These shelf-stable legumes pack in protein, fiber, and so much more.
From air-puffed snacks and dried pastas to limitless hummus varieties, chickpeas and chickpea products are easy to find in the supermarket these days. Also known by their Spanish-derived name, garbanzo beans, these tiny-but-mighty legumes are not only versatile, affordable, and shelf-stable, but they’re also an excellent source of important micro- and macronutrients and come with many health benefits.
“Chickpeas are amazing,” says Mascha Davis, R.D., MPH, owner of Nomadista Nutrition. “They are a really good source of plant protein, fiber, and different vitamins and minerals.”
You can roast seasoned chickpeas to crispy perfection—a scrumptious snack and salad topper. Toss drained chickpeas straight into soups, salads, grain bowls, and pastas for added nutrients and texture. Or whip them together with fresh lemon juice, garlic, and tahini for velvety, homemade hummus, one of the best ways to make veggies more desirable. Chickpeas’ versatility also makes them a tasty and satisfying secret weapon for recreating classic bites sans meat. Case in point: chickpea salad sandwiches, chickpea “cookie dough” bites, and chickpea veggie burgers.
A more recent phenomenon is the mainstream popularity of chickpea pasta, a good option for those with a gluten intolerance or anyone looking to boost the protein and fiber content of their bowl of pasta (Banza chickpea pasta has about twice the protein and four times the fiber of other wheat-based pastas out there). While popular packaged chickpea snacks, like Hippeas, may suit your personal health preferences better than potato chips do, Davis says that chickpea-based goodies like these are still processed foods, so they aren’t necessarily the be-all-and-end-all “healthier” alternative. In short: Enjoy, but as with any packaged snacks, shop consciously and check the labels for extra salt, sugars, and other additives.
To reap the most health benefits of chickpeas, Davis recommends enjoying them in as close to their raw form as possible, whether that means buying dried chickpeas or canned chickpeas (both of which offer comparable nutritional benefits). When cooking with canned chickpeas, drain and rinse them with water to wash off extra salt or preservatives. (Pro tip: You can save the canned chickpea liquid and use it to make aquafaba, a vegan egg-white substitute for baking.)
Whatever your preferred way to eat chickpeas, here are all the impressive nutritional benefits they offer—and why they’re one of the healthiest pantry staples you can eat.
Chickpea Nutrition and Health Benefits
1. Chickpeas are an excellent source of plant protein.
Protein is a fundamental macronutrient needed for everything from muscle repair to hormone function, so chickpeas are an excellent addition to any meal or snack for a filling protein boost. If you already follow a vegan or vegetarian diet (or close to it), chances are you’re hooked on chickpeas already, thanks to their high protein content: One ounce of chickpeas packs in about 3 grams of protein. Since chickpeas contain almost all of the essential amino acids except for methionine, they’re considered a higher-quality source of protein than some other legumes.
2. Chickpeas are high in fiber.
Combine their high protein content with their ample amount of fiber—2 grams of fiber per ounce—and you get a naturally winning nutrient combo needed to satisfy hunger and stay satisfied for longer. Protein and fiber work together to help slow digestion and provide sustained satiety.
3. Chickpeas are a low-G.I. food for blood sugar control.
The glycemic index (G.I.) measures how rapidly certain foods cause your blood sugar to rise after eating them. Chickpeas are fairly low on this scale with a score of 28. And with their high protein and fiber content, the beans are a great way to control blood sugar.
An older study from 2008, found that those who ate 728 grams of chickpeas per week had a notable reduction in their fasting insulin levels, an important factor in blood sugar regulation. And a more recent study found that blood glucose levels were significantly lower after 45 minutes when people ate hummus with carbs than when compared to just eating the carbs alone, suggesting that hummus (made of chickpeas) may be able to offset higher glycemic foods.
4. Chickpeas can help you reach daily iron needs.
One cup of chickpeas delivers about 4.7 milligrams of iron, plus 2.1 mg of vitamin C, which helps the body absorb the iron. Since certain types of meat and fish, including red meat and shellfish, are high in iron, those who’ve cut these iron sources from their diets may be missing out on their daily 18 milligrams. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, with symptoms like weakness and fatigue. This is your sign to sprinkle some chickpeas on a salad or dip bell peppers into hummus for some extra iron in your day.
5. Chickpeas are packed with heart-healthy micronutrients.
Beyond protein and fiber, chickpeas offer plenty of powerful vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and selenium. Potassium, for example, has been shown to help lower blood pressure, among its many other functions. These minerals also play a role in reducing inflammation, which is linked to increased risk of heart disease. An extra heart-conscious tip: Check the sodium content of the canned chickpeas you buy and rinse those garbanzos thoroughly.
6. Chickpeas contain cancer-preventing compounds.
Chickpeas provide the antioxidants vitamin B and selenium and have the potential to help ward off certain cancers. When you eat chickpeas, your body creates a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate which has been shown to help rid the body of sick and dying cells. They also contain the other dietary bioactive compounds lycopene, Biochanin A, and saponins that have been shown to reduce the risk of certain types of cancers.
Simple, Healthy Chickpea Recipes
Spiced Rice With Crispy Chickpeas
Chickpea-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Smoky Roasted Chickpeas
Spiced Chicken and Chickpea Soup