One of the best foods on the planet is the chickpea. It is extremely versatile and loaded with nutrients. A cornerstone to many ancient diets, the chickpea has been used to create amazing and nutritious meals for centuries. If you aren’t already eating chickpeas, you should be.
If you are vegan, vegetarian, on a diet, or mostly-meatless one of the biggest concerns is making sure you get enough protein in your diet. Chickpeas are protein power-houses. A cup full of chickpeas has about as much protein as two eggs which will keep your body and muscles strong. One thing to keep in mind is that if you want to get all the essential amino acids to create a complete protein make sure you pair your beans with whole grains. Quinoa or a nice dark whole grain bread or will give you all the protein you need.
Additionally, chickpeas are surprisingly full of iron a key element to good health that many people are lacking in when they cut meat out of their diet. Iron is especially important for women who lose tons of iron from their system during menstruation. The anemia cased by low iron levels causes problems in overall health, cognitive function, and mood. Making sure you have enough iron in your system is more important than getting that cup of coffee if you want your brain to be sharp throughout the day.
Chickpeas also contain significant amounts of fiber. Fiber is essential to keeping your digestive tract healthy by clearing away buildup that can cause cancer along the tract and in the stomach as well as clearing away bad cholesterol which can build up with time and cause heart problems. Fiber is also very filling, so if you have troubles with snacking on junk food, eating more fiber can help curb your cravings. It also keeps your blood sugar levels steady, which is very important for anyone with diabetes.
You can also find significant amounts of folate, which is very important for women who are pregnant as folate is key to proper spinal growth in the maturing fetus, as well as manganese, magnesium, zinc and copper.
One of the best ways to eat chickpeas is in the form of hummus. Blended together with, garlic, olive oil, tahini, and a touch of spice it makes a magnificent dip. Using red peppers as your “chip” gives you the extra benefit of vitamin C which helps to absorb the iron more effectively and whole grain pita toasted and seasoned with olive oil and paprika tastes good and makes the protein complete. Hummus can also be made in fun flavors like spinach or artichoke or beetroot and toasted walnut and used as a spread in your sandwich. Make sure to use whole grain bread (which tastes better toasted)
Chickpeas are a delicious addition to your salad, no matter what dressing you happen to be using. Caesar dressing with whole wheat croutons is one of our favorites to pair with chickpeas, but a raspberry vinaigrette works just as well and you can add a tiny bit of apple cider vinegar for extra flavor and health benefits.
Chickpeas are equally as easy to add to just about any soup of your choosing. Think about replacing (or enhancing) the chicken in your soup the next time you make a chicken noodle soup to fight a cold. Add fresh lemon juice, hot pepper flakes, and garlic to really kick that cold to the curb or keep your immunity boosted before a cold can even strike. You can also cook and blend chickpeas as a replacement to the cream in a creamy soup like broccoli cheddar or cream of mushroom.
Their mild flavor means you can season them in a million ways, from delicious Indian spices, to zingy Middle Eastern. Canned beans are easy to use, and incredibly inexpensive. It is very important that you make sure to rinse the beans before they are added. The syrup-like liquid they are preserved in causes most of the intestinal discomfort that some people complain of. Others actually enjoy that liquid, called aquafaba, and use it in recipes that need to be whipped up and frothy like mousse and meringue. Rinsing them carefully prevents any unwanted bloating in your stomach, but if you still experience any problems, try adding just a small amount of the beans to your meals gradually instead of lots of them all at once. For even better health, the dry beans retain more nutrients than the canned ones. Soak them overnight and be sure to rinse that water they were sitting in away as well. Some people swear by adding a pinch of baking soda to the cooking water to help the beans become tender enough to be easily digested.
Experiment with whatever works for you and whatever recipe you enjoy the most. Let us know how it goes in the comments below!