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Garbanzo beans, also called chickpeas and may be better known when made into hummus, have been the mainstay of the Mediterranean and Indian diets for thousands of years. Only recently have the health benefits been more fully understood.
As with all beans, chickpeas are LOADED with fiber and high in protein – but garbanzo beans have some special nutrients on board such as quercetin, which supports healthy circulation and immunity, and chlorogenic acid, which is the antioxidant that has made coffee famous. They are rich in vitamins like folate, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin and beta-carotene and minerals such as magnesium, potassium and manganese. They are also a good source of health-promoting fatty acids like linoleic and oleic acids, which are the main ingredients in olive oil. (1)
Fiber & Fat
Garbanzo beans are rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber acts as roughage to scrub the intestines and support healthy and efficient bowel function while feeding beneficial microbes. The soluble fiber, makes the garbanzo bean a bit slimy and allows it to attach to bile acids in the intestines and escort the bile, cholesterol and toxins attached to the bile to the toilet. (2,3)
Garbanzo beans are also rich in resistant starches like oligosaccharides and amylose, which are sugars that are not digested into the small intestine and are delivered to the large intestines where they can feed the good gut bacteria. These naturally-occurring resistant starches in chickpeas have been shown to help stabilize blood sugar levels in the short term. (8)
In one study, a group of volunteers were split off into three groups: a high-fat diet, a low-fat diet and a high-fat diet with garbanzo beans. The group that ate a high-fat diet along with garbanzo beans saw a 15 percent reduction in cholesterol and a significant increase of bile acids (which carry toxins and bad cholesterol) in the stool. The garbanzo-eating group outperformed both the high- and low-fat diet groups. (3)
Cravings and Blood Sugar
According to one report, 80 percent of all weight loss and diet plans are unsuccessful in maintaining the weight loss over time. (9) While there are many reasons for this, the bottom line is that these diets and weight loss plans leave most people feeling hungry.
A diet rich in garbanzo beans like we see in the Mediterranean Diets provide a natural source of leptin, which supports satiety and curbs appetite. All beans will offer these weight management benefits as they are one of the healthiest sources of protein. Beans, as a source of protein, actually deliver more fullness per calories than the same amount of fat or carbs and are key components of any weight management plan. In fact, higher protein diets (with an emphasis on beans) combined with a reduction of fat intake are well-documented to reduce belly or visceral fat. (5)
The soluble fiber in garbanzo beans have been shown to slow the absorption of sugars, slow gastric emptying, and thus reduce cravings and calorie consumption, supporting healthy weight management. (2)
A diet rich in fiber and proteins from beans and legumes increases the production of the satiety hormone, cholecystokinin, which tells the brain to stop releasing the hunger hormone called ghrelin. The result is a healthy and natural regulation of body weight.
In one study, 84 overweight patients followed a calorie-restricted diet with four servings of legumes like garbanzo beans each week for 2 months. All of them experienced a significant reduction in skinfold thickness, including weight circumference, and a significant reduction in the oxidation of the LDL cholesterols. (6)
In addition to the fiber-based hunger hormone regulation, garbanzo beans have a very low glycemic index, and are thus slow to be absorbed into the bloodstream. In one study, the after-meal blood sugar spikes from leguminous seeds like garbanzo beans were 45 percent lower than the same amount of carbohydrates from grains, pasta, or cereals. (7)
Finally, there are numerous studies that suggest a low-glycemic index diet rich in beans will support healthy blood sugar levels. (8) Beans are required to be combined with a grain, such as rice, in order for them to provide a complete protein.
Garbanzo beans are one of the most common beans in Ayurveda because they are easy to digest compared to other beans. Most beans have a very hard shell composed of hard-to-digest anti-nutrients that require soaking, par-boiling, slow cooking and a good, strong digestive system. Ayurveda always puts a strong emphasis on foods that are easy to digest and good for the intestines. The two top, easy-to-digest beans are garbanzo beans and split yellow mung beans, which we use in our LifeSpa Cleanses either alone or in the Ayurvedic superfood, kitchari.