Chickpeas are one of the most widely eaten foods in the Middle East and considered a staple in Indian cuisine. Also known as Garbanzo beans, the ubiquity of this popular legume reaches as far back as 3,500 BCE.

The use of this legume in the Middle Eastern diet provided civilizations with various delicious food dishes, as well as an abundance of health benefits. The most widely known food made of Chickpeas in the Western World is Hummus.

Chickpea Plants

The scientific name for this tiny pale legume is Cicer arietinum, a term that can be linked back to the Latin word Cicer. The Latin for chickpea then developed into the word chiche in French, which in the 1800’s became the term that is widely used today; chickpea.

Chickpea plants, which are part of the Fabacea (pea) family, typically grow best in subtropical climates, which explains their popularity in Middle Eastern cuisine.

The chickpea plant is a small shrub that grows to about 2 feet tall. It sprouts feathery leaves, and when blooming tiny red and white flowers appear. These flowers then become the pods that contain the chickpeas, and upon fruition of the development cycle they are ready to be harvested.

Different Types of Chickpeas

There are several types of chickpeas, each with its own unique characteristics, flavor profiles, and culinary uses. The two main types of chickpeas are classified based on their size, color, and taste:

Kabuli Chickpeas
Appearance: Kabuli chickpeas are larger, rounder, and have a smoother surface compared to desi chickpeas.
Color: They are typically cream or beige in color.
Taste and Texture: Kabuli chickpeas have a mild, nutty flavor and a tender texture.
Common Uses: Kabuli chickpeas are often used in salads, stews, and dishes where their larger size and softer texture are desirable. They are also the variety commonly used to make hummus.

Desi Chickpeas
Appearance: Desi chickpeas are smaller and have a rough coat, giving them a textured appearance.
Color: They are usually darker in color, ranging from light tan to black.
Taste and Texture: Desi chickpeas have a more earthy, slightly nutty flavor and a firmer texture compared to Kabuli chickpeas.
Common Uses: Desi chickpeas are often used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, where their smaller size and firmer texture are suitable for dishes like curries, soups, and stews.

Apart from the distinction between Kabuli and Desi chickpeas, there are also various cultivars and regional varieties within each type. Some common cultivars include:

Spanish Chickpeas
Known for their small size and distinct flavor, often used in Spanish cuisine for dishes like cocido (a traditional Spanish stew).

Bengal Gram (Kala Chana)
A type of desi chickpea that is smaller and darker in color, often used in Indian cooking for dishes like chana masala.

Garbanzo Bean (Garbanzo Chickpea)
Another name for Kabuli chickpeas, commonly used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines.

When purchasing chickpeas, whether canned or dried, the label may specify whether they are Kabuli or Desi chickpeas. The choice between them depends on the specific culinary application and personal preference for taste and texture.

Health Benefits of Chickpeas

Chickpeas provide Magnesium to help Fuel the Body

One of the trace elements that is found in the Chickpea is Magnesium. When the body’s level of magnesium is low, you can experience severe exhaustion and lethargy. In addition, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in postmenopausal women a lack of magnesium may cause the muscles to contract, while also impairing cardiovascular function.

Fortunately, chickpeas supply 84.5% of one’s daily required value of magnesium. Therefore, adding chickpea supplements to your diet can dramatically increase energy while also addressing the detrimental effects of magnesium deficiencies for certain age groups.

Chickpeas help with Heart health & Cholesterol

Chickpeas contain two significant components that are known to improve heart health and cholesterol. These components are folate and fiber.

In studies conducted by medical researchers, it was found that individuals who consumed a high amount of fiber per day reduced their chances of coronary and cardiovascular heart disease.

Additionally, the fact that chickpeas contain 70% folate also proves positive for those that are concerned about their heart health, as folate is also known to reduce the chance of heart disease and bad cholesterol.

Chickpeas are a Source of Iron

Apart from magnesium, iron is also a significant mineral that affects energy levels and blood circulation. Without the proper levels of iron, the body cannot transport oxygen optimally through the body, thus hindering energy levels and blood circulation.

Chickpea supplements are an excellent way to remedy this problem, as chickpeas contain high levels of iron. This holds true especially for women who are menstruating, pregnant, and growing children as they require more iron than the average person.

