not eat pulses.
If weight loss is a goal for you, try adding more chickpeas into your diet in place of high-calorie snacks.
5. Control Blood Sugar
As demonstrated by some of the above-mentioned studies, one of the health benefits of chickpeas is that they may also help support blood sugar control. Keeping your blood sugar at optimal levels is important for a number of reasons.
Chronically high blood sugar levels—a condition known as hyperglycemia—is linked to myriad health issues, including heart disease, kidney disease, depression, and cognitive decline. High blood sugar can eventually lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
Carbohydrates—especially refined carbohydrates, which fall higher on the glycemic index—increase blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates, including legumes, are slower burning and can help your body maintain more stable blood sugar levels.
One study found that people who ate a meal containing 200 grams of chickpeas experienced a 21% reduction in blood sugar levels compared to when they ate wheat-based foods or white bread. Other studies confirm that eating chickpeas can help reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
6. Improved Digestion
Chickpeas are a good source of fiber, which can help with digestion. Fiber may help promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, which is as important for your overall health as it is for proper digestion and waste elimination.
Specifically, chickpeas have been shown to improve bowel function. Studies show that individuals report better bowel health, including less constipation, after adding chickpeas to their diet. Considering that Americans spend $800 million on laxatives every year, regularly eating chickpeas may be an easy and affordable way to avoid a common digestive system problem.
7. Protection Against Heart Disease
As noted above, one of the best health benefits of chickpeas is that they may reduce your risk of serious diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Minerals such as magnesium and potassium have been studied for their ability to reduce blood pressure and help reduce the risk of heart disease.
One cup of chickpeas contains 50% of the recommended daily intake for potassium and 57% of the RDI for magnesium, making it an excellent source of both minerals.
Additionally, the soluble fiber in chickpeas has been found to have a positive effect on harmful LDL cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
One study of 45 adults who ate at least 728 grams of chickpeas per week experienced significant improvements in total cholesterol levels.
8. Reduced Risk of Cancer
Regular chickpea consumption can also help protect against certain types of cancers.
Consumption of chickpeas helps the body produce butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that has been found to reduce the risk of colorectal cancers.
Chickpeas also contain saponins, plant compounds that help improve cholesterol levels, lower blood sugar, and prevent tumor growth.
They’re also high in B vitamins, which are associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.
How to Take Advantage of the Health Benefits of Chickpeas
There are so many health benefits of chickpeas. They’re also very affordable and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. You can find them in most grocery stores in the canned goods section. Add them to salads and stews for a nutritional boost.
They’re also the primary ingredient in hummus, which can be eaten with vegetable sticks as a snack or used in a wrap for a simple, healthy lunch. Make your own with this quick and easy recipe.
Homemade Hummus Recipe
- 1 cup chickpeas/garbanzo beans (canned) (~5 oz)
- ½ lemon (~1 oz)
- 1 garlic clove (~⅛ oz)
- 2 Tbsp tahini (sesame paste) (~1 oz)
- 1 ¼ Tbsp olive oil
- ¼ tsp sea salt, ¾ tsp cumin (dry), ¾ tsp paprika (dry)
- Put the chickpeas with half of the liquid from the can into a food processor or blender.
- Juice the lemon. Peel and chop the garlic. Add those to the food processor.
- Add all the remaining ingredients (tahini, olive oil, salt, cumin and paprika) to the food processor.
- Blend for 30 seconds, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then blend for another 30 seconds or until the hummus has a smooth, creamy consistency.
- Serve as a dip with vegetables or on bread.
You can also roast chickpeas and keep them on hand for a delicious and healthy snack.