Chelsea Rose Plaskitt discovers there are a host of benefits provided by this protein-packed legume
We all know that protein is an important part of a nutritious and healthy plant-based diet.
With millions of people swapping meat for plant-based protein, companies are churning out so many vegan alternatives that sometimes it’s hard to know which one to choose.
The likes of pea protein, tempeh and seitan are so easy to come by and are extremely versatile in many different dishes.
However, despite the enthusiasm for all of these nutritious protein sources, you might be surprised to know that the protein-packed winner of 2021’s health craze is the simple chickpea.
This staple of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine has been around for so long that it was one of the eight founder crops of the ‘Origins of Agriculture’ on our planet.
Packed with B vitamins and fibre, these little legumes are not to be ignored if you’re wanting to become a healthier version of yourself in 2021.
So, without further ado, let’s get down to why chickpeas are an extremely important food to integrate into your diet.
The main health benefits of chickpeas
Promotes Heart Health
The health benefits of chickpeas are numerous, but one that people may not know so well is that they are excellent for our hearts.
Packed with magnesium and potassium, these minerals are known for their ability to lower blood pressure, a major contributing factor in heart disease.
They are also full of soluble fibre, which helps reduce triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels.
As chickpeas don’t contain any cholesterol, you can consume them knowing that they are doing your body a world of good.
Regulates Blood Sugar And Reduces Risk Of Diabetes
One of the main reasons why the consumption of chickpeas has skyrocketed in 2021 is because of their high fibre content, which helps regulate blood sugar.
When this fibre mixes with the water in your stomach, it creates a gel that slows digestion.
This gel reduces spikes in blood sugar and keeps it at a healthy level.
Of course, we can’t forget about the isoflavones in chickpeas, because they can help lower your risk of getting diabetes by decreasing insulin resistance.
Chickpeas Are Cheap And Easy To Incorporate Into Your Diet
One of the main reasons non-vegans can be hesitant about going plant-based is because they think that it’s more expensive than a standard meat-based diet.
However, chickpeas and other pulses can make up a good proportion of a healthy vegan diet and, costing between 90p and £1.50 depending on the quality, they shouldn’t break the bank.
In fact, a recent study published by Think Money found that going vegan can save around £645 per year, as it’s estimated that meat-eaters spend over £600 on meat products alone.
Chickpeas can be used in a variety of ways, meaning you can use them in all sorts of recipes from savoury dishes like houmous to replacing eggs by using the aquafaba from tinned chickpeas to make meringue.
Promotes Good Mental Health
As if the previous benefits aren’t enough to encourage you to add chickpeas to your diet, these pulses are also an excellent addition in promoting positive mental health.
Chickpeas are extremely high in choline, with one cup averaging about 69.7mg.
This nutrient helps the brain and nervous system function properly and is also the key to feeling happy and having good muscle control.
Additionally, chickpeas are extremely high in selenium, which has been shown to increase cognitive function and promote good memory.
Aids Management Of Anaemia
Iron is a fundamental nutrient that supports the body’s absorption of oxygen.
It is also the most abundant element on earth, but, ironically, is often lacking in diets contributing to the most common nutritional disorder in the world – anaemia.
Without iron, the body cannot deliver oxygen to its cells.
When this happens, a person suffering from anaemia can experience feelings of fatigue and weakness.
In extreme cases, the deficiency can lead to life-threatening organ failure.
Chickpeas are an excellent antidote to people suffering from this condition. One cup of chickpeas can provide 4.7mg of iron or about half of a person’s recommended daily dose.
Another interesting fact is that half a cup of chickpeas actually has more iron than 3 ounces of sirloin steak.
So, the next time someone asks you if you’re getting enough iron in your vegan diet, remind them just how simple it is to obtain it without the need for meat.
Chickpeas Are Great For The Environment
Of course, it’s evident that chickpeas are a fundamental food in providing the body with important nutrients, but they’re also great for the environment.
While the plant grows, it forms root nodules, which take nitrogen from the air, converting it into fertiliser that the plant then uses to feed itself.
Additionally, when it’s time for the harvest, the plant material that is left in the field releases the rest of the nitrogen back into the soil.
This is then used to grow the crops for the following year. Compared with other foods that place great strain on the environment in which they grow, sustainably grown chickpeas have no negative effects on water, air and land.
With so many health benefits and positive environmental impacts, it’s no wonder that these nutrient dense pulses are the number one health craze of 2021. It’s also safe to say they will continue to be a popular food choice well into the future, as they support the health of our planet as well as our bodies!
Now you know about chickpeas, why not crack open the benefits of nuts & seeds!