Chickpea or Cicer arietinum is one of the earliest cultivated legumes on earth. It offers a range of health benefits which includes lowering cholesterol, regulating blood sugar level, aiding weight loss, improving heart health, fighting nervous system disorders, improving digestion and relieving constipation.
Botanical name: Cicer arietinum
Other names: Bengal gram, Leci, Garbanzo, Garbanzo bean, Egyptian pea
Chickpea is the seed of the chickpea plant, Cicer arietinum, which belongs to the botanical family Fabaceae. The fruit of the chickpea plant is oval in shape and contains two seeds which are actually the chickpea we eat. Its seeds are high in protein.
- Of course human consumption is the main use of this wonderful legume. Raw chickpeas are usually cooked for about 10 minutes, and then simmered for a longer period before eating.
- Chickpeas can also be dried for later use. Dried chickpeas need a much longer cooking time than raw ones.
- Ripened chickpeas are cooked and used in salads, stews, and many other dishes.
- Dried ones can be ground into flour to make several kinds of cuisines.
- Apart from human consumption, chickpeas are also used in animal feed. Their high protein with low trypsin and chymotrypsin content gives higher nutrition value and fewer digestive problems for animals.
- Chickpeas also have a long history of medicinal uses. In India, glandular secretions of the leaves stems, and pods are collected for medicinal applications.
- They are used as aphrodisiac, and to fight catarrh, diarrhea, constipation, cholera, flatulence, and dyspepsia. They are also used against snakebites, and wart removal.
- Carbohydrates – Chickpeas are very rich in carbohydrates, representing about 27% of its total content. Starch being predominant among others, is slowly transformed into glucose during digestion. This must be after it is well salivated and chewed.
- Proteins – Chickpeas contain significant amount of proteins, about 9% of its total content. It is advisable to consume chickpea along with a grain in order to provide an excellent protein of biological quality.
- Fats – Fats are present in chickpeas in less than 3% of its total content. These fats are mainly unsaturated fats, with very little saturated ones.
- Minerals – Some of the minerals present in chickpea in rich amounts are iron (about three times that of meat), potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.
- Vitamins – Chickpeas contain high amounts of folates which help reduce heart attack risk, and maintain proper functioning of the nervous system. Additionally, chickpeas contains significant amounts of the B-group vitamins.
- Relieves constipation
- Lowers cholesterol level
- Prevent neural tube defects
- Fights nervous system disorders
- Aids digestion
- Aids weight loss
- Improves heart health
The fiber in chickpea naturally stimulates the intestinal peristaltic action which helps in moving feces through the lower digestive tract. By doing that, it makes stool much easier to pass, without causing those heavy strains associated with constipation. I forgot to mention that fiber adds more bulk to your stool; the bigger it becomes, the easier it is to defecate.
The fiber present in chickpea impedes the absorption of cholesterol from other foods in the intestine. Additionally, chickpea contains a moderate amount of high quality mono and polyunsaturated fats that helps lower cholesterol level.
The consumption of chickpea may help prevent arteriosclerosis and all of its complications such as heart attack. Arteriosclerosis is characterized by the buildup of fats and excess cholesterol in the walls of the arteries, which may disrupt blood flow to vital organs such as the brain and heart. A condition that can easily lead to heart attack and stroke.
Neural tube defects
chickpeas contains high amounts of essential nutrients such as iron, proteins, and other minerals which are required for the healthy being of the fetus. Additionally, its richness in folates makes it highly recommended for pregnant women, due to its ability to prevent nervous system defects in the fetus.
Folates have been cited by numerous researches to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Surprisingly, these disorders occur in the first month of pregnancy, in most cases even without knowing you are pregnant.
Hence, prospective mothers are advised to have enough folates in their body prior to getting pregnant. And one way to add more folates to your body is through the consumption of adequate amount of chickpeas. You shouldn’t risk the life of your unborn child!
Nervous system disorders
Chickpeas may be beneficial in cases of functional disorders of the nervous system due to vitamin D deficiency such as nervousness and irritability. They may also help in cases of depression and stress.
We have seen earlier how chickpea can help with constipation. Its fiber content can also boost overall digestive function. Fiber has been found to stimulate the production of digestive enzymes. It can also improve the growth of beneficial microorganisms in your gut. Most importantly, fiber stimulates peristaltic action of the gut, which moves food materials down the colon.
Aids weight loss
Chickpea has the perfect characteristic of a weight loss food. It is rich in proteins and has enough fiber content. Many studies have associated fiber consumption with a reduced body weight (1). If you are unaware, fiber consumption or having enough fiber in your food induces a feeling of satiety. This kind of feeling makes you eat less amount of food, thus, less fat and calories.
Worthy of mention is its high protein content. Many studies have showed high protein diets to aid weight loss. Moreover, in other to digest proteins, a thermic effect of 30% must be achieved. This means that you will burn 30% of its calories during digestion.
Improves heart health
As we have seen earlier, chickpea consumption helps lower blood cholesterol level, which may clump in our arteries and cause several cardiovascular disorders. By helping us lower cholesterol level, chickpea not only protects our heart, but our entire cardiovascular system.
Moreover, chickpeas are rich in folates, a vitamin that improves heart health. It is said to reduce homocysteine levels in the body, whose excess may lead to the formation of blood clots, visual abnormalities, and osteoporosis.