Chickpeas are members of the pulse family, which also includes lentils and a variety of different beans. Chickpeas are round, about the size of a marble, and have a nutty flavour. They are used extensively in Middle Eastern and Asian cooking in a variety of different ways. Chickpeas are a crucial ingredient in traditional hummus, which is also made with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and tahini. Nutritionally, chickpeas are a good source of manganese, iron, folate, and vitamin E. Chickpeas can be ground into a flour that can be used to make dishes such as socca, or can be added to smoothies and baked goods to boost the nutritional content whilst not altering the overall flavour too much.
Pulses, such as chickpeas, are a nutritious and affordable alternative to meat thanks to their relatively high protein content, and although they do not contain a complete amino acid profile they are able to contribute sufficient amounts of all the essential amino acids when paired with other plant-based foods such as whole grains, seeds, and nuts. Pulses are incredibly versatile ingredients that can be used in pretty much everything, from breakfast to dessert. Lentils, beans, chickpeas and split peas can make meals go further, reducing the overall cost and fat content when used to substitute half of the meat in a dish, whilst boosting the nutritional content. Pulses contain both insoluble fibre, which promotes regular bowel movements, and soluble fibre, which plays a role in reducing blood cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease. The carbohydrate makeup of pulses is such that they have a relatively low GI, allowing them to be digested slowly and release steady levels of glucose into the blood following their consumption.
So what is the downside to including chickpeas and other pulses in one’s diet? Well, they can cause gassiness in some individuals due to their hard-to-digest resistant starch content. Most pulses, aside from split peas and lentils, require several hours of soaking in water before cooking in order both reduce their cooking time and reduce the indigestible starches that cause flatulence. Interestingly enough, some sources suggest that adding herbs like fennel, sage, rosemary, lemon balm, and caraway can help prevent flatulence in some individuals, however, the evidence to support this is limited. Another way to reduce the gassiness caused by legumes is to change the water a few times whilst dried pulses are left to soak, as well as draining and rinsing them thoroughly before cooking.