Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) were first consumed by people living in modern-day Turkey and Greece about 10,000 years ago, after which they spread to southern France and Germany and then throughout the Middle East, where they became a staple in traditional diets.
Chickpeas are a potent package of protein, vitamins and dietary minerals. They help keep glucose levels stable and boost protection against disease, as well increasing digestion and satiety. The chickpea is the second most widely eaten bean in the world after soybeans.
Chickpeas, which grow on trees, are a type of pulse, ie they come from a pod that contains two or three seeds. There are three main kinds of chickpeas or garbanzo beans.
Desi chickpeas have small dark seeds and a rough coat. Bombay chickpeas are larger. Both the Desi and Bombay types come from India. Kabuli chickpeas come from Europe or Africa and have smooth coats. All three types, however, deliver the same health benefits and can be used interchangeably.
Health benefits of eating chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
Chickpeas are a true superfood.
Garbanzo beans are a great source of complex carbohydrates (23g per 100g), fibre (7.6g per 100g), plant-based protein (8.9g per 100g), iron, zinc, phosphorus, B vitamins and much more. Yet they are very low in fat.
Here’s what they can do for you:
 Chickpeas help control blood glucose levels… carbohydrates make up over 27% of chickpeas. These are complex carbs, ie they consist mainly of starch and are digested slowly so that when you eat them you avoid sudden spikes in your blood glucose levels… unlike the simple carbs found in processed foods such as white bread… a boon to diabetics and pre-diabetics.
Diabetics should ensure that their diets include chickpeas (garbanzo beans).
 High fibre content aids the digestive process… fibre works by moving foods through the digestive tract and helping your stool to form so that waste and toxins are removed from your body and the likelihood you will become constipated is reduced.
Fibre also helps balance gut flora, boosting healthy bacteria and reducing unhealthy bacteria. Fibre also helps you control your levels of blood glucose and helps prevent diverticulitis, kidney stones and obesity.
 High protein content delivers an essential macro-nutrient… that plays an essential function in your body’s vital organs, muscles, tissues and hormone levels.
Proteins help to control your blood glucose, create haemoglobin and antibodies, help you build and maintain your muscles, give you energy, fight bacteria and make you feel full. They also help slow down the aging process.
Not eating enough protein can result in muscle weakness, chronic tiredness and low energy levels, eye problems (such as cataracts), heart problems, poor skin and so on. But by eating a combination of chickpeas with other grains or vegetables, you can ingest a ‘complete protein’, ie, one that contains all the ‘essential’ amino acids.
Many but not all of the amino acids that the body needs to synthesise proteins are created within your body. Essential amino acids are the nine building blocks of proteins that cannot be created by your body and you can only get them in what you eat.
 Chickpeas help you lose weight… as they are high in both protein and fibre chickpeas tend to make you feel satiated. Because they are also very low in calories and fat they can be of immense help in losing weight.
The proteins, complex carbohydrates and fibre in chickpeas also help you control your blood glucose levels while maintaining your energy at the same time, and the full feeling you get from eating them means that your are less likely to munch on processed junk between meals.
Chickpeas are more filling if you eat them with vegetable or other whole foods… perfect for trying to lose weight.
 Chickpeas reduce risk of heart disease… studies show that chickpeas help balance cholesterol levels, reduce hypertension (excessive blood pressure) and keep the arteries free of plaque.
One of the reasons for this may be the high levels of fibre the beans contain (7.6% by weight). The fibre makes you feel full and eat less so that you gain less weight around your tummy where your vital organs reside.
Fibre creates a gel like substance as it goes through your digestive system. This gel binds with fatty acids and helps balance your cholesterol levels so you do not develop excess LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Beans of any kind help keep your arteries clear from the build-up of plaque. This reduces your hypertension so the levels of your blood pressure remain within a healthy range. This decreases your risk of cardiac arrest and stroke… all through just one serving a day of chickpeas or any other beans.
