Plant-based proteins refer to proteins derived from plant sources such as legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds, which offer a wide range of essential amino acids and nutrients. Incorporating plant-based proteins into the diet is crucial for various reasons. Firstly, they provide an alternative to animal-based proteins, reducing the intake of saturated fat and cholesterol. Secondly, plant-based proteins are often rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, contributing to overall health and well-being. The popularity of plant-based diets has been on the rise due to increasing awareness of the environmental, ethical, and health benefits associated with reducing animal product consumption.

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a versatile legume widely used in cuisines around the world. They have a nutty flavour and a creamy texture, making them a popular ingredient in various dishes. In terms of nutrition, chickpeas are rich in protein, fibre, vitamins (such as folate and vitamin B6), and minerals (such as iron and magnesium). They are also a good source of complex carbohydrates and have a low glycemic index. Chickpeas are cultivated in many regions globally, with India being the largest producer, followed by Pakistan, Turkey, and Ethiopia. They are consumed in numerous forms, including as whole beans, flour, or processed into products like hummus.

7 Health benefits of chickpeas. 

1. High protein content: Chickpeas are an excellent plant-based protein source, containing about 15 grams of protein per cooked cup. Protein is essential for muscle repair, growth, and overall body function.

2. Fibre content and digestive health benefits: Chickpeas are rich in dietary fibre, with around 12 grams per cooked cup. This promotes healthy digestion, prevents constipation, and aids in weight management by promoting satiety and controlling blood sugar levels.

3. Essential amino acids and nutritional completeness: Chickpeas provide a good balance of essential amino acids, making them a valuable protein source. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are crucial for various bodily functions, including cell repair, hormone production, and immune system support.

4. Low glycemic index and blood sugar management: Chickpeas have a low glycemic index, meaning they cause a gradual and steady rise in blood sugar levels. This makes them suitable for individuals with diabetes or those seeking to maintain stable blood sugar levels.

5. Presence of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants: Chickpeas contain important vitamins and minerals such as folate, iron, phosphorus, and magnesium, which are essential for overall health. Additionally, they are rich in antioxidants like flavonoids and polyphenols, which help protect against cellular damage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

6. Potential role in weight management: Due to their high fibre and protein content, chickpeas can contribute to weight management. Fibre promotes feelings of fullness, reducing overall calorie intake, while protein helps preserve muscle mass and boosts metabolism.

7. Heart health benefits: Chickpeas are associated with heart health due to their fibre and nutrient content. The soluble fibre in chickpeas can help lower cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease. Additionally, the presence of folate and magnesium supports cardiovascular health by maintaining proper blood flow and preventing the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Role of chickpeas in a balanced diet

Chickpeas play a vital role in a balanced diet, particularly in plant-based eating patterns. They can serve as a primary protein source due to their high protein content, offering a valuable alternative to animal-based proteins. By incorporating chickpeas into meals, individuals can meet their protein needs while enjoying the benefits of a plant-based diet, such as reduced saturated fat and cholesterol intake. However, it is crucial to emphasise the importance of variety in a plant-based diet. While chickpeas are nutritious, combining them with other plant-based protein sources like lentils, quinoa, tofu, or nuts can ensure a broader spectrum of essential amino acids and nutrients, promoting optimal nutrition and overall health.

Recipe For Chickpea Curry

                                             Video Credit: RAINBOW PLANT LIFE/YouTube

The versatility of chickpeas shines through in dishes like chickpea curry, where their unique flavour and texture combine with other nutritious ingredients to create a delicious and satisfying meal. Embracing chickpeas and plant-based proteins can lead to a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 2 cans, drained and rinsed)

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 cup of coconut milk

2 tablespoons of curry powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon of coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

Salt to taste

Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Cooked rice or naan bread for serving

Instructions:

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or pot over medium heat.

Add the chopped onion and sauté until it becomes translucent, around 5 minutes.

Add minced garlic and grated ginger to the skillet. Cook for another minute, stirring continuously.

Stir in the curry powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, and cayenne pepper. Toast the spices for about 1 minute to release their flavours.

Add the chopped tomatoes to the skillet and cook until they soften and release their juices, approximately 5 minutes.

Pour in the coconut milk and stir well to combine all the ingredients.

Add the cooked chickpeas to the skillet and season with salt. Stir everything together.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer the curry for 15–20 minutes, allowing the flavours to meld together.

If the curry becomes too thick, add a little water to adjust the consistency.

Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Once the chickpeas are tender and the flavours have developed, remove the skillet from the heat.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.

Serve the chickpea curry over cooked rice or with naan bread.