Chickpeas: properties, benefits

Chickpeas are legumes rich in properties that can improve heart health, aid weight loss, and lower blood sugar. Discover the benefits and characteristics of chickpeas.

Chickpeas are among the oldest and most cultivated foods in the world and, despite the nickname “meat of the poor”, they represent a food rich in beneficial properties. Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum), also known as Garbanzo beans, are very ancient legumes, already known and cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, belonging to the Fabaceae family.

They originate from western Asia but today they are widespread in all areas of the world, where they characterize and influence the different culinary cultures. They represent the third legume for world production, after soybeans and beans, with crops mainly concentrated in India and Pakistan.

Although the most common type of chickpeas appears round, smooth and beige in color, there are several other varieties and the main ones widespread on the market are: Desi chickpeas, which are grown mainly in India, have small, dark seeds and a covering. rough; and the Kabuli chickpeas, coming from Europe or Africa, are the most common in the West, have a large seed and a smooth cover.

Varieties of chickpeas: here are the most common

As mentioned, chickpeas are among the oldest and most cultivated legumes in the world. Based on the size of the seed we can distinguish two main varieties:

  • Large-seeded chickpeas: smooth straw yellow or cream colored, they are often also called Kabuli chickpeas;
  • Small-seeded chickpeas: with a wrinkled appearance and dark color (from brown to black), also called Desi chickpeas.

Despite this distinction, we can count on a great heritage of diversity with the rediscovery of ancient local varieties, all very particular. Among these we remember:

  • Cicerale chickpeas: typical of Cilento, they are small and round chickpeas with a slightly golden color and intense flavor;
  • Cassano di Murgia red chickpeas: they are a native variety and are characterized by a round, smooth and red colored seed;
  • Maremmani wrinkled chickpeas: grown in the Tuscan Maremma, they are small, wrinkled and yellow in color with yellowish veins;
  • Teano chickpeas: grown in Campania, they are small hazelnut seeds with a rough surface;
  • Navelli chickpeas: grown at the foot of the Gran Sasso, they are smooth, small and cream-colored;
  • Chickpea of ​​Merella: it is a variety grown in Liguria and traditionally used for the preparation of soups, farinata or velvety;
  • Cece del Solco Dritto: it is a variety of the province of Viterbo and which, despite its name, has a rounded shape, smooth skin and a yellow-beige color.

Chickpeas: calories and nutritional values

The dry seed is quite caloric, in fact 100 g of chickpeas bring 378 calories, while the macronutrient content is more balanced than that of other legumes, being distributed as follows: 6.04% of fats, 62.95% of carbohydrates and 20.47% protein.

Specifically, the protein content of chickpeas is quite high, constituting 1/5 of their weight, therefore they are a food suitable for consumption by vegetarians or vegans or simply for those who want to vary the protein sources of their diet. Furthermore, thanks to the excellent intake of proteins, fibers and the low sugar content, the consumption of chickpeas is ideal for those suffering from diabetes or other glycemic dysregulations.

Chickpeas are also a good source of both types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, which act in reducing cholesterol levels, blood sugar, improve intestinal transit and increase the sense of satiety. In addition, insoluble fiber helps prevent digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis.

In addition to being an excellent vegan source of protein and fiber and being completely gluten-free, chickpeas also contain several vitamins and minerals, including potassium, calcium, B vitamins (especially B5 and B3), phosphorus, magnesium, folate. and iron.

Chickpeas also contain phytochemicals called saponins which are extremely useful especially for women’s health. They act as antioxidants providing protection against osteoporosis, reducing intestinal absorption of triglycerides and cholesterol, lowering the risk of breast cancer and reducing hot flashes in postmenopausal women.

Finally, we remember the good presence of antioxidants. Both the outer layer (or cuticle) and the inner seed of chickpeas are composed of a good variety of phytonutrients. Externally to predominate are flavonoids, among which quercetin, kemferol and myricetin stand out. The internal part of the chickpea, on the other hand, is rich in ferulic acid, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid and vanillic acid. All these substances act as antioxidants and in large part also have an anti-inflammatory action. For greater clarity, we report below the table with the nutritional values ​​of chickpeas.

Nutritional values ​​per 100g of dried chickpeas:

  • Waterfall: 7.68 g
  • kcal: 378
  • Proteins: 20.47 g
  • Fat: 6.04 g
  • Of which saturated: 0.603 g
  • Fibers: 13.6 g
  • Carbohydrates: 62.95 g
  • Of which sugars: 10.7 g
  • Potassium: 718 mg
  • Phosphorus: 252 mg
  • Vitamin B5: 1,588 mg
  • Iron: 4.31 mg
  • C vitamin: 4 mg
  • Folate: 557 µg
  • Glycemic index: 28
  • Cholesterol: 0 g

Chickpeas: health benefits

In addition to being a valuable source of protein, fiber and carbohydrates, they offer a wide range of health benefits such as increased satiety, improved digestion, stabilization of blood sugar levels and prevention of various diseases. Let’s now deepen all the virtues of these legumes.

