Monday, May 14, 2007

Garbanzo Beans

The World's Healthiest Foods

Comment: This is our new taste treat delight at school this week. We will be serving hummus.
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

Garbonzo beans (also known as chickpeas) have a delicious nutlike taste and buttery texture. They provide a good source of protein that can be enjoyed year-round and are available either dried or canned.

A very versatile legume, they are a noted ingredient in many Middle Eastern and Indian dishes such as hummus, falafels and curries. While many people think of garbanzos as being beige in color, there are varieties that feature black, green, red and brown beans.

Food Chart

Health Benefits

Garbanzos (also called chickpeas) are a good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, as are most other beans. In addition to lowering cholesterol, garbanzos' high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making these beans an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. When combined with whole grains such as rice, garbanzos provide virtually fat-free high quality protein. But this is far from all garbanzos have to offer. Garbanzos are an excellent source of the trace mineral, molybdenum, an integral component of the enzyme sulfite oxidase, which is responsible for detoxifying sulfites. Sulfites are a type of preservative commonly added to prepared foods like delicatessen salads and salad bars. Persons who are sensitive to sulfites in these foods may experience rapid heartbeat, headache or disorientation if sulfites are unwittingly consumed. If you have ever reacted to sulfites, it may be because your molybdenum stores are insufficient to detoxify them.

A Fiber All Star

Check a chart of the fiber content in foods and you'll see legumes leading the pack. Garbanzos, like other beans, are rich in both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract that snares bile (which contains cholesterol)and ferries it out of the body. Research studies have shown that insoluble fiber not only helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.

Lower Your Heart Attack Risk

In a study that examined food intake patterns and risk of death from coronary heart disease, researchers followed more than 16,000 middle-aged men in the U.S., Finland, The Netherlands, Italy, former Yugoslavia, Greece and Japan for 25 years. Typical food patterns were: higher consumption of dairy products in Northern Europe; higher consumption of meat in the U.S.; higher consumption of vegetables, legumes, fish, and wine in Southern Europe; and higher consumption of cereals, soy products, and fish in Japan. When researchers analyzed this data in relation to the risk of death from heart disease, they found that legumes were associated with a whopping 82% reduction in risk!

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirms that eating high fiber foods, such as garbanzo beans, helps prevent heart disease. Almost 10,000 American adults participated in this study and were followed for 19 years. People eating the most fiber, 21 grams per day, had 12% less coronary heart disease (CHD) and 11% less cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared to those eating the least, 5 grams daily. Those eating the most water-soluble dietary fiber fared even better with a 15% reduction in risk of CHD and a 10% risk reduction in CVD.

Garbanzo Beans Lower Cholesterol

Other research published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism has shown that including garbanzo beans, specifically, in the diet significantly lowers both total and LDL "bad" cholesterol (Pittaway JK, Ahuga KD, et al.).

In this study, 47 adults participated in two eating plans of at least 5 weeks duration. Each food plan provided sufficient calories to maintain participants' weight, but one plan was supplemented with garbanzo beans and the other with wheat. The garbanzo-supplemented diet, which provided slightly less protein and fat, and more carbohydrate than the wheat-supplemented diet, resulted in a significant 3.9% drop in total cholesterol, which was largely due to a 4.6% drop in LDL "bad" cholesterol.

Practical Tip: Enjoyed regularly, garbanzo beans can help lower LDL "bad" cholesterol. Add garbanzos to tossed salads, enjoy them as a dip or spread in the form of hummus or baba ganoush, or let them take center stage as the main ingredient in a spicy curry.

Garbanzos' contribution to heart health lies not just in their fiber, but in the significant amounts of folate and magnesium these beans supply. Folate helps lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is an intermediate product in an important metabolic process called the methylation cycle. Elevated blood levels of homocysteine are an independent risk factor for heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease, and are found in between 20-40% of patients with heart disease. It has been estimated that consumption of 100% of the daily value (DV) of folate would, by itself, reduce the number of heart attacks suffered by Americans each year by 10%. Just one cup of cooked garbanzo beans provides 70.5% of the DV for folate. Garbanzos' supply of magnesium puts yet another plus in the column of its beneficial cardiovascular effects. Magnesium is Nature's own calcium channel blocker. When enough magnesium is around, veins and arteries breathe a sigh of relief and relax, which lessens resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Studies show that a deficiency of magnesium is not only associated with heart attack but that immediately following a heart attack, lack of sufficient magnesium promotes free radical injury to the heart. Want to literally keep your heart happy? Eat garbanzos.

