Chickpeas are cheap, healthy and delicious legumes that work so well in numerous dishes or can be enjoyed entirely on their own. If you’re looking to eat healthier or lose a few pounds, they are a great food choice. Not only do chickpeas make you feel full and keep you full for longer, they are also filled with nutrients and fiber.
Some of the earliest tracked uses of chickpeas were found in Turkey from over 7,500 years ago, meaning humans have been cultivating this legume longer than they’ve been making pottery! It’s a tradition that lives on as I’ve enjoyed chickpeas in numerous Turkish dishes with my in-laws, including those from street food vendors called “nohutçu” – who serves chickpeas in wraps or over rice (“nohut” means chickpea and “çu,” “cu,” “çi,” “ci,” “cı,” or “çı” is added to people who specialize in something, like a baklavacı makes only baklava).
While chickpeas are commonly used in Mediterranean, Middle-Eastern and Indian cuisine, they’ve only just started becoming more commonplace in Western diets.
Dr. Mark Hyman described chickpeas as “underutilized” in Western culture in a blog post from 2015 where he describes the benefits of “slow carbs” vs “low carbs.” He says chickpeas and other beans “slow the release of sugars into the bloodstream and help prevent the excess insulin release that leads to insulin resistance.”
Chickpeas help to improve glycemic control because the good bacteria in your gut breaks down a soluble fiber called raffinose that is digested slowly in your colon. Their high content of dietary fiber leads to improved overall digestion and more regular bowel movements.
Other benefits of eating chickpeas regularly – lower cholesterol and a lower risk of cancer.
Dr William Li, Author of Eat To Beat Disease, wrote on a recent Facebook & Instagram post, “Chickpeas contain several components that, when eaten as part of a balanced plant-rich diet, may help prevent the development of various chronic diseases.”
That soluble fiber that helps with digestion also lowers your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (that’s the one that’s often referred to as “bad”). Eating chickpeas also causes your body to produce butyrate – a short-chain fatty acid that aids in eliminating sick and dying cells. This lowers the risk for colorectal cancer, as other compounds lycopene and saponins in chickpeas also reduce the risk for other cancers.
The high contents of fiber and plant-based protein in chickpeas also leads to increased satiety – in other words, they make you full faster and longer which can help with weight loss. Their long trip through the digestive system releases leptin – a satiety hormone, making it an ideal ingredient in your meals that may help you cut back on incessant snacking.
What Can I Cook With Chickpeas?
There are so many different ways to enjoy chickpeas as simple as adding them to your salad or soup, or even snacking on them by themselves!
Here is a delicious Mediterranean Chickpea Salad that is very easy to make, mixing chickpeas with tomatoes, peppers, green onion and parsley then dressed with olive oil, salt and lemon. Also, hummus is a classic healthy snack or side dish that you can make and enjoy over the course of several days. We have a great garlic hummus recipe here, that you can also use in sauteed dishes such as Beef Hummus – strips of beef, peppers and onions sauteed in a tomato sauce, surrounded by a ring of hummus and topped with pine nuts and raisins. There’s also a vegetarian version of this dish called Veggie Hummus, which instead of strips of beef uses more vegetables including mushroom, broccoli, carrot and zucchini.
Dried Vs. Canned
Chickpeas that are prepared at home either by soaking overnight and cooking over the stove, or cooking in a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, are more nutritious than canned chickpeas and less likely to cause digestive stress. Most would also agree that they are more flavorful. However, if you are buying canned chickpeas for convenience, opt for organic brands so they aren’t soaking in unhealthy preservatives and won’t be in a BPA lined can.
There are many, many recipes to prepare dried chickpeas. I tend to opt for the pressure cooker which is more convenient than soaking them overnight (I rarely plan my meals enough in advance), but is also more economical and nutritious than the canned route. Typically, I cook in batches of 2 cups of dried chickpeas that I add to my Instant Pot after rinsing and removing the visibly bad ones. Next, I fill up with water to the halfway mark inside of the Instant Pot. After adding 2 tsp of salt, I cook on high pressure for 40 minutes. After releasing pressure and draining excess liquid, I use some for the dish I have planned for that evening, and the rest on salads, hummus or snacking.
Eat More Chickpeas!
If you’re looking for a food that is compatible with most diets, contains useful nutrients and keeps you full, chickpeas check off all of these boxes. Whether you buy them dried or canned, you’ll get nutritional benefit from adding chickpeas to your diet. Keep checking back here at Happy, Healthy, Hapa for more recipes that use chickpeas.