By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum L.), commonly known as garbanzo beans, are an old world pulse (i.e., edible seeds) in the legume family and have traditionally been incorporated into many culinary creations because of their nut-like flavor and versatile sensory applications in food.
It is a good source of carbohydrates and protein, and protein quality is considered to be better than other pulses. Chickpea has significant amounts of all the essential amino acids except sulphur-containing amino acids, which can be complemented by adding cereals to the daily diet.
Chickpea is rich in nutritionally important unsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic and oleic acids. Ca, Mg, P and, especially, K are also present in chickpea seeds. Chickpea is a good source of important vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, folate and the vitamin A precursor β-carotene.
As with other pulses, chickpea seeds also contain anti-nutritional factors which can be reduced or eliminated by different cooking techniques. Chickpea has several potential health benefits, and, in combination with other pulses and cereals, it could have beneficial effects on some of the important human diseases such as CVD, type-2 diabetes, digestive diseases and some cancers. Overall, chickpea is an important pulse crop with a diverse array of potential nutritional and health benefits (1)
Nutrient composition (g/100 g) of different legumes: (2)
- Weight control
In general, diets high in fiber, low in energy density and glycemic load, and moderate in protein are thought to be particularly important for weight control (3). Chickpea has been reported to decrease fat accumulation in obese subjects. This aids in improving fat metabolism and could be helpful in correcting obesity-related disorders (4). Chickpea supplementation in the diet resulted in increased satiation and fullness (5).
- CVD, CHD and cholesterol control
In general, increased consumption of soluble fiber from foods results in reduced serum total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) and has an inverse correlation with CHD mortality. Chickpea seeds are a relatively cheap source of Dietary Fiber and bioactive compounds (e.g. phytosterols, saponin and oligosaccharides); coupled with its low glycemic index (GI), chickpea may be useful for lowering the risk of CVD (6). Two PUFA, LA and OA, constitute almost about 50–60 % of chickpea fat. Intake of PUFA such as LA has been shown to have a beneficial effect on serum lipids, insulin sensitivity and hemostatic factors; thereby it could be helpful in lowering the risk of CHD (7), (8).
- Diabetes and blood pressure
Incorporation of chickpeas in a human study led to improvements in fasting insulin and total cholesterol content (9). Total cholesterol and fasting insulin were reduced by 7·7 mg/dl and 5·2 pmol/l, respectively. In this study, forty-five healthy individuals were fed with a minimum of 104 g chickpea/d for 12 weeks as part of their regular diet.
LA, a PUFA, is biologically important due to its involvement in the production of prostaglandins (PG). PG are involved in the lowering of blood pressure and smooth muscle constriction (10).
Butyrate is a principal SCFA (about 18 % of the total volatile fatty acids) produced from the consumption of a chickpea diet (200 g/d) in healthy adults (11). Butyrate has been reported to suppress cell proliferation (12) and induce apoptosis (13), which may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Gut health and laxation
A significant increase (18 %) in DF intake was recorded when 140 g/d of chickpea and chickpea flour were consumed by nineteen healthy individuals for 6 weeks (14). Similarly, Murty et al. (15) reported a 15 % increase in DF intake in forty-two volunteers. These studies revealed an overall improvement in bowel health accompanied by an increased frequency of defecation, ease of defecation and softer stool consistency while on a chickpea diet compared with a habitual diet. DF promote laxation/ bowel function by aiding in the movement of material through the digestive system.
Consuming chickpeas and/or hummus may help prevent or offset the development and progression of several chronic diseases (CVD, type-2 diabetes, etc.) and promote healthier functional outcomes (e.g., weight management). Consuming chickpeas and/or hummus in moderation may have additional benefits beyond improving nutrient profiles of meals (e.g., delaying gastric emptying and slowing carbohydrate absorption).
- Aurand, Leonard W., ed. Food composition and analysis. Springer Science & Business Media, 2013.