 Chickpeas block colon cancer… studies show that the high fibre content in chickpeas can help protect against cancer of the colon by preventing cancerous cells from forming.
In addition, cancerous cells are less likely to proliferate because these beans keep the digestive system free of bacteria and the build up of toxins. This creates a healthy environment where pH levels are balanced and inflammation is reduced, preventing cancerous cells from multiplying as they would in an unhealthy environment.
 Copious amounts of vitamins and dietary minerals… garbanzo beans deliver plenty of folate, other B vitamins, zinc, iron, and phosphorus.
The folate in chickpeas plays a part in copying and synthesizing DNA to produce new cells. Folate also helps the body to use the other B vitamins. If you don’t ingest enough folate you may suffer from anaemia, a weakened immune system and poor digestion.
If you eat plenty of garbanzo beans you are unlikely to run short of zinc, an essential trace mineral. Zinc protects against the damage caused by free radicals, plays a role in the copying of DNA, helps form haemoglobin in the blood and speeds up wound healing.
If you become deficient in zinc, you are like to suffer from frequent colds, digestive problems such as leaky gut syndrome (a condition in which the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged, causing undigested food particles, toxic waste products and bacteria to ‘leak’ through the intestines and flood the blood stream) and diarrhoea.
A lack of zinc in the diet can also damage your eyes, make you infertile and cause your hair to fall out.
How to buy and prepare chickpeas
You can buy chickpeas (garbanzo beans in the USA) in dried, pre-cooked and canned, or pre-cooked and frozen forms. Some people think that the dried beans taste the best and have a better texture. They also remain fresh for a long time so you can stock them in bulk.
However the pre-cooked form, whether canned or frozen, are great time-savers. In addition, they are just as nutritious as dried beans.
Good advice is to buy organic beans that are also GMO-free because levels of phytic acid are much higher in foods grown using modern high-phosphate fertilizers instead of natural compost. You can also reduce phytic acid by 50% or more by soaking and sprouting your beans before using them.
The problem with phytic acid is that it can lower the availability of certain nutrients. A diet high in phytic acid can decrease the minerals in your food and can also leach minerals from your teeth and bones, leading to tooth decay, bone loss and osteoporosis. Thus soaking them overnight is important.
If you pre-soak the beans overnight, you will be able to cook them in a shorter time. Boil the chickpeas in about three times their volume of water at a low heat for 1.5 to 2 hours. Once they are soft they are ready to eat or to be used as ingredients in recipes.
How chickpeas are eaten
Chickpeas are consumed in countries all around the world.
In the Middle East, garbanzo beans are the main ingredient in hummus. They are also ground into chickpea flour and used to make unleavened bread.
In India, they are added to curries, while in France and Italy they are added to stews and pastas, and served with seafood. In Portugal they are part of a meat, bean and pasta dish called Rancho. But the sweet teeth of the Filipinos ensure that they are added to desserts in the Philippines.
Making hummus using tinned (canned) chickpeas only takes five minutes or so.
Drain a large can of chickpeas. Put the beans plus 1/4 cup of raw sesame seeds, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1x peeled clove of garlic, 1x teaspoon of olive oil, 1x teaspoon of cumin and iodised salt to taste into a blender and give it a blast until it is nice and smooth. You can add extra water or olive oil until you get the consistency you want… eat and enjoy.
Sesame seed contains a lot of fat, so it may be best (as a diabetic following the Beating Diabetes diet) to leave them out. You might like to omit the salt as well.
Traditional hummus is made by soaking the beans overnight and then boiling them for up to two hours. Nevertheless the ‘quick’ version described here tastes just as good.
Side-effects of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
Some people who are not used to eating large amounts of fibre and starch can feel bloated and full of gas when eating chickpeas (or other beans) at first. The trick is to introduce them into your diet gradually.
Also, preparing the beans in their dried form, soaking them overnight (rather than using canned chickpeas) can get rid of some of the compounds that cause the gas and bloating feeling.