Hummus isn’t exactly thought of as a superfood, regardless that it’s delicious and makes for one incredible dip for fresh veggies, or even serves as a great salad dressing topper. Yet one of the star ingredients found in hummus, chickpeas, is one of the most incredible legumes you can enjoy on a plant-based diet.
Chickpeas, also referred to as garbanzo beans, are a unique legume. Though they’re referred to as beans, they’re technically a legume, which means they’re much lower in starch than beans.Since beans are high in fiber, natural sugars, protein, and starch, they’re very slow to digest and often cause digestive struggles for people. Legumes, however, are slightly lower in starch and natural sugars, which makes them easier to digest in your body. The body digests protein, fats, starches, sugars, and fibers at very different rates, so the more prominent a food is in one nutrient or the other, the easier it is on the body to process. This doesn’t mean you should avoid beans, however. They’re very healthy for you but aren’t the only source of beneficial protein.
Lentils and edamame are well-known legumes you can enjoy on a plant-based diet, but chickpeas also offer a large variety of benefits that give them a special spotlight in the legume family. Take a look at the humble chickpea and why it’s a rockin’ source of protein to include in your plant-based meals!
1. Help Lower Your Cholesterol and Risk for Diabetes
Chickpeas are one of the best sources of fiber to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. You can thank their high fiber content for this amazing health benefit; just two servings of chickpeas has your entire day’s worth of fiber! Their high fiber content will also help lower your blood sugar and help protect against diabetes.
2. They Feed Your Gut
Chickpeas are rich in prebiotic fibers which act like food for healthy bacteria in your digestive system. Normally, this can cause some digestive “action” that can become uncomfortable for people, however chickpeas seem to be easier to digest than other types of legumes. This is likely because they’re lower in natural sugars found in legumes, and cause less digestive disturbances while still feeding good bacteria. Your gut health is vital to your immune health and even managing a healthy weight. Take care of it by adding more foods like chickpeas, fruits and vegetables, and other good sources of fiber to your diet.
3. Pumped With Protein
One half cup of chickpeas provides you with 7 grams of protein, 2 grams of fat, and 8 grams of fiber! Though they don’t contain all essential amino acids, they will still provide the body with a great source of plant-based protein that will benefit the body in maintaining a healthy metabolism, nervous system function, and overall good skeletal and muscular health. Don’t count hummus as a high-protein food, however. Because it’s mixed with other ingredients like oil and tahini, it won’t benefit you the same as eating chickpeas on a salad, wrap, or even eating a soup with chickpeas will.
4. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is one of the most important, crucial B vitamins to consume out of the nine total B vitamin group. It’s important for a healthy nervous system, metabolism, thyroid, brain function, and maintaining optimal energy. Chickpeas offer one of the largest sources of Vitamin B6 of all grains, beans, and legumes. Containing 25 percent of your daily Vitamin B6 needs in just 1/2 cup, chickpeas make it easy to get this crucial B vitamin into your diet.
Critics of a plant-based diet will argue that iron is hard to consume by just eating plants alone, however chickpeas are one of the best foods to argue this theory. Containing 33 percent of your daily iron needs in just one half cup! Check this out: one 3 ounce piece of chicken only has 4-6 percent. Though meat contains heme iron and plant-based sources contain non-heme iron, studies have shown their absorption rates don’t matter enough to effect your health. Heme iron is absorbed at a rate of 7-35%., while non-heme iron is absorbed at a rate of 2-20%. Though these percentages differ, consuming a variety of foods with iron will benefit you more than focusing on heme and non-heme sources.
6. Strong Body
Chickpeas are also loaded with manganese, phosphate, calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, Vitamin K, and folate. These minerals are often forgotten about when it comes to maintaining a lean body mass, but they definitely deserve a second glance. They are vital for maintaining both good bone health, brain health, and overall strength. Check out other Top Vegan Foods That Build Lean Muscle to support your body even further.
7. Help You Sleep
Chickpea’s magnesium and Vitamin B6 content are great for helping you mellow out and get a good night’s rest. Chickpeas also contain a large amount of choline, an anti-inflammatory nutrient that helps improve your sleep health, and even your muscle movement, memory, and learning.
As you can see, chickpeas deserve much more attention than hummus alone, despite all the delicious things you can do with the popular chickpea-based dip. Give them a try in your meals this week. You’ll love their slightly sweet, delicious texture and also benefit from their filling protein and fiber content.
Take a look a some of our favorite chickpea recipes to pump up your diet with:
For a snack:
For a meal:
- Jamaican Curried Tofu with Chickpeas
- 10 Ways to Cook with Chickpeas for Global Flavor
- Spicy Moroccan Chickpeas with Beet Noodles
- Green Chickpea Pulao- Indian Style Rice
- Chickpea ‘Tuna’ Salad Sandwich
- Mayim Bialik’s Big Bang Vegan Chickpea Burger Patty
- Tangy Vegan Curried Chickpea Salad
- Warm Potato Salad with Spinach and Chickpeas
For more beneficial sources of protein, take a look at: BUSTED! The Myth About ‘Incomplete’ Plant-Based Protein!
What’s your favorite way to enjoy chickpeas?
Image Source: Spicy Moroccan Chickpeas with Beet Noodles