Nutritionists and natural healers have long held chickpeas in high regard due to their undeniable merit as a superfood. These versatile little legumes not only boast a delicate, nutty flavor and a pleasing consistency, but they are also packed with high-quality plant protein, soluble and insoluble fiber, and beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids.
However, recent studies have revealed that there is much more to chickpeas than their nutritive value. Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, Egyptian peas, ceci beans and chana, actually combat life-threatening diseases – on four different fronts. As researchers come forward to credit chickpeas with life-extending effects, they are beginning to better understand the nuts and bolts of how these tasty little morsels work their magic.
Chickpeas can naturally suppress the appetite and help us maintain a healthy body weight
A single cup of garbanzo beans contains a whopping 12 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein – a combination that slows gastric emptying and helps to create a feeling of fullness. This high content of protein and fiber inhibits the production of ghrelin, a “hunger” hormone that causes increased appetite. And this isn’t all: simultaneously, garbanzo beans promote the release of cholesystokinin, a hormone which promotes a feeling of fullness – allowing them to control appetite and deliver a real one-two punch against food cravings and overeating.
Clinical studies have supported chickpeas’ appetite-suppressant effects. In one 20-week study, participants were told to eat their normal diet, without making any particular attempt to modify their choices or cut calories. For 12 weeks during the study, the volunteers were told to add garbanzo beans to their diet. Amazingly, during the garbanzo bean phase, participants not only reduced caloric intake, but also instinctively chose to eat smaller amounts of salt and sugar-laden processed foods.
A delicious way to avoid heart disease
Chickpeas significantly reduce levels of LDL, or low-density lipoproteins, in the bloodstream; LDL cholesterol is a major culprit when it comes to the formation of the plaque that narrows arteries and leads to atherosclerosis. Chickpeas work against LDL in two different ways: by lowering the amount of circulating LDL in your blood, and by slowing the rate of disease-causing LDL oxidation.
In addition, chickpeas are high in folate, a B-vitamin which combats homocysteine, an amino acid that has been associated with inflammation and increased heart attack risk. Finally, chickpeas are rich in manganese and magnesium, both of which support healthy blood pressure – a definite boon to your heart.
Looking for a natural way to stabilize blood sugar and prevent type 2 diabetes?
Chickpeas have the ability to improve blood sugar levels both immediately and long-term – if consumed regularly. Thanks to their very low glycemic index, chickpeas help prevent dangerous blood sugar surges, thus helping to ward off diabetes. In fact, the glucose response of chickpeas is only 45 percent that of cereal and pasta.
Chickpeas are rich in natural sugars and starch – two substances many people have been conditioned to think of as “bad.” However, researchers have found that amylase – the starch found in chickpeas – reduces blood sugar and insulin levels in diabetics and non-diabetics alike. And, raffinose found in chickpeas – a combination of galactose, fructose and glucose – encourages the development of healthy gut flora.
What type of chickpeas provide the most benefits?
When it comes to disease prevention, organic dried chickpeas are your best bet. The small, dark “desi”-type beans are even richer in antioxidants than the more common cream-colored “kabuli” beans, but both types provide a wealth of health benefits.
To prepare dried chickpeas, simply soak them overnight, discard the water, add fresh water and simmer them – along with fresh garlic or onion – for about 90 minutes, or until tender. If you crave more crunch, try roasting your chickpeas before cooking them.
The delicate flavor of chickpeas allows them to blend well with practically everything. Sprinkle them in salads, soups or your favorite entree. Of course, you can also make hummus – since chickpeas are the primary ingredient of this Mediterranean delight.