Food of the week... Garbanzo Beans

Once again… it’s long but you’ll learn something! Enjoy!! There are a few recipes and ways to use at the bottom.

Garbanzo 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.

Garbanzos 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!

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

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:

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.

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.

Tips for Preparing Garbanzo 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.

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.

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.


  1. We call them chick peas here. Don't know why. I love saying garbenzo... over and over...


    I love me some chick peas!

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  3. I love, love, love garbanzo beans. I could survive on hummus alone, truly. Though I might miss chocolate a little... :)

    They are like a super-food! I loved reading all the info, thanks!


  4. Please, please, please keep including info like this. I really enjoy both the 'fun' stuff on your blog & the great bits of natural & healthy info.
    You could say I'm starting to 'turn the corner' on our eating habits around here...and I need your inspiration & ideas....keep'em coming!

  5. I'm excited to try your hummus recipe! Mmmm!


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