Benefits of Garbanzo Beans

Benefits of Garbanzo Beans:

Description

Garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas, Bengal grams, and Egyptian peas) have a delicious nutlike taste and buttery texture. They provide a concentrated source of protein that can be enjoyed year-round and are available either dried or canned. The Latin name for garbanzo beans, Cicer arietinum, means "small ram," reflecting the unique shape of this legume that somewhat resembles a ram's head.

Garbanzos have a delicious nutlike taste and a texture that is buttery, yet somewhat starchy and pasty. A very versatile legume, they are a noted ingredient in many Middle Eastern and Indian dishes such as hummus, falafels and curries.

There are two basic types of garbanzo beans. Most commonly seen at salad bars and in canned products are the "kabuli-type." These beans are cream-colored or sometimes whitish in color, fairly uniform and rounded in shape, and about twice as large as the second "desi-type." In addition to being much smaller, desi-type beans are darker (light tan to black in color) and more irregular in shape. From a botanical standpoint, the desi-type beans also have a thicker seed coat (the seed coat is the protective outermost layer of the bean).

While kabuli-type beans are the ones we are accustomed to finding in U.S. salad bars and grocery stores, they actually represent only 10-20% of the garbanzo beans consumed worldwide, where the vast majority of garbanzos are desi-type beans. There are great health benefits from both types of garbanzos. However, in the case of some nutrients - including some antioxidant nutrients like quercetin, kaempferol and myricetin - desi-type beans provide more concentrated nutrient amounts since these nutrients are found in the seed coat and this seed coat is thicker in desi-type beans.

Nutritional Benefits

Garbanzo beans are a versatile and tasty legume. They can be tossed into salads, roasted, stirred into stews and mashed into a tasty, Mediterranean dip. But these tiny legumes are not only delicious, they also offer a lot of nutritional value. If you don't already have garbanzo beans as a staple in your pantry, after reading the following nutritional information, you will most likely want to.

Protein

Garbanzo beans are a great source of dietary protein. Vegetarians would do well to add garbanzo beans to their diets. When paired with whole grains, garbanzo beans provide a source of protein comparable to that of meat or dairy products, without the worry of saturated fat or cholesterol. One cup of garbanzo beans supplies roughly 27 percent of daily protein requirements.

Fiber

Garbanzo beans, like other legumes, are rich in dietary fiber. Garbanzos contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Each type of fiber works in different ways to keep the body in healthy, working order. Soluble fiber works in the digestive tract to move excess cholesterol out of the body. Insoluble fiber helps to prevent constipation and other digestive disorders. One cup of garbanzo beans supplies almost half of the recommended daily allowance of dietary fiber.

Manganese

Garbanzo beans contain significant amounts of the trace mineral manganese. Manganese plays an important role in energy production. It's also an important component in the body's antioxidant activity.

Folate

Garbanzo beans are also a good source of folate. This nutrient is vital for women of childbearing years. Consuming adequate levels of folate prior to pregnancy can prevent certain birth defects, such as spina bifida. One cup of garbanzo beans contains 70 percent of the RDA for non-pregnant adults.

Iron

Garbanzos beans are a good source of iron. Iron is important for energy production. Deficiencies often result in fatigue. Iron is especially important to menstruating women, as significant amounts of the mineral can be lost due to heavy periods.

Health Benefits

Digestive Tract Support

Even though legumes are known for their fiber, most people do not know how helpful the fiber in garbanzo beans can actually be for supporting digestive tract function. First is the issue of amount. Garbanzos contain about 12.5 grams of fiber per cup. That's 50% of the Daily Value (DV)! In addition to this plentiful amount, at least two-thirds of the fiber in garbanzos is insoluble. This insoluble fiber typically passes all the way through our digestive tract unchanged, until it reaches the last part of our large intestine (the colon). Bacteria in our colon can break down the garbanzos' insoluble fiber into short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) including acetic acid, propionic acid, and butyric acid.

These SCFAs can be absorbed by the cells that line our colon wall and can be used by these cells for energy. In fact, butyric acid is the preferred source of energy for the cells lining our colon. With the extra amounts of energy provided by SCFAs from the insoluble fiber in garbanzos, our colon cells can stay optimally active and healthy. Healthier colon cell function means lower risk for us of colon problems, including lower risk of colon cancer.

Unique Supply of Antioxidants

Many of our body systems are susceptible to oxidative stress and damage from reactive oxygen molecules. These systems include our cardiovascular system, our lungs, and our nervous system. Plentiful amounts of antioxidant nutrients are critical for the support of these body systems, and garbanzo beans are a remarkable food in terms of their antioxidant composition. While containing small but valuable amounts of conventional antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, garbanzo beans also contain more concentrated supplies of antioxidant phytonutrients.

These phytonutrients include the flavonoids quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin (usually found in the outer layer of the beans), and the phenolic acids ferulic acid, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and vanillic acid (usually found in the interior portion of the beans). Depending on the type of bean and color/thickness of the outer layer, garbanzo beans can also contain significant amounts of the anthocyanins delphinidin, cyanidin, and petunidin. The mineral manganese - a key antioxidant in the energy-producing mitochondria found inside most cells - is also provided in excellent amounts by garbanzo beans. In fact, just one cup of garbanzos can provide you with nearly 85% of the Daily Value (DV) for this key antioxidant.