Chickpeas help with Weight Loss

Chickpeas can be beneficial for weight loss and controlling blood sugar levels. Chickpeas have a low glycemic index, which helps to produce stable blood sugar levels. Foods with a low glycemic index break down gradually and slowly release glucose into the bloodstream. This provides the body with a steady supply of energy, leaving you satisfied for longer and therefore less likely to crave food.

Fiber in Chickpeas helps with Digestion

As stated earlier, chickpeas also contain a great amount of fiber. This fiber is insoluble, meaning that it is very healthy for your colon and digestive tract. As the fiber travels through the intestinal system, it produces short chain fatty acids that energize the cells of the intestinal wall, thus reducing the risk of colon issues, such as colon cancer.

How to Take Chickpeas

Chickpeas are not only delicious but also packed with protein, fiber, and various nutrients, making them a nutritious addition to a balanced diet. Most people simply incorporate them into their diet through food dishes or raw consumption.

Chickpeas can consumed fresh, cooked like peas, canned or dried for later use, or turned into flour. If eating canned chickpeas, rinse thoroughly before use to remove excess sodium as they are often stored in salty water. Cooking chickpeas from fresh or dried allows for more control over the seasoning and texture.

Here are some popular methods of consuming chickpeas:

Hummus is a popular Middle Eastern dip made from chickpeas, tahini (sesame seed paste), olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. It can be enjoyed with pita bread, crackers, or as a dip for vegetables.

Roasted Chickpeas:
Roasting chickpeas with olive oil and spices can turn them into a crunchy and flavorful snack. Roasted chickpeas can be seasoned with various spices like paprika, cumin, or curry for added taste.

Chickpea Salad:
Chickpeas can be added to salads for extra protein and texture. Combine chickpeas with fresh vegetables, herbs, and a vinaigrette dressing for a refreshing and nutritious salad.

Chickpea Curry:
Chickpeas are a key ingredient in many Indian and Mediterranean curry dishes. They can be cooked in a flavorful tomato-based or coconut milk curry sauce, often accompanied by vegetables and aromatic spices.

Chickpea Soup:
Chickpeas can be used in soups and stews. Combine them with vegetables, broth, and seasonings for a hearty and satisfying soup.

Chickpea Stir-Fry:
Incorporate chickpeas into stir-fried dishes with a variety of vegetables, tofu, or meat. Season with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and other favorite stir-fry flavors.

Chickpea Pasta:
Chickpea flour is used to make gluten-free pasta. Look for chickpea pasta varieties in grocery stores or make your own pasta using chickpea flour.

Chickpea Flour Pancakes (Socca):
Chickpeas are not usually taken in a capsule, but they can be purchased in powder form as Chickpea flour. Gram flour or besan is a pulse flour made from chana dal or brown/kaala chana chickpeas. This flour is widely used in the India subcontinent. Chickpea flour can also be used to make savory pancakes known as socca. These are popular in Mediterranean cuisine and can be topped with various ingredients like herbs, olives, and tomatoes.

Chickpea Burgers or Patties:
Create vegetarian burgers or patties using mashed chickpeas as a base. Mix in spices, herbs, and other ingredients before cooking. Serve in buns with your favorite toppings.

Chickpea Snacks:
Purchase or make chickpea-based snacks like chickpea chips, crackers, or puffs, which are available in various flavors.

Always take care when taking herbs and Read Our Disclaimer.

Chickpea Notes / Side Effects

Chickpeas are nutritious but can cause side effects if consumed in large quantities or by sensitive individuals.

Potential issues include:

Digestive Problems: Gas, bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhea due to high fiber and indigestible sugars.

Allergic Reactions: Rare allergies causing itching, swelling, or severe reactions like anaphylaxis.
Mineral Absorption: Phytates in chickpeas can reduce the absorption of minerals like iron, calcium, and zinc.

Kidney Stones: Oxalates in chickpeas may contribute to kidney stone formation in susceptible individuals.

Lectins: Raw or undercooked chickpeas contain lectins, which can cause digestive discomfort.

Blood Sugar Levels: Chickpeas have a moderate glycemic index, affecting blood sugar levels, so diabetics should monitor their intake.

Moderation and proper cooking can help mitigate these effects, and those with specific health concerns should consult a healthcare provider.

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