Chickpeas or Garbanzo beans (Chana and chholey in Hindi, Bengal gram in English) have been a part of our palate since the early civilizations. Chickpeas belong to the pea family. The chickpea plant grows up to a height of 2-3 feet, bears small feathery leaves, white flowers with blue or purple thin stripes followed by green pods containing the beans or seeds.
There are two kinds of chickpeas. The smaller variety with darker seeds is known as Bengal gram; this is cultivated in India. A second, lighter coloured variety with larger seeds is known as Kabuli Chana. This is grown in Southern Europe, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Chickpeas are native to the Mediterranean region and West Asia. India is the largest producer of chickpeas. They can be cooked, used in curries, roasted, eaten in sprouted form, or ground into flour.
Chemical composition: Chickpeas are a rich source of protein and folates. They also contain carbohydrates, soluble and insoluble fibres, vitamins A, B, C, E and K, minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and magnesium. Chick peas contain no fat.
Medical benefits: Chickpeas contains lots of nutrients, especially fibre and protein, which makes them a very healthy food. They reduce appetite, and control hunger which is beneficial for the obese and those who want to reduce weight. Sprouted chickpeas are even more nutritious, contain more protein and are easily digestible. Chickpeas in a limited quantity are also beneficial for pregnant, menstruating, and nursing women, and growing children as they contain iron and helps prevent anaemia. Fibre and folate content helps protect the heart, improves digestion and reduces the risk of various types of cancer. They are beneficial for people who are recommended a low sodium diet such as those suffering from kidney and liver problems. They have low glycaemic index and maintain blood sugar levels in diabetics. In India, chickpea flour is mixed with wheat flour to make chapattis; this helps provide additional protein along with carbohydrates. A paste made by mixing chickpea flour with yogurt is used as a face pack. It tones the skin and removes dead skin cells from the face.
Contraindications: Excessive consumption of chickpeas can cause digestive problems. Pregnant women should eat chickpeas in limited quantity.