For even more cardio-protection, team garbanzo beans with garlic or turmeric:

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Level III-3 evidence shows that consuming a half to one clove of garlic daily may have a cholesterol-lowering effect of up to 9%. For a quick, tasty hummus, just combine pre-cooked garbanzos in the blender with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and/or onion, salt and pepper to taste.

In other research, when 10 healthy volunteers consumed 500 mg of curcumin per day for 7 days, not only did their blood levels of oxidized cholesterol drop by 33%, but their total cholesterol droped 11.63% , and their HDL "good" cholesterol increased by 29%! (Soni KB, Kuttan R, Indian J Physiol Phartmacol.) Healthy sauté onions with turmeric for 2-3 minutes then add pre-cooked garbanzos and heat until warmed through. For the most curcumin, be sure to use turmeric rather curry powder-a study analyzing curcumin content in 28 spice products described as turmeric or curry powders found that pure turmeric powder had the highest concentration of curcumin, averaging 3.14% by weight. The curry powder samples, with one exception, contained very small amounts of curcumin. (Tayyem RF, Heath DD, et al. Nutr Cancer)

Practical Tip: Increase garbanzos' cardio-protective effects by spicing them with garlic, which also lowers cholesterol, and turmeric, which not only lowers LDL "bad" cholesterol, but also increases HDL "good" cholesterol. Be sure to use turmeric rather than curry powder; turmeric contains more of the protective compound, curcumin, than does curry powder.

Garbanzos Give You Energy to Burn While Stabilizing Blood Sugar

In addition to its beneficial effects on the digestive system and the heart, soluble fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels. If you have insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes, beans like garbanzos can really help you balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy. Studies of high fiber diets and blood sugar levels have shown the dramatic benefits provided by these high fiber foods. Researchers compared two groups of people with type 2 diabetes who were fed different amounts of high fiber foods. One group ate the standard American Diabetic diet, which contains 24 grams of fiber/day, while the other group ate a diet containing 50 grams of fiber/day. Those who ate the diet higher in fiber had lower levels of both plasma glucose (blood sugar) and insulin (the hormone that helps blood sugar get into cells). The high fiber group also reduced their total cholesterol by nearly 7%, their triglyceride levels by 10.2% and their VLDL (Very Low Density Lipoprotein--the most dangerous form of cholesterol)levels by 12.5%.

Iron for Energy

In addition to providing slow burning complex carbohydrates, garbanzos can increase your energy by helping to replenish your iron stores. Particularly for menstruating women, who are more at risk for iron deficiency, boosting iron stores with garbanzos is a good idea--especially because, unlike red meat, another source of iron, garbanzos are low in calories and virtually fat-free. Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. And remember: If you're pregnant or lactating, your needs for iron increase. Growing children and adolescents also have increased needs for iron.

Manganese for Energy Production and Antioxidant Defense

Garbanzos are an excellent source of the trace mineral manganese, which is an essential cofactor in a number of enzymes important in energy production and antioxidant defenses. For example, the key oxidative enzyme superoxide dismutase, which disarms free radicals produced within the mitochondria (the energy production factories within our cells), requires manganese. Just one cup of garbanzo beans supplies 84.5% of the DV for this very important trace mineral.

Protein Power Plus

If you're wondering how to replace red meat in your menus, become a fan of garbanzo beans. These nutty flavored beans are a good source of protein, and when combined with a whole grain such as whole wheat pasta or brown rice, provide protein comparable to that of meat or dairy foods without the high calories or saturated fat found in these foods. And, when you get your protein from garbanzos, you also get the blood sugar stabilizing and heart health benefits of the soluble fiber provided by these versatile legumes.


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. Garbanzo beans are also referred to as chickpeas, Bengal grams and Egyptian peas.

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. While many people think of chickpeas as being in beige in color, other varieties feature colors such as black, green, red and brown.


Garbanzo beans originated in the Middle East, the region of the world whose varied food cultures still heavily rely upon this high protein legume. The first record of garbanzos being consumed dates back about seven thousand years. They were first cultivated around approximately 3000 BC. Their cultivation began in the Mediterranean basin and subsequently spread to India and Ethiopia.

Garbanzos were grown by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans and were very popular among these cultures. During the 16th century, garbanzo beans were brought to other subtropical regions of the world by both Spanish and Portuguese explorers as well as Indians who emigrated to other countries. Today, the main commercial producers of garbanzos are India, Pakistan, Turkey, Ethiopia and Mexico.

How to Select and Store

Dried garbanzos are generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the garbanzo beans are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure maximal freshness. Whether purchasing garbanzos in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure that there is no evidence of moisture or insect damage and that they are whole and not cracked.

