It's been around 7,000 years since garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas) appeared in Middle Eastern regions, but they weren't cultivated until about 3,000 BC. By the16th century, Spanish explorers had spread the love of this natural food's nutty, buttery taste and slightly grainy texture beyond Rome and Greece.
Today, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Ethiopia, and Mexico are the highest producers, as well as some of the largest consumers, of garbanzo beans.
There are two garbanzo bean varieties: the large, round, cream-colored "kabuli-type" usually found in canned chickpeas and salad bars, and the smaller, darker and less uniform "desi-type." Both get high marks for versatility, but nutritionally, the darker the better.
To cook your own garbanzo beans, rinse them first, examine, and pre-soak them in a large saucepan with three times the water per cup of beans. Boil for two minutes, remove from heat, cover, and allow to stand for four hours. This reduces the oligosaccharides and the chances for flatulence problems when they're eaten.
Whether it's affection that elicits so many monikers, like Bengal grams and Egyptian peas, or an indication of the many cultures with an appreciation for this humble bean, whatever you call them, they're a legume and as such, three cups per week are recommended by the USDA for even more advantageous nutrition. Read on to learn why.
Health Benefits of Garbanzo Beans
Low in saturated fat and very low in cholesterol and sodium, garbanzo beans contain high amounts of folate (71 percent of the daily value) and manganese (84 percent), which may make the amounts of the other nutrients look a little ineffective. But they're not! You get 29 percent each of the protein and copper you need, 28 percent of the phosphorus, 26 percent of the iron, and 20 percent of the magnesium. The fiber, thiamin, zinc and vitamin B6 are in healthy supply as well. It's a perfect combination and one way to work toward optimum health. Whether canned or cooked from scratch, you get similar nutrients.
One of the most intriguing reports regarding garbanzo bean consumption was that people seemed to have less need to snack on other things on days when they'd included these in their diet. Part of it is the fiber. Two cups of garbanzos supply the daily requirement, and lower your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides – fats/ lipids in your blood that can increase your heart disease risk – and help regulate blood sugar levels.
Other ingredients in chickpeas include antioxidant phytonutrients such as the flavonoids quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin; phenolic acids, including ferulic, chlorogenic, caffeic, and vanillic; and the anthocyanins delphinidin, cyanidin, and petunidin. All these combine to provide powerful protection against free radical damage and protect against diseases, including cancer.
One more element – molybdenum – is a cofactor and catalyst in such essential enzymes as sulfite oxydase, which transforms sulfite (found in lunch meats and packaged salad greens) to sulfate, needed for sulfur-containing amino acids.
Garbanzo Beans Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), mature seeds, cooked, without salt
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie
Studies on Garbanzo Beans
Controversy regarding the best way to replace fats in the diet to reduce cardiovascular disease prompted a study on chickpeas, since they're known to be rich in dietary fiber and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
A 12-week study involved 45 healthy adults who ate 728 grams of chickpeas every week while being tested for their dietary fiber, polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids, and LDL and insulin levels.
Analysis revealed that dietary fiber had the greatest effect on reducing serum total cholesterol by 15.8 mg. Polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids had equivalent but opposing effects on serum total cholesterol and insulin. Researchers reported that further studies on chickpeas for this purpose would be beneficial.1
The outer coatings of chickpeas (which usually contain more than 95 percent of the polyphenol, flavonoid, and antioxidant compounds) were compared to examine nutrient content in relation to color. Of the 17 chickpea lines tested, in black, red, brown, green, gray, yellow, cream, and beige, the darker seeds were found to contain up to 13, 11, and 31 times more polyphenol, flavonoid, and antioxidant activity than the lighter seeds.
The conclusion: colored chickpeas could be a potentially functional food in addition to its traditional role of providing dietary proteins and fibers.2
Garbanzo Beans Healthy Recipes:
Classic Hummus bi Tahina (Chickpea and Sesame Dip)
|4 oz. chickpeas, soaked for a few hours
||Juice of 2 lemons
||3 Tbsp. tahini (sesame seed paste)
||2 garlic cloves, crushed Salt
|1 Tbsp. olive oil
||3 tsp. paprika
||A few sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
- Drain the chickpeas and simmer in fresh water for about an hour or until tender. Drain, reserving the water.
- Process the chickpeas in a food processor with the next four ingredients and a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid to make a creamy consistency.
- Spoon onto a flat plate garnished with a drizzle of olive oil, a dusting of paprika (traditionally in the shape of a cross), and a little parsley. Serve with warm pita bread for dipping.
This recipe makes four to six servings.
Garbanzo Beans Fun Facts
For a crunchy, delicious snack, try roasting chickpeas. Rinse well and drain a can or two, spread them on a paper towel-lined baking sheet, and blot until completely dry. Remove the paper towel, drizzle on a few tablespoons of olive oil and roll them around to coat. Pop them in a 400 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy. Season with salt and Cajun or Creole seasoning (or garlic and onion - be creative!).
Salads, soups, spreads, dips, stir fries… It's not hard to find a use for buttery little garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas). Loaded with healthy amounts of nutritionally charged vitamins and minerals, legumes are always a helpful addition to the diet. One reason is because of their high fiber content, but these contain a plethora of other compounds: flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol, phenolic acids, anthocyanins, and molybdenum. Many of these may be hard to pronounce, but the benefits throughout the body are many – maybe even more than the number of recipes you can use them in.