Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are the big daddy of legumes. Dating back to about 7500 years, these are eaten extensively across the world. And for a good reason!
Both kinds of chickpeas – desi (Bengal gram or kala chana) and kabuli (safed chana) are nutrition powerhouses: 1/2 cup cooked (80 gm) will give about 130 calories, 7 gm protein (a great source for vegetarians), 6.5 gm fibre and multiple vitamins and minerals. By the way, bet you don’t know that chana dal is split chickpea with the skin removed!
They are loaded with fibre, which helps fill up with less; so you stay full for long with these. In fact some research shows that urge to snack is lower after eating chickpeas and they help lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the body, so they are cardio protective. Desi chickpeas score better than Kabulis in terms of fibre content and thus have a very low glycemic index.
They are packed with antioxidants – vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene, and also with immune protecting minerals, copper and zinc along with the hard to find manganese too (1 cup gives 40 mg, almost half our daily requirement). Here too the desi variety with its thicker seed coat stores greater concentrations.
There’s more good news: according to some reports the phytoestrogens in chickpeas help protect against osteoporosis and lower the risk of breast cancer. Basically when beneficial bacteria in our gut ferment chickpea fiber, a metabolite called butyrate, which is a short-chain fatty acid is produced. Butyrate is down to induce apoptosis (self-destruction) of cancerous cells.
Plus all you insomniacs out there please note that as chickpeas are a high tryptophan food, they can help calm your mind and lull you into deep sleep too.
Definitely make a nice spicy chickpea curry and pair it with rice. After all who doesn’t like chhole chawal! But get a little experimental too (they are very versatile, try them): add them to salads and soups, roast them (drizzle olive oil, roast at 400 F for 30/40 minutes, add salt) try falafel and hummus.
- Soak 1.5 cups of chickpeas for 4-5 hours and then pressure cook for 2-3 whistles (till they become soft enough to grind in a mixer/grinder).
- Cool and grind them with 3 garlic cloves, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp red chili powder, 1/4th cup sesame seeds and salt to taste.
- Add 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp olive oil, mix and set aside. Also try sprouted chickpeas (their nutrients skyrocket this way).
And definitely try this Lebanese-ish recipe I learnt from a foodie friend of mine and make pretty often: mash leftover chhole to make miniature tikkis you can grill in the OTG or pan-fry till golden. Add matchsticks of carrots, radish and beet with a splash of vinegar and dig in.
By the way, in Philippines chickpeas preserved in syrup are eaten as a dessert. That’s a great idea too. But whichever way, I say try to have half a cup of cooked chickpeas thrice a week at least.
Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog.
Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan