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Chickpeas: Hummus And Falafel Secrets

Chickpeas are far more than inconspicuous legumes with a funny names. They can be used to conjure up delicacies such as hummus, falafel, or a fine curry. Chickpeas also have a very positive effect on digestion, the cardiovascular system, and blood sugar levels.

Chickpeas are not ordinary peas

First of all: chickpeas are not the green peas that are usually referred to by the term pea. Green peas are peas harvested immature, which are yellow when ripe and dried in commerce. We reported about peas in the corresponding article. However, chickpeas are very different peas.

Chickpeas don’t giggle a bit

As cheerful as the name of the chickpea (cicer arietinum) may sound, its name has nothing to do with giggling itself. On the other hand, it derives from the Latin word “cicer”, which originally means pea. So there was nothing to laugh about when it came to the name, although one could smile about the fact that we prepare hummus and falafel from pea and pea.

The wrinkled legumes were cultivated in Asia Minor around 8000 years ago and from there they conquered India and the Mediterranean region. The chickpea finally came to us with the trading ships in the early Middle Ages – and it has remained to this day because its buttery, nutty taste blends harmoniously into many dishes and gives them an oriental touch.

Culinary delights such as the aforementioned hummus (pureed chickpea puree), fragrant falafel (deep-fried chickpea balls), or chickpea-based curries are particularly well known. You will find many delicious recipes with chickpeas below – whether for falafel, hummus, curries, stews, salads, or even for vegan cream that you can easily make from chickpeas.

In many regions of the world, chickpeas are a staple food, along with other legumes. Especially in Mexico and India, they are valued for their outstanding combination of nutrients and their low price.

Chickpeas at Hildegard von Bingen

The chickpea is mentioned as early as in the writings of Hildegard von Bingen (1098 to 1179). The nun and scholar recognized the qualities of the legume and its positive effects on the entire body, especially in the case of fever. The following can be read about chickpeas in the health teachings of Saint Hildegard:

“The chickpea is warm and pleasant and easy to eat, and it does not increase the evil juices in those who eat it. But whoever has a fever, fry chickpeas over fresh coals and eat them, and he will be cured.”

In the meantime, there is also a lot of scientific evidence for the health-giving properties of chickpeas, even if it is not (yet) about the fever-reducing effect of roasted chickpeas. Nevertheless, small peas are considered to be so healthy that even all health organizations recommend regular consumption of chickpeas.

Eat chickpeas – even every day!

According to the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society, legumes are among the foods that help prevent disease and improve health. The German Vegetarian Association and the Swiss Society for Nutrition also recommend eating at least one or two portions of chickpeas every week.

One portion corresponds to about 40 grams of dried or 100 grams of cooked legumes.

However, in the American nutritional guidelines from 2005, which were developed jointly by the US Departments of Health and Agriculture, there are significantly higher consumption recommendations. They advocate 3 cups of legumes per person per week, which is roughly equivalent to 600 grams of cooked legumes per week.

Many study results recommend even larger amounts, namely 200 to 400 grams of cooked legumes per day – on the grounds that increased consumption of legumes is associated with more stable health and an increased level of performance. If you look at the properties of chickpeas, it’s no wonder:

The nutrients and vital substances of chickpeas

Just one portion of cooked chickpeas (approx. 165 g) covers

  • 70 percent of the daily folic acid requirement
  • 65 percent of the daily copper requirement
  • 50 percent of the daily fiber requirement
  • 25 percent of the daily iron requirement
  • 20 percent of the daily zinc requirement

All this, of course, with a low glycemic index (GI) and a moderate amount of calories.

Chickpeas for healthy digestion

Consuming chickpeas ensures healthy digestion because two-thirds of chickpea fiber is insoluble. They thus pass through the digestive tract unchanged until they reach the large intestine. On their way, they help to stimulate intestinal peristalsis, clean the intestines and maintain a healthy intestinal environment.

In the last part of the intestine, the bacteria in the large intestine partially break down the indigestible fibers into short-chain fatty acids such as acetic acid, propionic acid, and butyric acid. These short-chain fatty acids are absorbed by the cells in the colon wall and used as a source of energy.

The fiber in chickpeas is therefore exceptionally good at helping to keep the intestinal lining healthy, which in turn can significantly reduce the risk of colon problems including colon cancer. Antioxidants are also known to prevent cancer. And here, too, the chickpea can keep up very well.

Chickpeas have an antioxidant effect

Many of our body systems are vulnerable to oxidative stress and damage caused by reactive oxygen molecules. Our cardiovascular system, our lungs, and our nervous system are the first to be affected.