✓ Reduction of cholesterol

The consumption of chickpeas appears to be associated with a reduction in blood cholesterol levels between 16 and 24% and this thanks to the action of saponins and dietary fibers of which these legumes are rich. A study, would have shown that the integration of chickpeas in the diet of a group of obese subjects would have as a consequence the reduction of total cholesterol and bad cholesterol, LDL. This property of chickpeas therefore makes them a useful food in case of high cholesterol.

✓ Weight control

One of the fundamental characteristics of chickpeas is their high satiating power which is useful in weight management. In fact, as the protein content in a diet increases, the satiating capacity also increases and choosing to consume chickpeas would reduce the load of animal protein, balancing it with a good source of vegetable protein.

✓ Intestinal health and laxative properties

Several studies like this, have shown that regular consumption of chickpeas leads to a general improvement in the health of the intestine accompanied by a greater frequency of defecation, better ease of defecation and better consistency of the stool itself, thanks to the action of dietary fiber.

✓ Bone health

Thanks to the presence of excellent levels of iron, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin K, regular consumption of chickpeas helps to maintain bone structure and strength.

✓ Control of blood glucose and reduction of the risk of diabetes

Chickpeas have a low glycemic index and a high amount of insoluble fiber, characteristics that make them very useful in the case of diabetic patients, for glycemic control, but also in the healthy individual, because their low glycemic index is able to prevent the development of insulin resistance, a risk factor for many chronic diseases and in the onset of type II diabetes.

How many chickpeas to eat

A portion of chickpeas corresponds to 50g if using dried chickpeas or 150g if using fresh, frozen or canned chickpeas. As for the chickpea flour, one portion corresponds to 50 gr. A serving of chickpeas provides about 170 kcal, mainly coming from carbohydrates and proteins. According to the guidelines for a healthy and correct diet we should take 3 portions of legumes every week, therefore, it is possible to alternate chickpeas with other legumes during the week since a varied diet provides our body with a multiplicity of nutrients that are precious for our health.

Chickpeas: how to prepare and store them

If you want to buy them ready to use, limit those in tin; they are rich in sodium and nickel! Better to prefer them frozen or in glass but the latter is essential that they are drained and rinsed thoroughly before use. The best choice is dried chickpeas which are kept in a dark and cool place, preferably closed in an airtight jar.

Dried chickpeas must be soaked for 12 to 24 hours (depending on the type and hardness of the seed) and then cooked for about 3 hours. Here are some cooking tips:

  • Add a tablespoon of lemon juice to the soaking water, you will limit the loss of B vitamins at the end of cooking;
  • At the end of the soaking process, do not reuse the soaking water, but throw it away. Contains phytates and purines, toxic substances favoring the appearance of uric acid in the blood.

If you want to add legumes to your diet but have few ideas, we suggest you try:

  • A portion of cooked chickpeas seasoned with oil, lemon and a pinch of salt can be consumed to replace other sources of animal protein;
  • Chickpea hummus: a simple and delicious way to stock up on vegetable proteins and good fats. In addition to the classic recipe that includes the combination of chickpeas with tahini sauce, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, aromatic herbs and spices; you can experiment with recipes like guacamole hummus (adding avocado pulp), beet hummus, roasted carrot hummus, and roasted pepper hummus;
  • Roasted chickpeas in the oven: for a tasty and healthy snack, season your precooked chickpeas (in glass) with a mix of spices (paprika, cumin, cinnamon), salt and extra virgin olive oil and bake for 40 minutes at 190 ° C;
  • Farinata: the typical Ligurian specialty, naturally gluten-free, which is an excellent alternative to the classic focaccia. Only 4 ingredients are needed: chickpea flour, water, salt and extra virgin olive oil;
  • To reduce the intake of animal proteins, you can prepare the most famous vegetarian meatballs of Arab and Palestinian cuisine, falafel: ideal for an aperitif, as an appetizer or directly as a main course;
  • Add chickpeas to your whole grain salads or your salads to enrich your meals with vegetable proteins. The combination of legumes and cereals is also very important from a nutritional point of view as it allows to cover the total daily protein requirement.

Chickpeas: contraindications and potential negative effects

Chickpeas, despite their many properties, are not without contraindications. In particular we remember the following:

  • Antinutrients: in chickpeas, as in all foods containing fiber, there are tannins and phytates, which act by binding micronutrients, in particular iron and zinc, making them less bioavailable. Soaking and cooking are domestic treatments that allow partial hydrolysis of these compounds, thus limiting their binding capacity;
  • Flatulence and bloating: It often happens that chickpeas swell the belly after eating them. This very common disorder is caused by the presence of some sugary constituents (galactooligosaccharides) in the skins, which we cannot digest and which are not eliminated by cooking. The problem can be solved by “passing” the chickpeas with a vegetable mill, and then separating and eliminating the skins, or by choosing peeled legumes.


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