Chickpeas in the Diet

by Gord Kerr ; Updated July 18, 2017

Chickpeas, one of the first vegetables to be domesticated, are the most widely consumed legume in the world, according to FoodReferences.com. Extremely high in protein, chickpeas are ideal for vegetarian and vegan diets. They are wonderfully versatile, very tasty and filling and an inexpensive source of nutritional benefits for overall health and protection from disease.

Chickpea Nutrition

Chickpeas have 269 calories per cup, and are a good source of protein containing about 20 percent in content, which is equivalent to meat. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber. Chickpeas contain vitamins A, C, D, E and K and trace minerals such as copper, zinc and manganese, important for energy-producing enzymes. Iron in chickpeas improves hemoglobin levels and blood flow to the heart, and a 1-cup serving of chickpeas provides 4.74 milligrams, which is 50 percent of the required 8 milligrams for men, and almost 20 percent of the required 18 milligrams for menstruating women. Magnesium and potassium in chickpeas may help to regulate blood pressure, and the same 1-cup serving provides more than 10 percent of the recommended daily intake. Chickpeas are a good source of B-vitamins but are highest in folate, with 282 micrograms, which is almost 70 percent of the recommended daily intake of 400 micrograms. Folate is important for protection from birth defects, anemia and neurological and cardiovascular disorders.

Canned Chickpeas Vs Dried

The nutritional value in canned chickpeas is very poor compared with traditionally cooked chickpeas. When deciding to open a convenient can of chickpeas, consider that 50 percent of the nutrients are lost during the canning process. Canned chickpeas contain 52 percent more sodium and only about half as much iron and copper compared to cooked chickpeas. You lose 30 percent of the minerals magnesium, phosphorus and potassium and 10 to 25 percent zinc, calcium and selenium when you use canned chickpeas. Canned chickpeas contain less niacin, folate and Omega-3 fatty acids and lose many essential amino acids, according to A Healthy Purpose.

Cholesterol Reduction

Chickpea are rich in dietary fibers, both soluble and insoluble, that may help reduce cholesterol levels. Additionally, chickpeas are unique from other legumes in their lipid content. A study appearing in the 2006 “Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism” found total serum and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels were significantly lowered by a chickpea-supplemented diet, compared with the wheat-supplemented diet. Findings were that the chick-pea diet had lower protein and monounsaturated fat and higher carbohydrate intake. It was suggested serum lipids differences were due to polyunsaturated fatty acid and dietary fiber contents of the two intervention diets. A one-cup serving of boiled chickpeas delivers 12 grams of fiber, which is nearly 50 percent of the recommended daily intake of 20 to 30 grams, according to Harvard School of Public Health.

Diabetes Prevention

Chickpeas may help prevent elevated blood sugar levels, making them a good choice for diabetics or if you have insulin-resistance or hypoglycemia. A U.S. patent application from Jumpsun Bio-Medical Shanghai Company Ltd. conducted studies of chickpeas for prevention and treatment of obesity and non-insulin dependent diabetes. The effects on mice proved that chickpeas not only decreased triglyceride, cholesterol and LDL levels, but found improvement in the hypo-sensitivity to insulin.

Adding Them To Your Diet

To reap the benefits of chickpeas you don't have to sit down and eat a cup as a side dish, although that is a viable option. Chickpeas can be tossed on green salads or added to soups and casseroles. Put some chickpeas in a food processor, add some flavorings of your choice such as garlic or roasted peppers, and you've made yourself some hummus, which can be used as a spread or dip for fresh vegetables.

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About the Author

Gord Kerr's professional background is primarily in business and management consulting. In 1991, Kerr started writing freelance for a small local newspaper, "The Summerland Review," and a leading sailing publication, "Cruising World Magazine." Kerr has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Wilfred Laurier University.