My Weekly Health Tidbits: The Small But Mighty Chickpea

pexels-photo-674574.jpegChickpeas are pretty cool. They are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, are gluten free and can be combined with grains to make a complete protein. Chickpeas have a long history of being used among various cultures from curries to hummus.

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I like to see the amount of versatility that chickpeas have- even vegans use chickpea water from cans (called aquafaba) to whip up and make meringue, which is so interesting to me. What other ways do you think people play with chickpeas in the kitchen? Let’s find out.

The use of chickpeas is mainly in regions like the Middle East, India, the Mediterranean and even parts of Africa. They have made their way into the stomachs of many with their ability to soak up other flavors or be used as a substitute for meat in dishes. Hummus is a favorite of mine, and curries with chickpeas and vegetables are delicious as well.

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Historically, chickpeas have been around for thousands of years mainly originating from the Middle East and then travelling to Rome and the Mediterranean areas during the Bronze Age. Earliest remains of chickpeas were found 7,500 years ago in the Middle East. They were also found in pottery in Turkey, and even found wild chickpeas in layers in a cave in France from 6790 BCE.

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So how valuable is the small chickpea to ones diet? Turns out, they are quite beneficial and even a staple food product in places like India that rely on vegetarian meals in certain regions. For such a small item you would be surprised that they carry so much fiber (12.5 grams per cup), protein (15 grams per cup), and minerals like zinc, iron, folate (one cup has 90% daily value), and magnesium. For many vegetarians utilizing beans and legumes, they can be ideal for getting in B vitamins, and the iron that they can’t receive from meat. If you don’t want to have tofu or soy products all the time, beans can be a good alternative. You might need to eat a lot of chickpeas though to get high amounts of the iron, since one cup only has 5 milligrams of iron.

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What about some of the disadvantages of chickpeas? Well the benefits definitely outweigh the few ( heart health, cholesterol reducing, good for regulating blood sugar, etc.) but there are some things that chickpeas and other beans do to make you not want them such as getting too much gas. While this can happen because they contain a type of sugar the body doesn’t fully break down, soaking the beans and cooking them properly can reduce the discomfort. One disadvantage with canned beans is of course the added sodium, so if you want to have the benefits of chickpeas, then you can buy them cheaper in dried form and soak them (or rinse out the canned ones a few times to reduce sodium levels).

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Soaking and cooking beans and legumes greatly reduces something called lectins. Lectins are found in raw beans, legumes, and certain vegetables like tomatoes. They are a protein that can bind to sugars from foods and aren’t exactly digestible by the human body. Each person will develop antibodies to lectins and every person will have a different immune response to certain foods that have them. So some people may react badly to beans and vegetables compared to another person. That is why it is important to soak beans for a while and cook them long enough so that they aren’t undercooked and it will lower the lectin units greatly.

It is advisable for those who have digestive disorders to not consume raw vegetables that would be higher in lectins or too many beans at a time, because it can cause flare ups or disrupt the digestive system. However, you don’t need to fear having beans and legumes as long as you have them in moderation each time and don’t consume vast amounts of them (anyone would then have discomfort and pain).

 

Fun ways to use chickpeas in the kitchen

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  • You can replace carb filled croutons on salads, with crunchy dry roasted chickpeas. Mix chickpeas with some spices and roast in the oven until golden brown. They are even a good snack item instead of reaching for a bag of chips.
  • Cookie dough made out of chickpeas? Yes, it couldn’t really believe it either, but I read about it and there is a cool recipe on this site.

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  • If you want to blend chickpeas (and not just make hummus), you can surprisingly add in a handful into a smoothie. Sounds a bit shocking, but it probably gives a thicker texture, and adds in a bit more protein and fiber. You likely wouldn’t even be able to tell you put chickpeas in there. Here is an interesting recipe I found.
  • Blending in beans like chickpeas that have a neutral but creamy texture (instead of using heavy cream) is great for soups like tomato, or cream of broccoli. This looks like a good recipe idea that doesn’t use fattening creams.

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  • If you like pasta but want to put in the added protein, you can chop up chickpeas and add it into a sauce for a complete meal along with veggies. I have done pasta with chickpea and tomato sauce and it definitely adds an extra flair.
  • Finally, you could not forget about vegan veggie patties with adding in some mashed chickpeas, or curries without the meat. Chili would be great too with just the beans, or roasted vegetables with the roasted chickpeas mixed in for different textures.

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