However, antioxidants help against oxidative stress – and these are also found in abundance in chickpeas. Chickpeas only provide small amounts of known antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. Instead, chickpeas contain secondary plant substances with high antioxidant potential.

These include the flavonoids quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin as well as various phenolic acids. They form an important support to protect the body from attacks by free radicals and reactive oxygen compounds.

Chickpeas also contain relatively large amounts of manganese – a trace element that is found in the energy-producing mitochondria of most cells and is therefore involved in energy production. Furthermore, manganese is an important component of endogenous antioxidant enzymes. B. superoxide dismutase.

A portion of chickpeas already covers 85 percent of the daily manganese requirement.

The knowledge of the antioxidant properties of chickpeas led to more and more studies on animals and humans, which were able to show in detail that the consumption of chickpeas reduces the risk of heart disease, among other things. Finally, antioxidants keep the blood vessels elastic and improve the flow properties of the blood.

Chickpeas protect the heart and circulation

If you want to improve your blood lipid levels and thus your heart and vascular health, you should always think about chickpeas. They counteract arteriosclerotic changes in several ways and thus reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease.

The high saponin content of chickpeas (50 mg per kilogram of chickpeas) is mainly responsible for the blood fat-lowering effect of the tasty legume.

Saponins combine with the cholesterol molecules in the food to form insoluble complexes, preventing them from entering the bloodstream via the intestines. In addition, saponins bind to bile acids, so the liver must draw on the body’s cholesterol reservoirs to make new bile acids, thereby lowering cholesterol levels.

The extremely bulky fiber found in chickpeas also helps lower cholesterol.

Similar to the saponins, the fiber binds to the fats in the intestine so that they do not get into the blood, but are simply excreted in the stool.

It is therefore not surprising that large-scale epidemiological studies on health and nutrition research have shown that just 150 grams of cooked chickpeas per day can help reduce the LDL level (“bad” cholesterol) and the total cholesterol level as well as the triglyceride levels within one month noticeably lower.

Conveniently, chickpeas also regulate blood sugar levels due to their high fiber and protein content, which is particularly interesting for diabetics or for people with the beginnings of insulin resistance.

Chickpeas – Perfect for diabetics

Chinese scientists found that chickpeas may contribute to both healthier pancreatic function (increased insulin secretion) and a reduction in insulin resistance.

Chickpeas showed similar blood sugar-regulating effects in an Australian study. Here, the subjects consumed at least 728 grams of canned chickpeas per week. As a result, within a week lower blood sugar levels were measured than before.

This effect is not only beneficial for diabetics, but for everyone who often struggles with blood sugar fluctuations or cravings, as well as people who want to lose weight. Because the fewer cravings and the more balanced the blood sugar level, the easier it is to lose weight.

Full and slim with chickpeas

Studies have also shown that chickpeas are very filling. Participants in the most recent study on this topic found that they snacked far less between meals and also consumed fewer calories overall when they ate chickpeas.

The subjects reported a higher degree of satiety, which led to a reduced appetite and less and less snacking.

Since the chickpea is also quite low in calories (100 g of cooked chickpeas only have 120 kcal), they are an ideal support for everyone who has not yet reached their ideal weight.

At the same time, chickpeas are an excellent source of protein, which is particularly interesting for people whose diet excludes other sources of protein, for example, if they are vegan or vegetarian.

Purines in chickpeas

Legumes and chickpeas are among the purine-rich foods. Purines are metabolized into uric acid. If the uric acid level rises too much, this can contribute to the development of gout.

Unfortunately, in the past, the purine content of legumes has meant that many gout-prone people have avoided legumes and thus not been able to enjoy all of their health benefits. However, it is now known that purine-rich plant foods, unlike purine-rich animal foods, do not contribute to an increased risk of gout.

Eat chickpea sprouts raw

When raw, chickpeas contain – like all legumes – the substance phases, which can be toxic and only decomposes when heated or to a large extent during the germination process.

Chickpea sprouts should be germinated for at least two to three full days. Then they can be eaten in small amounts – even without cooking them first. If you want to be on the safe side, boil or blanch the sprouts before eating.

Chickpeas – The top source of protein

Just one portion of cooked chickpeas (approx. 220 g) provides 20 grams of protein and can therefore easily compete with typical animal protein sources.

For comparison, 100 grams of chicken breast fillet contains 16 grams of protein, 100 grams of pork fillet contains 23 grams and 100 grams of beef fillet contains 19 grams of protein.

This makes the small legumes a healthy and attractive alternative to the usual side dishes such as potatoes or pasta, whose high carbohydrate content is making these foods less and less popular and which are also far less filling.

