Let’s talk about one of my favorite foods- chickpeas! Chickpeas are an easy and affordable source of plant-based calories. They are both healthy and versatile!
Numerous studies have shown that replacing some of the animal protein in our diets with plants can significantly reduce cardiac-related disease and death. In fact, dietary recommendations from the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and the American Diabetes Association all encourage more plants and less animal protein, especially red meats and those high in saturated fat and sodium. This doesn’t mean you have to cut out animal proteins entirely- just swap them out for plants once in a while. One easy way to do this is to add some beans to your meals!
Here’s a little background on the oft-overlooked chickpea. Chickpeas are a legume, like beans. In fact, they’re also known as garbanzo beans. They grow in warm parts of the world, but are widely available in grocery stores across the United States. Why is this cool? Well, nutritionally speaking, they’re really good for you! Chickpeas contain high-fiber carbohydrates and protein. You might remember from science class that your body needs protein to heal and build new tissue, and carbohydrates for energy and fiber, which helps keep you regular and supports a healthy heart. This combination can also help keep you fuller, longer. Chickpeas are also a good source of folate, iron, phosphorus, and zinc- all vitamins and minerals that are essential to good health. They contain no cholesterol and very little fat (and the fat they do contain is the healthy kind!). Not bad for a bean!
So how do you eat chickpeas? There’s no one right answer to that- part of the beauty of chickpeas is that you can do so much with them! Here are a few examples:
Roasted chickpeas. You can buy these in several flavors at most grocery stores, or easily make them yourself. Just roast them pre-cooked (canned or soaked) in the oven at 400 for 20 minutes. Be sure to add whatever toppings you prefer after you’ve cooked them so the seasoning doesn’t burn!
Toppings. You can get a can of ready-to-eat chickpeas and throw them into a salad, soup, or cooked veggie dish. Just drain the liquid off and give them a good rinse first. Side note- if you prefer to avoid canned goods, you can also purchase chickpeas dried and use them the same way. You just need to soak them in water overnight.
Desserts. If you have a sweet tooth, you can mash up chickpeas in a food processor and use them to bake something delicious, like this recipe for peanut butter blondies. I make these frequently with dark chocolate chips!
Dips. Are you a fan of hummus? Hummus is made from chickpeas! This is also something you can buy premade at the store for convenience, or make yourself. Hummus is great for dipping crackers or fresh veggies. My favorite is garlic hummus!
Baking. Lastly, you can buy chickpea flour and use it in cooking or baked goods. I would recommend Googling your recipe first, as chickpea flour doesn’t cook quite the same as the wheat flour you’re probably used to. You’re better off using a recipe that actually calls for chickpea flour, like a batter, roux, or as a binder for a veggie burger.
Now that you understand why chickpeas are a simple and nutritious addition to any diet, go ahead and try one of these ideas. Let us know in the comments how it goes!