Canned garbanzo beans can be found in most supermarkets. Unlike canned vegetables, which have lost much of their nutritional value, there is little difference in the nutritional value of canned garbonzo beans and those you cook yourself. Canning lowers vegetables' nutritional value since they are best lightly cooked for a short period of time, while their canning process requires a long cooking time at high temperatures. On the other hand, beans require a long time to cook whether they are canned or you cook them yourself. Therefore, if enjoying canned beans is more convenient for you, by all means go ahead and enjoy them. We would suggest looking for those that do not contain extra salt or additives.

If purchasing chickpea flour, more generally available in ethnic food stores, make sure that it is made from chickpeas that have been cooked since in their raw form, they contain a substance that is hard to digest and produces flatulence.

Store dried garbanzo beans in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place where they will keep for up to 12 months. If you purchase garbanzos at different times, store them separately since they may feature varying stages of dryness and therefore will require different cooking times. Cooked garbanzo beans will keep fresh in the refrigerator for about three days if placed in a covered container.

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Tips for Preparing Garbanzo Beans

Before washing garbanzos, you should spread them out on a light colored plate or cooking surface to check for, and remove, small stones, debris or damaged beans. After this process, place them in a strainer, and rinse them thoroughly under cool running water.

To shorten their cooking time and make them easier to digest, garbanzo beans should be presoaked (presoaking has been found to reduce the raffinose-type oligosaccharides, sugars associated with causing flatulence.) There are two basic methods for presoaking. For each you should start by placing the beans in a saucepan and adding two to three cups of water per cup of beans.

The first method is to boil the beans for two minutes, take pan off the heat, cover and allow to stand for two hours. The alternative method is to simply soak the garbanzos in water for eight hours or overnight, placing pan in the refrigerator so that they will not ferment. Before cooking them, regardless of method, skim off the any skins that floated to the surface, drain the soaking liquid, and then rinse them with clean water.

To cook the garbanzo beans, you can either cook them on the stovetop or use a pressure cooker. For the stovetop method, add three cups of fresh water or broth for each cup of dried garbonzo beans. The liquid should be about one to two inches above the top of the legumes. Bring them to a boil, and then reduce the heat to simmer, partially covering the pot. If any foam develops, skim it off during the simmering process. Garbanzo beans generally take about one to one and one-half hours to become tender using this method.

Garbanzos can also be cooked in a pressure cooker where they take about 40 to 50 minutes to cook. Since garbanzo beans tend to foam when cooked in a pressure cooker, you should add a tablespoon of oil to the water to prevent the vent from becoming clogged. Regardless of cooking method, do not add any seasonings that are salty or acidic until after the beans have been cooked since adding them earlier will make the beans tough and greatly increase the cooking time.

If you are running short on time, you can always use canned beans in your recipes. If the garbanzo beans have been packaged with salt or other additives, simply rinse them after opening the can to remove these unnecessary additions. Canned beans need to only be heated briefly for hot recipes while they can be used as is for salads or prepared cold dishes like hummus.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Purée garbanzo beans, olive oil, fresh garlic, tahini and lemon juice to make a quick and easy hummus spread.

Sprinkle garbanzo beans with your favorite spices and herbs and eat as a snack.

Add garbanzo beans to your green salads.

Make a middle Eastern-inspired pasta dish by adding garbanzo beans to penne mixed with olive oil, feta cheese and fresh oregano.

Simmer cooked garbanzo beans in a sauce of tomato paste, curry spices, and chopped walnuts and serve this dahl-type dish with brown rice.

Adding garbanzo beans to your vegetable soup will enhance its taste, texture and nutritional content.


Garbonzo Beans and Purines
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 garbonzo 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. For more on this subject, please see "What are purines and in which foods are they found?"

Nutritional Profile

Garbanzo beans are an excellent source of molybdenum and manganese. They are also a very good source of folate and a good source of protein, dietary fiber, copper, phosphorous and iron.

For an in-depth nutritional profile click here: Garbanzo beans.

In-Depth Nutritional Profile

In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents; the nutrient density rating; and the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. Read detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System.

Garbonzo beans (chickpeas), cooked
1.00 cup
164.00 grams
268.96 calories
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
molybdenum123.00 mcg164.011.0excellent
manganese1.69 mg84.55.7excellent
folate282.08 mcg70.54.7very good
dietary fiber12.46 g49.83.3good
tryptophan0.14 g43.82.9good
protein14.53 g29.11.9good
copper0.58 mg29.01.9good
phosphorus275.52 mg27.61.8good
iron4.74 mg26.31.8good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
very goodDV>=50%ORDensity>=3.4ANDDV>=5%
In Depth Nutritional Profile for Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

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