An increasing number of animal and human studies clearly show the ability of garbanzo beans to reduce our risk of heart disease, and we believe that an important part of this risk reduction is due to the fantastic antioxidant make-up of these legumes.

Decreased Cardiovascular Risks

While epidemiologic studies don't always single out garbanzo beans from other beans when determining their relationship to cardiovascular disease, garbanzo beans are almost always included in the list of legumes studied when heart disease is the focus of diet research. Large-scale epidemiologic studies give us a great look at potential heart benefits from garbanzo beans, and the evidence shows garbanzo beans to be outstanding in this area. As little as 3/4 cup of garbanzos per day can help lower our LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides in a one-month period of time.

This cardiovascular support is likely to come from multiple aspects of garbanzo beans and their nutrient composition. About one-third of the fiber in garbanzo beans is soluble fiber, and this type of fiber is the type most closely associated with support of heart health. As mentioned earlier in this Health Benefits section, garbanzo beans also have a unique combination of antioxidants, and these antioxidants clearly provide support for our blood vessels walls and blood itself and while garbanzo beans are not a fatty food, they do contain valuable amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the body's omega-3 fatty acid from which all other omega-3 fats are made.

There are about 70-80 milligrams of ALA in every cup of garbanzo beans, and there are about 2 grams of other polyunsaturated fatty acids. Risk of coronary heart disease is one of the specific types of cardiovascular risks that has been shown to be reduced by regular intake of garbanzo beans and other legumes.

Better Regulation of Blood Sugar

No food macronutrients are more valuable for blood sugar regulation than fiber and protein. These two nutrients have an amazing ability to help stabilize the flow of food through our digestive tract and prevent the breakdown of food from taking place too quickly or too slowly. When food passes through us at a healthy rate of speed, release of sugar from the food is typically better regulated. Strong vitamin and mineral composition of a food - including strong antioxidant composition - can also help stabilize its digestive impact on our blood sugar. Given these basic relationships between nutrition and blood sugar control, it's not surprising to see garbanzo beans improving blood sugar regulation in research studies. We've seen studies in which participants consumed as little as 1/2 cup of garbanzo beanss per day and still witnessed better blood sugar control in as little as one week.

In animal studies, garbanzo-based improvements in blood sugar regulation have partly been linked to better control of insulin output and overall insulin function. We suspect that some of these blood sugar benefits are directly related to improved digestive function. Garbanzo beans are a fantastic food for providing our digestive system with nutrient support. Even though research studies have shown blood sugar benefits with as little as 1/2 cup servings of garbanzo beans, we recommend that you consider more generous single servings of this delicious legume, in the range of up to 1 cup.

Increased Chances for Satiety and Decreased Caloric Intake

We have been excited to see recent studies showing a positive relationship between garbanzo beans and weight management. The best single study we've seen in this regard has been a study that measured food satiety. "Food satiety" is the scientific term used to describe our satisfaction with food - how full it leaves us feeling, and how effective it is in eliminating our sense of hunger and appetite. Participants in a recent study were found to consume fewer snacks and fewer overall calories when supplementing their regular diet with garbanzo beans.

They were also found to report greater food satiety, with experiences of reduced appetite and greater food satisfaction. We look forward to some large-scale studies in this area, and we expect to see a clear role being carved out for garbanzo beans in terms of weight loss and weight management.

Along with their unusual combination of protein and fiber and their great ability to stabilize digestion, garbanzo beans also stand out as a food that is moderate in terms of calories. At approximately 250 calories per cup, we're talking about 10-15% of daily calories. In return for this moderate calorie cost, we get 50% of the DV for fiber and 29% of the DV for protein. Those nutrient amounts are great trade-offs for anyone struggling with weight loss or weight management.

Consumption Tips

Proper cleaning of garbanzos is very important, prior to their preparation. This involves the removal of any stones, debris or damaged beans, by spreading them on a light colored plate. Once the debris is removed, place the beans in a strainer and rinse them thoroughly under cool running water.

To aid the process of digestion and reduce the cooking time, the beans should be pre-soaked in a saucepan containing 2 to 3 cups of water, for each cup of beans.

There are two methods of pre-soaking the beans.

  • The first method involves boiling the beans in the saucepan for about 2 minutes and then allowing them to stand for a period of 2 to 3 hours.
  • The second method involves allowing the beans to stand overnight in the saucepan or for a period of about 8 to 9 hours. Once the soaking process is over, remove the water and rinse the beans with clean water once again.

There are two methods of cooking garbanzo beans. One is by cooking them in a pressure cooker, for a period of about 40 to 50 minutes and the other is by making use of the stovetop method. However, the latter method requires a longer time to cook.

Caution

Purines are naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and humans. In some individuals who are susceptible to purine-related problems, excessive intake of these substances can cause health problems. Since purines can be broken down to form uric acid, excess accumulation of purines in the body can lead to excess accumulation of uric acid.

The health condition called "gout" and the formation of kidney stones from uric acid are two examples of uric acid-related problems that can be related to excessive intake of purine-containing foods. For this reason, individuals with kidney problems or gout may want to limit or avoid intake of purine-containing foods such as garbanzo beans. Yet, recent research has suggested that purines from meat and fish increase risk of gout, while purines from plant foods fail to change the risk.

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