Rearranging the foods you eat by adding more nutritious items to your diet can drastically improve your health and longevity.
As a nutritionist, one of my favorite healthy foods that I always keep in my kitchen is a can of organic chickpeas with no salt (or low sodium). Chickpeas are a type of legume from the same family as kidney beans and peanuts. Sometimes called chickpea beans, the most common chickpea is round in shape and beige in color, but other varieties are black, green, or red.
A staple in the Mediterranean diet, chickpeas are high in fiber and protein, both of which are necessary for bone, muscle, and skin health. (One cup of chickpeas has 12.5 grams of fiber and 14.5 grams of protein.)
Even longevity expert Dan Buettner agrees on the health benefits of chickpeas. Buettner, who coined the term “blue zones” – or places around the world where people live the longest – asked dozen of top nutritionists and food scientists what people should eat to live long and healthy lives. He found that among the most recommended foods, chickpeas stood out “like a flashing neon sign”.
Here are six easy, quick, and creative ways to incorporate chickpeas into your daily eating routine:
1. Swap croutons with roasted chickpeas in salads
This is a great way to add crunch, fiber, protein, and flavor to your bowl of veggies.
Roasted chickpeas are available at most grocery stores. However, you can also make them yourself at home by rinsing and drying canned chickpeas. (It helps to dab them between paper towels or clean tea towels.) Then add a few tablespoons of olive oil and toast them on a baking sheet at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until they turn crispy and golden brown.
If you want a stronger flavor, throw in spices like paprika, cumin, or black pepper.
2. Add chickpeas to smoothies for extra creaminess
The key to a filling smoothie is adding protein and healthy fats. So if you don’t have protein powder on hand, chickpeas are a great source of vegetable protein.
They also give your smoothie a nice fiber boost for a more balanced meal – and many of us are lacking enough fiber. A 2017 analysis in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine found that 95% of Americans don’t consume enough fiber each day.
To make my chickpea smoothie, just mix almond milk, banana, chickpeas, dates and peanut butter together.
3. Enjoy no-bake chickpea cookie dumplings as snacks
Chickpea cookie dumplings are a perfect afternoon snack. It only takes a few minutes to create a whole supply that typically takes a week.
They contain protein and fiber, which is key to keeping me going until my next meal. They also prevent the blood sugar crashes that can result from eating snacks that are high in sugar.
In a food processor, combine drained and rinsed chickpeas, nut butter, oats and a sweetener of your choice (e.g. honey or maple syrup) and mix everything together until smooth. After mixing in some chocolate chips, use a spoon to scoop out about two tablespoons of batter and roll it into a bite-sized ball with your hands.
Keep everything in an airtight container.
4. Top pizza with grilled chickpeas
I love using grill-flavored chickpeas as a pizza topping. It’s an easy way to add both protein and flavor to any piece of savory cake.
Simply mix your favorite barbecue sauce with chickpeas, stir to coat them evenly, then sprinkle on top for a savory topping.
5. Spread the chickpea puree on the avocado toast
One of my favorite dishes for a quick breakfast or lunch is chickpea and avocado toast.
It’s easy: mix some chickpeas with avocado and season them with spices (I like to add cumin powder and chili powder to mine), lemon juice, and coriander. Spread the mixture on wholemeal toast and top with a pinch of chilli flakes.
6. Chickpea pancakes for brunch
Using chickpeas instead of flour for pancakes is a total game changer.
You will need canned rinsed chickpeas, eggs, nut butter, baking soda, vanilla extract, and milk (you can use substitutes like oat or almond milk). Mix until the batter is smooth, then heat the pancakes on a frying pan and cook each side for a few minutes. Serve with your favorite fruit toppings!
Rahaf Al Bochi is a nutritionist and founder of Olive Tree Nutrition, a nutrition consulting company. It has been featured in numerous publications including CNN, US News & World Report, and HealthDay. Rahaf is also the recipient of the Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2020 Outstanding Service for the Media Award. Follow her on Twitter @OliveTreeRD.
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