Crazy About Garbanzos! The Health Benefits of Legumes

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Today I made salads for lunch for both Dad and me. Dad’s a pretty traditional eater so if I’m planning on adding anything he would consider “exotic,” I normally ask him. Today’s addition was garbanzo beans. His answer: “No.” My response: “Good! There’s more for me!”

    I’ve grown quite attached to garbanzo beans, which also are known as chickpeas. These beans are part of a classification known as legumes, which includes peas, lentils and beans. According to the Mayo Clinic, legumes are considered some of the most versatile and nutritious foods that you can eat because they are usually low in fat, have no cholesterol, and are great sources of folate, potassium, iron,  magnesium, beneficial fats, and soluble and insoluble fiber.

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    Going to the grocery store can be an adventure when you enter the aisle that houses the legumes because you have so many choices.  Many of these are available in dried form as well as in cans. According to the Mayo Clinic, these can include Adzuki beans (field peas or red oriental beans), Anasazi beans (Jacob’s  cattle beans), black beans (turtle beans), black-eyed peas (cowpeas), chickpeas (garbanzo or ceci beans), edamame (green soybeans), fava beans (broad or horse beans), lentils, lima beans (butter or Madagascar beans), red kidney beans, and soy nuts (roasted soybeans or soya beans).

    And there are lots of health benefits packed into these tiny vegetables. For instance, Sunrise Senior Living points to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine that suggests that eating beans, chickpeas and lentils can assist people with diabetes in improving their glycemic control and also reduce their risk of coronary heart disease. In this three-month study, researchers assigned 121 patients who had type 2 diabetes mellitus into two groups. One group was asked to consume a large quantity of legumes while the other group regularly ate whole wheat products. At the end of the study period, the study participants who had increased their consumption of legumes by at least one cup daily actually decreased their hemoglobin A1c values (which show how well diabetes is being managed) by a larger amount than the other group.

    Furthermore, an article by Samantha Heller on Dr. Mehmet Oz’s website notes the following benefits from eating lentils:

    • Lowering of the risk of colorectal polyps and, thus, lower the risk of colorectal cancer.
    • Decrease the risk of coronary heart disease.
    • Lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, especially when eating soybeans, as identified by the Shanghai Women’s Health Study. “The more legumes these women ate, the lower of getting type 2 diabetes,” Heller reported.

    And individual types of beans also can have specific health benefits. Take, for instance, my beloved garbanzos. The George Mateljan Foundation points to research found that participants were more satisfied with their diet when garbanzos were included. In fact, the researchers found that participants ate fewer processed food snacks and ate less food overall when the diet included these types of beans.

  • Another study looked at the fiber content in garbanzo beans. Two groups of participants received approximately 28 grams of fiber per day from two different dietary sources, one of which was garbanzo beans. The researchers’ analysis found that the participants who were part of the garbanzo bean group had better blood fat regulation, which included lower levels of total cholesterol,  LDL-cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and triglycerides.

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    So how much should you try to consume? In 2005, the U.S. department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended consuming three cups of legumes per week. The daily serving is defined to ½ cup legumes, so to reach the recommended amount, you need to try to eat ½ cup of cooked legumes on a daily basis. The George Mateljan Foundation notes that other research indicates that you can have even greater health benefits if you consume 1-2 cups of legumes daily on at least four days per week.

    Primary Sources For This Sharepost:

    George Mateljan Foundation. (nd). Garbanzo beans (chickpeas).

    Heller, S. (2011). After-40 nutrition: The surprising health benefits of beans.

    Mayo Clinic. (2011). Beans and other legumes: Types and cooking tips.

    Sunrise Senior Living. (2012). Research shows benefits of eating legumes for diabetics.

Published On: November 15, 2012