Garbanzo beans are a legume known mostly for their concentrated source of protein and fiber – 12.5 grams of fiber per cup – 50% of the daily recommended amount. The majority of the fiber is insoluble, remaining undigested until it reaches the colon, where it is broken down into short chain fatty acids (SCFA). These SCFA are a source of energy for the cells lining the colon allowing for optimal colon cell function and good colon health = lower risk of colon cancer. The high fiber and protein also stabilize food moving through the GI tract allowing for slower break down of food for better blood sugar regulation and insulin production, i.e. low glycemic load. (For an explanation of glycemic load, go to article “To Carb or Not to Carb”, Nutrition tab, “carbs”)
Garbanzo beans provide a significant source of molybdenum and manganese (both essential minerals used in many of the body’s energy functions), folate, tryptophan, phosphorus and iron.
Garbanzo beans are low in calories and fat, which is mostly polyunsaturated, including alpha-linolenic acid, the body’s omega-3 fatty acid from which all other omega-3 fats are made. These fatty acids give garbanzo beans the ability to lower cholesterol and triglycerides, and with regular intake, lowering cardiovascular risks, specifically coronary heart disease.
Garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas) comes from the Latin name Cicer arietinum, meaning “small ram”, in reference to the unique shape of the legume resembling a ram’s head.
There are 2 basis types of garbanzo beans. Most common is the kabuli-type, cream colored, round, uniform in shape, but representing only 20% of the garbanzo beans consumed worldwide. The second type, desi, is much smaller, darker (light tan to black), irregular in shape and more nutritious.
Garbanzo beans originated in the Middle East, with the first recorded consumption dating back 7,000 years, making it one of the earliest cultivated foods. Garbanzo beans were grown by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. During the 16th century, garbanzo beans were brought to other subtropical regions of the world by both Spanish and Portuguese explorers. Today, the main commercial producers are India, Pakistan, Turkey, Australia, Iran and Canada.
Garbanzo beans are extremely versatile. They can be cooked and eaten cold in salads, cooked in stews and soups, ground into flour, ground and shaped into balls and fried as falafel, stirred into a batter and baked to make farinata, cooked and ground into a paste called hummus or roasted, spiced and eaten as a snack (leblebi).
You can find garbanzo beans canned or dry, sold in bulk. Canned beans are fine if you are in a hurry, but you lose some nutrients due to the canning process, and add salt, plus the possibility of the can being lined with BPA, a chemical that can leach into the food and has been associated with health risks and increased cancers. To find out if the cans you buy with beans have BPA, contact the manufacturer.
It is safer, cheaper and more nutritious to cook the dry beans. It only adds a little more time.
Dry beans can be kept in a covered container in a dry, cool place for up to a year. After cooking, they can be kept in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Canned beans should be removed from the can and stored in the refrigerator in the same manner.
Cooking dry garbanzo beans: Rinse beans in water and drain. Place in bowl and cover with new water or vegetable stock and place in the refrigerator over night or minimum 6 hrs. Put soaked beans and the soaking liquid in a large stock pot and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer until the beans are tender. (Do not add salt to the water as this will slow down cooking to tender)
Recipe of the Month: Hummus with Red Chiles, Spinach and Feta