Since ever I switched to a vegetarian diet (without an intention to do so) I learned very quickly about a huge variety of meals which include beans and legumes. Beyond all the health benefits legumes and beans provide, including them into a diet is simply interesting. Plant-based meals in my case require more preparation, meditation and creativity. I’m not saying that they are high maintenance, but I think I just have more respect towards the plant-based bowl of food.
I thought it would be interesting to focus on one ingredient a week and learn why is it awesome. For the first blog post in this series I picked chickpeas. I love chickpeas and I call them “chickies”. I didn’t know anything about chickpeas when I first had a crush on them. They are super versatile, delicious even when just boiled and seasoned with salt, they make a great add-in to any meal (roast and throw in a soup, salad, add to a stew, rice dish, turn into a spread like hummus, use as a flour, stuff samosas and many other things).
I know a lot of people prefer canned beans in order to avoid the cooking dried beans require. Please, don’t be! Cooking beans is super easy: soak them in water and lemon juice/apple cider* overnight, cook for an hour with a kombu*/ wakame* or just a throw in a bay leaf and voila, all done (* it is recommended to add some acid into soaking liquid and seaweed while cooking to make the digestion go smoother).
Now, let’s look what’s cool about chickpeas and why we should incorporate them into our diets. Many public health organizations—including the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society—recommend legumes as a key food group for preventing disease and optimizing health and there are reasons why they do so:
- Chickpeas (like most legumes) have long been valued for their fiber content. Two cups provide the entire Daily Value. Between 65-75% of the fiber found in garbanzo beans is insoluble fiber, and this type of fiber remains undigested all the way down to the final segment of your large intestine (colon).
- Plentiful amounts of antioxidant nutrients are critical for the support of these body systems, and garbanzo beans are a remarkable food in terms of their antioxidant composition. While containing small but valuable amounts of conventional antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, garbanzo beans also contain more concentrated supplies of antioxidant phytonutrients.
- Large-scale epidemiologic studies give us a great look at potential heart benefits from garbanzo beans, and the evidence shows garbanzo beans to be outstanding in this area. As little as 3/4 cup of garbanzos per day can help lower our LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides in a one-month period of time. While garbanzo beans are not a fatty food, they do contain valuable amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the body’s omega-3 fatty acid from which all other omega-3 fats are made. Risk of coronary heart disease is one of the specific types of cardiovascular risks that has been shown to be reduced by regular intake of garbanzo beans and other legumes.
- Along with their unusual combination of protein and fiber and their great ability to stabilize digestion, garbanzo beans also stand out as a food that is moderate in terms of calories. At approximately 270 calories per cup, we’re talking about 10-15% of daily calories. In return for this moderate calorie cost, we get 50% of the DV for fiber and 29% of the DV for protein. Those nutrient amounts are great trade-offs for anyone struggling with weight loss or weight management.
- Garbanzo contain phytochemicals called saponins, which can act as antioxidants. It could lower the risk of breast cancer, protect against osteoporosis and minimizes hot flushes in post-menopausal women.