As much as we love guacamole, sometimes it's all about the hummus when it comes to dip.
But this Middle Eastern favorite is far more than a savory appetizer—it's a bona fide health food. It's made with chickpeas—garbanzo beans to some—a vegan, gluten-free, and inexpensive source of protein, fiber, folic acid, and manganese.
Part of the legume family, these round little beans typically come dried or canned, which makes them easy to keep in the pantry for whenever they’re needed. And like many legumes, their fiber and protein content make them a great option for a filling meal for nearly any dietary need.
In fact, those who nosh on chickpeas seem to make healthier choices throughout the day, perhaps due to the high fiber that keeps snackers more full and satiated. In a study of 45 adults who ate normally but included chickpeas in their diets for six weeks, researchers saw lowered cholesterol levels and more regulated blood sugar levels in the chickpea group, while their counterparts saw no changes.
Some might avoid legumes because of FODMAPs — a specific type of carbohydrate found in some foods, including legumes. It causes water to be pulled into the digestive tract, potentially leading to stomach aches, constipation, gas, and bloating, and can even disrupt the gut’s natural bacterial balance. However, chickpeas might be in a league of their own when it comes to digestion. A study out of University of Saskatchewan found that those who ate chickpeas regularly had far less ammonia-producing bacteria in their stomach and intestines, which meant higher overall health in the gut.
Chickpeas might be the magic bullet when it comes to weight loss, too. Because they score low on the glycemic index, meaning their carbohydrate to protein ratio is low, garbanzo beans make a great base for those trying to lose weight on a low-glycemic diet. They contain 29 percent of the daily recommended protein intake for the average adult, while weighing in at less than 300 calories per serving. And the fact that they’re so versatile means that you can throw them into salads, soups, stews, or eat them lightly seasoned on their own.
These little beans are super easy to cook: Simply rinse, and add to a large saucepan with a ratio of one cup chickpeas to three cups water and bring to a boil till tender. If you have trouble digesting foods like legumes and lentils (like chickpeas), cook for two minutes and then cover and allow to cool for about four hours. Letting the beans soak for a little longer can reduce oligosaccharides that cause indigestion and gas, so if your stomach is sensitive, opt for the soaking method.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho