Chickpeas: The Benefits Of This Delicious And Healthy Legume
For The Love Of Chickpeas
I’m a serious chickpea lover, not hummus, but chickpeas. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love hummus, in fact, I’ve been told that my homemade hummus is the best many have tasted (instructions to come), but I’m talking about chickpeas. Those small, hard, round legumes which are also known as garbanzo beans or grams.
Many people aren’t familiar with chickpeas and don’t realize that they are the main ingredient in hummus. Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are a very diverse legume, of the Fabaceae plant family, which can be used to make a large variety of different types of gluten free foods and furthermore they are healthy. Win!
Chickpeas – A Vegetarian Victory
As a vegetarian, I’m always looking for tasty healthy foods to cook and eat and luckily chickpeas are perfect. These Middle Eastern wonders are rich in protein and fiber and they also contain a number of vitamins and minerals which are essential to our health. And, did I mention how delicious they are?
Some Of The Amazing Health Benefits Of Chickpeas
Chickpeas Are High In Fiber And Protein
Chickpeas are high in fiber, which is great for your diet. Besides keeping you regular the fiber in the chickpeas will keep you feeling full for longer, which in turn will help you eat less. The soluble fiber contained in chickpeas helps lower bad cholesterol and improve blood glucose control. Chickpeas are also a wonderful food for heart health.
One cup of chickpeas contains more protein than you get from two eggs – good news for vegans. The protein contained in chickpeas isn't complete-protein because it doesn't contain all of the essential amino acids, but it is easy to “complete” the protein by eating chickpeas together with grains or vegetables, for example, a nice chickpea vegetable stew or hummus and whole wheat pita.
Chickpeas As A Source Of Iron
As a vegetarian, this is of great importance to me, for as long as I can remember I’ve had to make sure that my diet contains enough iron. It’s really important to have enough iron in your diet because it helps transport oxygen throughout the body. Iron helps make up our red blood cells and without healthy red blood cells our body does not get enough oxygen. We also need iron to maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails. A cup of chickpeas can meet 25 percent of a woman’s and over 50 percent of a man’s daily recommended iron intake.
Chickpeas As A Source Of Folate
If you’ve even been pregnant you’ll remember that folate is an essential nutrient during the development of a fetus. Folate is well known for preventing neural tube defects in newborns, so it is of the utmost importance for women of childbearing age to have an adequate intake of folate prior to and during pregnancy. A one cup serving of chickpeas meets more than 70 percent of a woman's daily intake need and almost 50 percent of the daily needs of a pregnant or nursing woman.
Don’t you just love it when one of your favorite foods is so darn healthy?
How To Buy Chickpeas
There are a few different varieties of chickpeas but you can buy any type that is available in your local shop, they all basically taste the same. Chickpeas are sold dried, canned or frozen. I really don’t like canned chickpeas and will only use them if I don’t have any others and I’m planning on putting them in a stew. My preference is to always buy dried chickpeas and to cook them from scratch.
It isn’t difficult to cook chickpeas from scratch but it does take a long time, so you might want to get those cans out if you don’t have much time. Dry chickpeas will remain fresh for a very long time (I’m talking years) so if you can get them at a good price in bulk, go for it, but remember the older ones take longer to cook.
If you are planning to cook your chickpeas you should soak them overnight prior to cooking. To cook the beans add them to a pot with about 3 cups of water for each cup of chickpeas, boil for two to three hours until they are soft. You can also make a big batch and freeze half to use the next time you feel like eating chickpeas.
If you can buy chickpeas that have already been roasted in bulk I recommend doing so, if not, lightly salt some cooked chickpeas and roast them in the oven yourself.
How To Eat Chickpeas
I promised to give you instructions for my fabulous hummus and as I always keep my promises, here they are. The reason I call them instructions and not a “recipe” is that I don’t have an actual recipe to give you. I know which ingredients to use but I’m not sure of measurements and they really don’t matter. I make as much as I need for the occasion, not too much because it doesn’t last for very long in the fridge (up to a week if you haven’t eaten it all by then). So, this is what you will need:
Dried chickpeas or canned if you can’t find dry.
Tahini (raw paste)
Salt and pepper
Onion and parsley – optional
If you are using the dry chickpeas make sure to soak them overnight or for at least 8 hours.
Boil the chickpeas in a pot until they are soft – about 2 to 3 hours (3 cups water to each cup of chickpeas).
For your first try, I think one cup of chickpeas is enough. One cup of dry beans cooks up to almost three cups.
If you like you can add half an onion and some parsley to the water to add flavor (dispose of this once you’re done cooking).
Once the chickpeas are soft let them cool down a little and excess remove water from the pot, keep the water in a jug because you may want to add it if the hummus is too dry. Then crush the chickpeas with a stick blender (you can use a potato masher if you don’t have a stick blender but that will take some time and will not give you very smooth hummus).
Add a little olive oil, some tahini, lemon juice, a couple of cloves of crushed garlic and mix. I use a big wooden spoon to mix it all into the chickpeas. I add a little and taste, some more and taste….until I reach my desired flavor.
Don’t forget to add a little of the water if you need to.
Once the hummus is at the desired consistency add a little salt, pepper and cumin – taste and adjust.
I also love to cook chickpeas in all kinds of stews, just add precooked chickpeas to any of your regular stew recipes for a tasty and healthy addition, or use chickpeas as an interested addition to rice.
Once of my favorite ways to use chickpeas is to make them into powder (flour) which is very versatile and can be used for many different types of foods. It’s really easy to make chickpea flour, you just take roasted chickpeas and grind them in a food processor, you can then place in a coffee/spice grinder to reach a softer flour if desired. Chickpea flour is wonderful to use when you need a gluten free flour. It can be used to replace regular flour in pancakes, homemade pastas, baked goods, meatballs, it can also be used instead of regular flour in most recipes that call for flour.
My father in law would make chickpea flour add a little sugar and ground pistachio nuts and flax seeds. It was really tasty and healthy and he’d tell the kids that it was a magic powder to make them big and strong called “energy powder”, they were only allowed a teaspoon at a time. It always went down a treat!
Chickpeas, a wonderful, diverse, healthy food. Are they a staple in your pantry? I’d love to hear how you use them in your cooking.