By Sean Zucker –
Commonly found as the core ingredient of engrossing favorites such as hummus and falafel, chickpeas have exploded in popularity over the last few years. Despite this, their nutritional value and overall health benefits have often gone underappreciated. That’s a shame given experts and studies agree these tiny tan bits have a lot to offer in that field.
Chickpeas are a type of legume in the same family as kidney beans and peanuts and operate as an excellent source of plant-based protein. One cup of chickpeas, for example, packs roughly 39 grams of protein, nearly equal to the amount of one cup of chicken, according to the USDA. This positions them as a perfect resource for vegans and vegetarians or those just looking to cut back on meat consumption.
They are also pretty perfect for those looking to lose weight. One gram of chickpeas contains only four calories, making them a great option for low calorie-diets. But that’s not their only support for weight-loss efforts. A meta-analysis out of Australia’s School of Human Life Sciences at the University of Tasmania found that people lost 25 percent more weight when eating chickpeas on a daily basis than compared to when they did not. The research included forty-two participants completing an ordered crossover study, consuming their habitual diet for 4 weeks, a chickpea supplemented diet for 12 weeks, and their habitual diet for another 4 weeks. A major factor for the accelerated weight loss was that overall when consuming chickpeas, people tended to eat less in general and less junk food in particular.
A 2016 joint examination between researchers at George Mason University, Ohio State University and Atlanta Nutrition Communications amplified these findings by discovering that those who ate chickpeas regularly were 53% less likely to be obese and had a lower body mass index and weight circumference when compared to those who did not.
WedMD additionally notes chickpea’s ability to help control blood pressure and lower cholesterol. The site highlights their low glycemic index and presence of a type of starch called amylose, both indicate your body absorbs and digests the food slowly. This, in turn, helps keep blood sugar and insulin from rising too fast.
The legume is also extremely high in dietary fiber, especially one soluble fiber called raffinose. The good bacteria in your gut breaks this down so your colon can digest it slowly, making bowel movements easier and more regular. Beyond gut health, soluble fiber is can help lessen total cholesterol, therefor lowering the risk of heart disease, WebMD states.
A 2014 study out of St. Michael’s Hospital in Canada found that chickpeas specifically reduce ‘bad cholesterol’ and do so significantly. It found that those who ate one serving of chickpeas or similar legumes daily lowered their LDL (bad) cholesterol by an average of five percent. However, most people in America only consume half that.
Beyond the now widely consumed hummus and falafel, foodies have continued to discover and invent exciting new ways to consume the legume. Since launching in 2014, Banza has become pioneers in repurposing chickpeas in fun and interesting way. Their ever-popular chickpea-based pasta and rice are only outdone by their newly released chickpea macaroni and cheese. Founded in the same year, Hippeas sought to cover the underutilized chickpea snack corner by offering various flavors of chickpea-based tortilla chips and puffs. The success and innovation of these two companies have led to an explosion of chickpea offerings from other established brands, such as Barilla, which now produces a branded chickpea pasta.
With all these products enticing new consumers, chickpeas may just become the next great wellness trend, one that’s tasty, varied and offers a potential whopping benefit to all.