Great Garbanzos

Garbanzo beans, also called chickpeas, are great with regards to their amazing nutritional content, the potential for weight-control and chronic disease control, and culinary versatility.

Incredibly high in fiber, only two cups of garbanzo beans provide the entire daily recommendation of fiber for women, and a little less than three cups for men! It gets better: in a recent study, two groups of participants received about 28 grams of fiber per day; one group received dietary fiber primarily from garbanzo beans, and the other group received their fiber from entirely different dietary sources. The garbanzo bean group was found to have better lipid profiles, including lower levels of LDL (bad cholesterol), total cholesterol, and triglycerides. Other studies show that just 3/4 cup of garbanzo beans per day may help lower cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides. This may be due in part to the alpha-linolenic acid which chickpeas provide, as well as the unique combination of antioxidant phytonutrients that they contain in concentrated amounts.

Chickpeas are a great source of protein: they have 14.5 grams per cup, which is similar to the protein content of two eggs. This high protein content, along with their high fiber content and excellent phytonutrients, may be why studies show that as little as 1/2 cup of chickpeas per day can help stabilize blood sugar. That’s good news for all those struggling with insulin resistance, weight issues, and diabetes. This optimal combination of protein, fiber, and phytonutrients may be why participants in several small-scale studies consumed fewer snacks and calories overall when eating chickpeas daily. These participants also reported being less hungry and more satisfied when eating chickpeas than when they did not. There seems to be a great health return on the 250 calories contained in one cup of chickpeas!

Chickpeas are also chock-full of vitamins and minerals.  One cup of chickpeas contains an amazing amount of manganese (84% daily value based on a 2000 calorie diet) and folate (71%), and is also a good source of copper (29%), phosphorus (28%), iron (26%), magnesium (20%), zinc (17%), potassium (14%), thiamin (13%), vitamin B6 (11%), selenium (9%), calcium, and vitamin K (8%).

1 cup of garbanzo beans  also contains 164% of the daily value of molybdenum, which is a trace mineral that the body needs to detoxify sulfites. Sulfites are a preservative commonly found in wine, luncheon meats, dried fruit, packaged fresh salad, and salad bars. Those who are low in molybdenum may experience headaches, a racing heartbeat, or confusion when eating sulfites.

Individuals who suffer from gout or kidney stones may want to limit the amount of chickpeas they eat, since they are high in purines and oxalates, which may affect some of these problems negatively.

It’s easy to eat a half cup of chickpeas per day if you roast them and offer them as snacks. Try this “dry roasted” chickpea version that cooks much faster than the recipes using oil. These roasted beans are also good in a salad. If you like kettle corn, you may like Sweet & Salty Garbanzos; they are not too sweet or too salty, but hard to stop eating!

Hummus is a favorite of many, and my Turkish Hummus recipe is often requested by family and friends. Try blending beets or edamame in your hummus for some variation. Hummus’ dipping potential and mild flavor makes it a favorite with kids. Throw them in stews, soups and curries. They can be ground and mixed with hamburgers or meatballs. Try this Greek Chickpea Salad for another option. They are also a nice addition to rice pilaf and pasta.

Take July’s 2012 Healthy Challenge and eat chickpeas several times a week to improve your diet and health. Replace unhealthy snack foods with roasted chickpeas to take advantage of their optimal balance of fiber, protein, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Use your imagination and add them to all sorts of foods. Share recipes that you try and love!