Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
Chickpeas have been grown and consumed in middle eastern countries for centuries and are thought to have originated in Turkey. They are a fantastic source of plant based protein.
Chickpeas are part of the legume family and are excellent on the nutrition front as they are a low cost, source of protein (often enjoyed in vegan and vegetarian meals as they are a great replacement for meat). Chickpeas contain almost all the essential amino acids that the body needs, except for methionine, so therefore it is important to add another protein source such as grains to chickpeas to obtain the full amino acid complement. They are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Some of the key nutrients that they provide include vitamin E, magnesium, choline, iron, zinc, calcium, potassium and folate.
When it comes to general health, chickpeas offer some amazing health benefits including: improving digestion and preventing constipation, aiding weight management (they reduce the appetite and promote a feeling of fullness), in skin health and in disease prevention.
Chickpeas are very high in folate and this helps to lower levels of blood homocysteine which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and there is some evidence linking high homocysteine levels to complications during pregnancy. They are high in insoluble fibre, which is able to bind to excess cholesterol and remove it from the body – this helps in the prevention of digestive disorders and constipation.
The very fact that chickpeas are rich in magnesium is a winner for those who need help to get a good night’s sleep and reduce stress. Magnesium is also important in heart health and reducing the symptoms of PMS.
Chickpeas contain a good amount of soluble fibre which may help promote the growth of the ‘friendly’ bacteria in the gut benefitting not only gut health but general health too.
When it comes to fertility
The protein in chickpeas helps to balance out carbohydrate foods which, when it comes to fertility, is important in the regulation of sugar, and especially important for those with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and also those watching their weight.
The folate provided by chickpeas contributes to red blood cell formation and energy metabolism, may help to prevent early pregnancy defects, is important re sperm quality, helps to counteract stress and inflammation and plays an important role in the prevention of neural tube defects in the developing foetus.
Chickpeas are a good source of choline too. Choline is classed as a B vitamin and the body cannot make enough of it to meet it’s needs. Studies are now suggesting that it is important during the development of the brain and neural tube in the foetus. So, eat your chickpeas! Egg yolk is another great source of choline as are shiitake mushrooms, potatoes and milk.
Want to read more?
Mascarenhas M, Habeebullah S, Sridhar MG. Revisiting the role of first trimester homocysteine as an index of maternal and fetal outcome. J Pregnancy. 2014;2014:123024. doi:10.1155/2014/123024
Merviel P, Cabry R, Lourdel E, et al. Comparison of two preventive treatments for patients with recurrent miscarriages carrying a C677T methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase mutation: 5-year experience. J Int Med Res. 2017;45(6):1720–1730. doi:10.1177/0300060516675111
Murphy MM, Fernandez-ballart JD. Homocysteine in pregnancy. Adv Clin Chem. 2011;53:105-37.
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