Superfood Spotlight: Chickpeas

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a type of pulse, or edible seed, in the legume family.1,2 There are two main categories of chickpea: Desi, which are small and dark with a rough coat, and Kabuli, which are larger and lightly-colored with a smooth coat.3,4 The Desi variety tends to grow in semiarid areas, such as Ethiopia, Mexico, and Central America, whereas Kabuli chickpeas are typically grown in more temperate climates, in locations such as North Africa and the Mediterranean.3,4 Over 84 percent of all chickpea production takes place in Asia,3 and as of 2018, India produced over 11 million tons of chickpeas, the greatest proportion of any country.4

Nutrition Information

These pulses pack a huge nutritional punch. One cup of cooked chickpeas has about one-third of the daily value of protein for adults,2 with 14.5g, as well as 4.25g of fat and 44.9g of carbohydrates.5 Cooked chickpeas are also an excellent source of fiber, containing 12.5g per cup. They are also a good source of manganese (1.69mg), folate (282µg), potassium (477mg), and iron (4.74mg).5 

Research has shown that, compared to people who did not eat chickpeas, those who consumed chickpeas and/or hummus had higher Healthy Eating Index (HEI)-2005 scores, as well as higher intakes of dietary fiber, polyunsaturated fatty acids, folate, magnesium, potassium, iron, and vitamins A, E, and C and lower intakes of total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.1 

Health Benefits

Due to their high fiber and protein content, chickpeas can help suppress your appetite, leaving you feeling fuller longer.6 Additionally, chickpeas have a low glycemic index,1,4,6 which can help in managing blood sugar, and the slow absorption of fiber can also aid in preventing blood sugar spikes.6 The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends chickpeas as a source of fiber for people with diabetes.7 Studies have even shown that chickpea consumption was associated with reduced risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.2,6  

Chickpeas have been associated with improved cardiovascular health as well—research has demonstrated that chickpea consumption can reduce total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterols.1,2,6 Chickpeas may even help reduce the risk of cancer, as they contain saponins, which are bioactive compounds associated with the prevention of certain cancers and reduction of cancer lesions; in addition, eating chickpeas promotes the production of butyrate, a short chain fatty acid that can reduce cell proliferation and induce cell apoptosis in cancer.1,6

Dietary Alternatives

Chickpeas be boiled, baked, air fried, eaten raw, or made into hummus, as well as be used as dairy and gluten alternatives for people with dietary restrictions. For example, chickpea flour can be used to make pasta, which benefits people following a gluten-free diet and people with diabetes, thanks to its low glycemic index.4  

One study from 2022 showed that, when making gluten-free bread, replacing 25 percent of rice four with either chickpea flour, dehulled chickpea flour, or roasted chickpea flour increased the bread’s protein content by 33.9, 23.7, and 35.9 percent, respectively. Bread containing chickpea flour had lower starch levels as well.8

Chickpea milk is a good, protein-rich alternative to dairy milk, especially when compared to common, low-protein milk alternatives (e.g., almond, oat, and rice milks).9,10 One study showed chickpea milk to contain 3.24 percent (weight per volume [w/v]) protein, comparable to the 3.3 to 3.5 percent (w/v) in cow’s milk.9 Another study demonstrated that a milk alternative made with 100-percent chickpea extract had a protein value of 2.1g/100g, which was higher than protein values found in milk alternatives made with almond extract (0.42g/100g), rice extract (0.0g/100g), and 100-percent coconut extract (1.04g/100g).10

Even the water from canned chickpeas serves a purpose. Called aquafaba, this residual liquid can act as an egg white substitute. It has foaming properties similar to egg whites,4,11 and its emulsion properties were determined to be better than those of egg whites.4 These properties make it a great egg substitute in plant-based recipes, such as meringues.11

Bottom Line

Chickpeas are delicious and versatile, and their nutritional value cannot be understated. They are a beneficial addition to any diet, especially for those who wish to increase their protein and fiber intake. 

  1. Wallace TC, Murray R, Zelman KM. The nutritional value and health benefits of chickpeas and hummus. Nutrients. 2016;8(12):766.
  2. Ware M. What are the benefits of chickpeas? Updated 11 May 2022. Medical News Today website. Accessed 9 Aug 2022.
  3. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Pulses: nutritious seeds for a sustainable future. 2016. Accessed 9 Aug 2022.
  4. Grasso N, Lynch NL, Arendt EK, O’Mahony JA. Chickpea protein ingredients: a review of composition, functionality and applications. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2022;21:435– 452. 
  5. United States Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central. Chickpeas (garbanzo beans, bengal gram), mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt. Apr 2018. Accessed 9 Aug 2022.
  6. Healthline website. 10 science-backed benefits of chickpeas. Reviewed 21 Oct 2021. Accessed 9 Aug 2022.
  7. American Diabetes Association website. Get to know carbs. Accessed 9 Aug 2022.
  8. Kahraman G, Harsa S, Casiraghi MC, et al. Impact of raw, roasted and dehulled chickpea flours on technological and nutritional characteristics of gluten-free bread. Foods. 2022;11(2):199.
  9. Duarte CM, Mota J, Assunção R, et al. New alternatives to milk from pulses: chickpea and lupin beverages with improved digestibility and potential bioactivities for human health. Front Nutr. 2022;9:852907. 
  10. Rincon L, Botelho RBA, de Alencar ER. Development of novel plant-based milk based on chickpea and cocnut. LWT. 2020;128:109479.
  11. America’s Test Kitchen website. What exactly is aquafaba and how do I make it? Accessed 9 Aug 2022.  



Written by

NHR Staff

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