by Rakin Hamad

Hummus, a popular Middle Eastern dip, has turned into a mainstay in grocery stores and homes across the nation. From jalapeno hummus to dessert hummus, hummus products have transformed from one flavor to an almost endless variety of flavors. The magic behind all these hummus products is the chickpea.

In addition to hummus, the chickpea is also the base product in falafel. Falafel, a popular fried vegetarian option, consists of ground chickpeas that are mushed into little balls or patties. Falafel is usually served in pita bread as a sandwich or as a standalone option.

Falafel and hummus are two extremely popular products that originate from the chickpea. However, many people are not aware of the health benefits of the chickpea. The chickpea is part of the legume family and is cultivated in the Mediterranean Basin, Asia and Australia. First, chickpeas are rich with fiber and plant-based protein. Chickpeas contain almost all of the essential amino acids and are rich in unsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic and oleic acids.

In a one ounce serving of chickpeas, there are 46 calories, 8 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 12% of the recommended daily intake of folate, 4% of the recommended daily intake of iron, 5% of the recommended daily intake of phosphorus, 5% of the recommended daily intake of copper and 14% of the recommended daily intake of manganese.

In addition to this notable nutrient profile, chickpeas can also help consumers manage their blood sugar levels. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, chickpeas have a low glycemic index and promote a steady rise in blood sugar levels rather than a sudden spike.

While hummus and falafel are two effective ways to incorporate chickpeas into your diet, there are also a variety of other ways to prepare chickpeas. The simplest way is to drizzle olive oil on a batch of chickpeas and to bake them in an oven until they turn a golden-brown color. Roasted chickpeas are a quick, simple way of creating a healthy crunchy snack. Another alternative is to insert the chickpeas in a salad as a substitute for croutons. Chickpeas can also be used in combination with quinoa to make a variety of other healthy snacks.

By using a food processor, chickpeas can also be made into chickpea flour. Chickpea flour can then be used to create pancakes, omelets, brownies and an assortment of other products. Chickpea flour can be purchased at grocery stores, but if you are attempting to make the chickpea flour yourself it is important to note that you will need dry chickpeas.

The chickpea is an underutilized food in American culture.
This nutrient-rich, high protein and high fiber legume can be incorporated in your diet as a standalone snack, as an addition in your salads or as a substitute for flour. While hummus is a great snack, the chickpea is good for much more than just this delicious dip.