The biological value of the chickpea protein can also be increased if the chickpea is combined with Brazil nuts or sunflower seeds in a meal and/or seasoned with yeast flakes. The spirulina protein can also be combined very well with chickpeas.

Chickpeas: always soak before cooking

Dried chickpeas should always be soaked (ideally overnight) before cooking. Soaking time has at least three benefits:

  • During the soaking period, the amount of raffinose contained (a fiber that causes flatulence in some people and is found in all legumes, but in much lower amounts in chickpeas – compared to beans, for example) is reduced. If you change the water several times, you reduce the flatulence even further.
  • At the same time, certain enzymes are activated during the soaking time, which breaks down part of the phytic acid contained in legumes. Phytic acid, if consumed in excess, can bind minerals so that the body can no longer absorb and use them. Nevertheless, a number of health benefits are now known for certain amounts of phytic acid, so phytic acid is now even taken as a dietary supplement – without consumers suffering from a mineral deficiency. For example, phytic acid can strengthen the killer cells of the immune system. It is also said to have anti-cancer and blood sugar-regulating properties.
  • The soaking time reduces the cooking time – for every four hours of soaking time, a cooking time reduction of 25 percent is calculated so that a long soaking time afterward also allows preparation that is gentle on vital substances.

How to cook chickpeas – the preparation

Before cooking dried chickpeas, wash them under running water and then soak them for at least four to 12 hours. To do this, put the chickpeas in a bowl with plenty of water. Use two to three cups of water per cup of chickpeas.

Before cooking the chickpeas, drain off the soaking liquid and rinse the chickpeas again under running water. Then place the soaked peas in a saucepan of fresh water or vegetable broth, making sure the chickpeas are covered by about 3 to 5 inches of water.

Bring the whole thing to a boil, then reduce the heat and, with the saucepan almost covered, let the chickpeas simmer gently. If foam develops, skim it off.

The cooking time is between 1 and 1.5 hours. If the chickpeas are still firm, although the cooking water has almost disappeared, add some water and let the peas cook until they are soft.

If that is too time-consuming for you, you can also buy chickpeas already cooked in a jar – ideally of organic quality. In this form, the chickpea is an extremely healthy fast food that you can quickly and easily transform into delicious recipes in many variations:

Quick recipes with chickpeas

Chickpeas fit into almost every recipe and are easy to prepare. Especially if you take chickpeas out of the jar or cook the chickpeas in advance (cooked chickpeas can be kept in the fridge for 3 days), they are ideal for quick dishes, such as a chickpea salad with broccoli.

Lovers of Indian cuisine might want to try Indian-style chickpeas, chickpea dal with potatoes, or Indian lentil soup with chickpeas.

The chickpea also tastes delicious as a spread, as well as in the form of a stew, e.g. B. as a chickpea and zucchini stew.

Chickpeas can also be used to make wonderful curries. Curries are dishes based on a creamy sauce in which you can cook vegetables, legumes, tofu, etc. They usually come to the table spicy and are eaten with rice or naan (Indian flatbread).

Recipes for falafel

Falafel is fried chickpea balls that owe their typical flavor to cumin. We have developed several recipes for falafel for you. Falafel can be made with a mixture of chickpeas and chickpea flour, or just chickpea flour. Examples of pure chickpea flour falafel are e.g. B. our falafel filled with chard with a dip made from sour cream and tahini (sesame butter) or made from potatoes and celery and with a tahini sauce.

Recipes for falafel made from a mixture of chickpea flour and cooked chickpeas are e.g. B. our falafel with creamy spinach, where finely grated carrots and white cabbage are also added to the falafel dough, or our raspberry-colored falafel with beetroot and a soy yogurt dip.

Fry or pan fry the falafel

Falafel is traditionally fried in oil. If you don’t want that, you can use an air fryer, which requires very little oil, or prepare our falafel with creamy spinach. These are fried in a pan, for which you also only need a little oil, and then baked in the oven.

Recipes for hummus

Hummus is chickpea puree or chickpea puree used as a dip or spread. The classic hummus is made from freshly cooked chickpeas with oil, tahini (sesame butter), some garlic, and cumin. You can now expand, refine or change this basic recipe as you wish, e.g. B. in our recipe for coriander yogurt hummus or for the delicious hummus with parsley and hemp seeds. In our 4-variant hummus recipe (with curry, with sesame, with spinach, and with beetroot) we explain how you can make four different kinds of hummus yourself in one go.

Fancy some hummus but don’t have a single chickpea in the house? It doesn’t matter. You can also prepare hummus from other legumes, such as B. our hummus is made from white beans. A delicious hummus can even be conjured up from pumpkin seeds (with smoked tofu and soy yogurt).

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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