Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, are a popular legume originating from the Mediterranean and the Middle East, and now eaten worldwide. They are a staple in some parts of the world, where they are famously made into a dip or spread called hummus, or into fritters, called falafel. Chickpeas are loved around the world for their mildness, creaminess, and versatility. They come with some incredible health benefits, so keep reading to find out how you can benefit from eating these beans.
Chickpeas are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which is vital for healthy digestion. In just one cup of chickpeas, you’ll receive 12.5 grams of fiber, which is 50 percent of your recommended daily intake. Fiber prevents constipation because it absorbs water and bulks up the stool to help it move smoothly through the digestive tract. Once you are free from constipation, you will also find that other symptoms like cramping, bloating, gas, and other gastrointestinal problems are resolved. Fiber also helps to balance pH levels in the gut, promoting a healthy environment for good gut bacteria to thrive, decreasing the levels of unhealthy gut bacteria.
Chickpeas have been shown to be a heart-healthy food for many reasons. The first reason is due to their fiber content. Fiber has a unique job of clearing out cholesterol deposits in the bloodstream and lowering total cholesterol levels and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels. High cholesterol can cause heart attack and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC). In one study, total cholesterol levels were lowered by 3.9%. And LDL cholesterol levels were lowered by 4.7% when a chickpea diet replaced a Western wheat diet. Chickpeas can also help to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure) because of the high fiber content. This helps to fill up the stomach and provides a feeling of satiety for many hours. This prevents overeating and obesity. Chickpeas also contain potassium, a mineral which is responsible for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels by countering the effects of sodium.
In many studies, chickpeas have shown to have a positive effect on blood glucose levels. Chickpeas are a low on the glycemic index, which means that they do not cause blood sugar levels to spike. In one study, chickpea flour was used to replace wheat flour in spaghetti. When the volunteers consumed the spaghetti with chickpea flour, they did not experience a spike in blood sugar levels like they did when they consumed the spaghetti with only wheat flour. This study showed that using chickpea flour as an ingredient can reduce the glycemic index of that food.
Chickpeas are an excellent source of iron. One cup of chickpeas contains 4.7 milligrams of iron, which is 26% of your RDI. Iron is necessary for blood production. About 70 percent of the iron in our bodies is found in the red blood cells (hemoglobin) which are responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Iron deficiency could lead to a condition called anemia, which is when there are not enough healthy red blood cells in the body. Symptoms of anemia include fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, muscle weakness, pale skin, and insomnia.
Chickpeas are one of the richest sources of vitamin B9—also called folate or folic acid—which is an essential vitamin for a healthy pregnancy. Women who are trying to conceive or who are pregnant are advised to take folic acid supplements because folate deficiency can result in severe congenital disabilities called neural tube defects such as spina bifida or anencephaly. They are also an excellent source of another nutrient important for pregnancy—iron. About 70 percent of the iron in our bodies is found in our red blood cells (hemoglobin) which are responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body—and in pregnant women, to the baby. Because a woman’s blood volume increases and her red blood cell count increases by up to 30 percent during pregnancy, it is important that she get enough iron to prevent anemia. Constipation is another thing that pregnant women often struggle with, and since chickpeas are rich in fiber, they help to prevent constipation during pregnancy.
Chickpeas contain many nutrients which are essential to bone health, including calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin K. About 99 percent of the calcium in your body is in your bones. Vitamin K increases calcium absorption because it helps direct the calcium where to go. Magnesium is important for bone health because it stimulates the production of calcitonin, and bone-preserving hormone secreted by the thyroid. Post-menopausal women are at risk for bone loss. According to the CDC, a quarter of all women 65 and older have osteoporosis. That’s why it is especially important for women to eat foods, like chickpeas, which contain bone-building nutrients.
Chickpeas are a perfect food for dieters and healthy eaters. This because they are nutrient-dense and full of fiber. They will fill you up and keep you full for a long time after eating. Foods high in fiber prevent overeating. And they help to manage weight through portion control. Research shows that eating a plant-based diet which includes legumes like chickpeas can help to reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other diseases associated with unhealthy weight.
Chickpeas are one of the best sources of the essential nutrient choline. Choline is important for many functions in the body including brain development, nerve function, muscle movements, metabolism, and liver function. Deficiency in this essential nutrient may lead to neurological disorders, atherosclerosis, and liver disease. Choline is essential to brain development. Therefore it is important that pregnant women and young children get enough of this nutrient.
Chickpeas help to maintain digestive system health by keeping things running smoothly as well as balancing pH levels. These benefits reduce the buildup of toxins and harmful bacteria in the colon. If left untreated these toxins can lead to inflammation, which can cause cancer cells to grow. Choline also helps to reduce inflammation and maintain healthy muscles, nerves, and a healthy brain. When there is chronic inflammation in the body, the risk of cancer increases. It is important to keep inflammation low with non-inflammatory foods like chickpeas.
Nutrients from the foods we eat absorb from the digestive system into the bloodstream. When the digestive system isn’t working properly, absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream may be diminished. Because chickpeas keep the digestive system healthy, they ensure optimal nutrient absorption. They also contain a varied nutrient profile with nutrients that complement each other and increase the absorption of one another. Chickpeas are certainly a food that you should add to your diet for good health!
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