You can use chickpeas, also known as garbanzo or ceci beans, in dishes as varied as hummus, curries and falafel. They not only provide nutrients such as dietary fiber and potassium but are also good sources of protein. Because they are low in saturated fat and are cholesterol-free, you can regularly include garbanzo beans as heart-healthy meat substitutes.
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Meet Your Protein Needs
Each cup of garbanzo beans provides 12 grams of protein, or 24 percent of the daily value based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Protein is an essential nutrient for building muscles, repairing body tissues and supporting digestion and immune functions. Meat, poultry and fish are rich in protein, containing about 22 to 27 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving. Soy products and lentils, split peas and beans are the best vegetarian sources of protein.
Combine Your Proteins
Proteins in food and in your body consist of building blocks called amino acids. Protein from soy products and animal-derived foods, such as meat and dairy products, are complete because they contain each of the amino acids that you need to get from the diet. The protein in chickpeas is incomplete because it does not contain each of the amino acids, but you can meet your needs through the principle of protein combining. Consume garbanzo beans with whole grains to get a complete protein. Try whole-grain couscous with a vegetable and garbanzo bean stew, or spread hummus on a whole-grain wrap. You do not need to consume garbanzo beans in the same meal as whole grains to meet your amino acid requirements. You can meet your needs by consuming varied protein sources throughout the day.
Prepare Chickpeas Healthfully
A benefit of choosing chickpeas for your protein source is that they can be better for your heart than protein sources such as fatty meats. Foods such as regular ground beef, fatty steaks and sausage can be high in saturated fat, which raises levels of cholesterol in your blood and can increase the risk for heart disease. Chickpeas are cholesterol-free and contain less than 1 gram of saturated fat per cup. Keep them low in fat and cholesterol by preparing them in recipes without butter or other full-fat dairy products or oils.
Protein is a filling nutrient that can help you control your weight by suppressing hunger for longer after a meal or snack than if you do not consume protein. Add chickpeas to a green salad at lunch to boost your protein intake, or pack cooked, dried garbanzo beans for a high-protein snack. Chickpeas can be a nutritious meat substitute, and you can make a vegetarian burger with complete protein using chickpeas, oats, black pepper, peas, mushrooms and carrots.