Funny things, chick peas. Those creamy bash-em-up into hummus, stick them in stews light orange things with a sticking out bit. Are you making the most of this wonderful pulse?
Chickpeas are an ancient pulse and a feature of traditional diets all over the world. On the Indian subcontinent they are split and used as dhal or ground to make flour whilst in Asia and Africa they are commonly used in stews, soups and salads. In the west they have been embraced in the form of Middle Eastern dishes such as falafels and hummus but it is only in the last few decades that researchers have truly appreciated the potential health benefits of the humble chickpea.
In terms of carbohydrates, chickpeas have higher levels than most other pulses and contain both soluble and insoluble fibre. Fibre helps to create feelings of fullness after eatingInsoluble fibre aids bowel movements and can support the health of gut bacteria. Soluble fibre has been shown in studies to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and resistant starches, with healthy blood and blood sugar levels.
Chickpeas are also top of the class for protein content. They tend to contain relatively high quantities of good quality, digestible protein compared with other pulses. Whilst they don’t contain sulphur-rich amino acids, those following a plant-based diet and looking for a more complete range of amino acids can remedy this by serving chickpeas with wheat or rice.
The fat content of chickpeas is generally low at 2-6% but they are a reasonable source of poly- and mono-unsaturated fats. These oils have an antioxidant effect in the body, protecting the cells from damage and contain fat soluble vitamins, particularly vitamin A. There are also lower quantities of several water-soluble B vitamins.
The mineral content of these little pulses is also worthy of mention. A 100g of chickpeas can provide an individual with most their daily requirement of iron. Calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and other trace elements are also important for heart health, strong bones, brain function, metabolism and good mental health.
Now, whilst the chickpea may seem too good to be true, there are a few notes for the uninitiated. Raw chickpeas do contain toxins which might cause digestive side effects which are minimised by cooking. Dried chickpeas need to be soaked overnight prior to cooking but if you haven’t time for that, tinned are available at most supermarkets at a low price. It’s wise to seek help from a practitioner about how to use them in a way that’s suitable for your digestive system. They might advise that you introduce them gradually.