Beyond hummus

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From regulating blood sugar levels to combating anaemia during pregnancy, nutritionist Priya Prakash lists ways in which the Bengal gram, commonly known as chickpea, is the most sought-after home remedy

Chickpeas, which ideally belong to the legume family, have been a part of the middle-eastern, Indian and the Mediterranean cuisine since thousands of years. The two kinds of chickpeas — Desi and Kabuli — are small and dark, and large and beige-coloured with a thin skin, respectively. Nutrition experts believe that looking around at the market today, we certainly have found a new player in chickpeas. But why? What for? How did they get so popular?

Well, they are known to be a great source of plant-based proteins. They’re high in minerals, vitamins and dietary fibre. They can help control the blood sugar levels, in weight management and improve digestive health.

According to a study published in the NCBI, 100 gm cooked chickpea has 164k calories, 2.59 g fat, 8.86 g protein, 7.6 g fibre, 27.42 g carbohydrates, 48 mg magnesium, 49 mg calcium, 172 mcg foliate and 168 mg phosphorous.

It is a low and high-protein superfood and a great alternative to refined flour which has zero nutrients. Hence, various nutrition companies have developed nutritious gluten made of chickpea. So that even when you are enjoying a delicious bowl of pasta, you do not have to compromise on the health factor.

Healthy weight management

Being rich in dietary fibre and high proteins, chickpea keeps you full for a longer period of time. This results in reduced appetite and lower calorie intake which essentially helps in weight management.

Blood sugar control

Chickpea have a low glycemic index of 28. It slows the carbohydrate absorption and prevents sudden a spike in blood sugar, making it a good choice for diabetics. The high fibre also helps to prevent inflammation in individuals suffering from Type-1 diabetes.

Aids in digestion, chickpeas include both soluble as well as insoluble fibre, which promotes the growth of good gut bacteria, thereby supporting healthy digestion. The insoluble fibre in regular bowel movements and thus prevents constipation.

Helps to prevent osteoporosis

Chickpea is a good source of calcium, magnesium and potassium — all of which are highly essential for strong bones. It also has the lowest level of phytates among all beans and lentils. Phytates can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Since chickpeas are soaked before cooking, this step further reduces the phytate levels in it.

Cardiovascular health

The magnesium and potassium content in chickpea helps to maintain healthy blood pressure levels in the body. The soluble fibre helps to reduce LDL or blood cholesterol levels. Both these are known risk factors of heart diseases.

Prevents cancer

Chickpea has a number of cancer-fighting agents such as saponins, selenium, folate and beta carotenes. All these have been known to reduce the risk of developing cancer in breast, lung and colon. Consumption of chickpea also promotes the production of butyrate, which is known to reduce cell proliferation and induce apoptosis, which in turn may reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Healthy skin and hair

Nutrients like Manganese V Zincins A and B in chickpeas help to reduce wrinkles and age spots. They also help to reduce hair fall and fight dandruff.

Apply a mask made using chickpea flour (besan), turmeric powder and water on your face for 15 minutes, wash it off to see the desired glow.

Helps to combat anaemia and supports pregnancy

Rich in folate, iron, and vitamin C, all of which are essential for the synthesis of haemoglobin, chickpeas makes sure that adequate levels of vitamin C are present in the body to absorb iron. Hence, chickpeas make a valuable addition in the diet, especially for pregnant women or menopausal women, who are at higher risk of being anaemic.

Since they are a rich source of folate, they act as an essential for pregnant women. It helps in the baby’s development and prevents neural tube defects. The recommended daily intake of folate for pregnant women is 400 mcg.

The fluctuation of hormones, particularly the decline in estrogen, is the cause of many menopausal complaints or symptoms. Chickpeas are a good source of phytoestrogen, which basically are plant compound that is incapable of binding to estrogen receptors and can replace some of the effects of estrogen that is no longer being made. Regular consumption of chickpea thus helps in reducing menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

Tips to use: Apart from the all-time favourite masala, chickpeas can be used in salads, hummus and also as a roasted snack. It can be grounded into flour and used as a thickener in gravies or to make crunchy pakodas.

(The writer is Nutrition Coach and Co-Founder of Naturally Yours.)

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