Chickpeas, also referred to as Garbanzo beans, are a type of legume that is packed full of nutrients, taste and culture. Their scientific latin name, cicer arietinum, actually means “small ram,” a reflection of their unique shape.
Chickpeas have been consumed for several thousand years, and were originally cultivated in the Middle East around the Mediterranean basin nearly 5,000 years ago. From there they spread to India and modern-day Ethiopia. Today India is the world’s largest chickpea producer.
Chickpeas, like other “pulses” such as lentils, are the dried seeds of certain legume plants. They are great plant-based sources of protein, and are extremely high in dietary fiber. Chickpeas, especially in their raw and dry uncanned form, have an extremely low glycemic index. Canned they often contain added sodium, which is unhealthful when consumed in excess.
The recognized health benefits of chickpeas are numerous. The high dietary fiber content translates to supporting the digestive system, and evidence has connected chickpea consumption to decreasing the risk of irritable bowel syndrome, colon inflammation and colon cancer. Micronutrients such as the antioxidant vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and the mineral manganese are also found in abundance within chickpeas.
Chickpeas have also been connected to the prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They are high in beneficial polyunsaturated fats like omega 3 fatty acids, and have been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol levels. The high fiber and protein content of chickpeas also translates to these super-legumes being useful in the regulation of blood-glucose levels, and they have also been shown to help control appetite. This all adds up to helping in the prevention of obesity and diabetes, as well as aiding weight-loss and self-management of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Chickpeas are very versatile in cooking, and are a key source of protein in traditional diets and dishes from around the world. Indian, Middle Eastern, Israeli and East African cuisines continue to have the most traditional and varied uses of chickpeas, from humus to a wide-range of curries, salads, falafels and Ethiopian chickpea wat. Thankfully though, modern-day European, Latin American and North American cuisines are all making these little rams part of a balanced and healthful diet.
Resources and Further Reading
Chickpeas and other pulses might limit risk of developing type 2 diabetes:
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed how chickpeas have lessened impact of blood-glucose levels, though long-term diabetes prevention was inconclusive:
All about chickpeas:
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