Beetroot houmous

A Nutrient-Rich Legume

Chickpeas are a type of legume (pulse) thought to have originated in Egypt.  They are round and creamy coloured.  You may see them with different names, including garbanzo beans.  They are particularly popular in the Middle East, India and Mediterranean countries.

Like most pulses, chickpeas are a great source of plant protein, however they are not a complete protein so it is important that vegetarians and vegans ensure they eat other protein sources during the day to get all the amino acids they need for health.  Chickpeas also provide a good selection of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and manganese alongside b-vitamins and vitamin E.  That’s a lot for a little thing.

Supporting the Gut

Of course, alongside the protein, minerals and vitamins, chickpeas are a good source of fibre.  A nutrient which, as you probably know from my previous posts, those of us eating a typically Western diet consume nowhere near enough of each day despite it’s importance for healthy guts.  In particular this pulse, along with other beans and leafy greens, contains a type of soluble fibre called raffinose.  Studies have found that eating foods containing raffinose regularly helps promote the growth of ‘beneficial’ gut bacteria. Unfortunately this is also a significant contributor to flatulence, so if this is a problem for you try cooking beans and leafy greens before eating, or try smaller portions.

One small study whereby subjects added chickpeas or chickpea product to their diet, showed that consuming the pulse supports the body in the production of butyrate.  This short-chain fatty acid is produced by bacteria in the gut and has multiple roles in the body, including anti-inflammatory activity and immunity support.  In terms of gut health, butyrate also provides fuel for the cells lining the colon which helps to protect the microbiome environment, and it helps to regulate the passage of the stool.  The latter could help to relieve the problem of constipation.

Blood Sugar Management and Other Benefits

Chickpeas contribution to butyrate production has benefits for health outside of the gut too besides immune support and acting as an anti-inflammatory.

While there are few good quality studies into the specific benefits of chickpeas, they have a low glycaemic level and may help to slow digestion of carbohydrates eating alongside them.  This can help to manage glucose levels and keep blood sugars more even.  Eating pulses has been associated with a reduced risk of type-2 diabetes (this may however be influenced by the content of the diets followed by those regularly eating chickpea foods).

When consumed as houmous, the glycaemic level reduces further and digestion of carbohydrates slowed down even more due to the increased fat content (you add small amounts of oil and sesame seed paste/tahini to the traditional recipe).

Other health benefits of chickpeas include the potential to improve total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol control, and lower blood pressure in individuals who are overweight.  There is also the possibility that chickpeas help to reduce the risk of developing some types of cancer as a result of the butyrate contribution, and their antioxidant levels.

Chickpea Versatility

Chickpeas are a great vegetarian ingredient as they have so many uses.  They can be purchased tinned or dried.  The dried chickpeas however require organisation and planning as they require soaking for several hours before they can be used.  There are loads of recipes on the internet, and you can buy chickpea flour too.  I have tried a recipe for chickpea crackers – an alternative to standard wheat crackers, but for me they tasted too much of chickpea (not surprising given they are the main ingredient!) and so didn’t really work for me given my other foods often contain chickpeas.  I sometimes add chickpeas to salads (they can be roasted with spices for extra flavour) and jambalaya.  I also add them to my pasta sauce.  As a vegetarian it is important to get a variety of protein each day, so I replace the mince with chickpeas (tinned, drained, whole) and another veggie protein, red lentils.  Proportion wise I tend to use a couple of cans and a small mug of dried lentils (rinsed) with loads of veggies and 3 cans of tomatoes – as a family of three we get 3-4 meals out of this mix.  The mix is portioned up and frozen.  I also like chickpeas in falafels and houmous.

Houmous can be made with a variety of flavours including red pepper, Moroccan-inspired and caramalised onion.  One of my favourites is lemon and coriander.

The recipe below for beetroot houmous is very easy to make and doesn’t require you to hunt down tahini!  While ordinary houmous can be made without a blender (it just won’t be as smooth), this recipe really needs one to help breakdown the beetroot.  While beetroot is a vegetable with lots of health benefits, it is high in oxalates which can reduce our absorption of calcium.  Oxalates are generally reduced when cooking, but you may still wish to bear this in mind if you are trying to boost your calcium intake.

Recipe: Beetroot Houmous (Hummus)

This is a very easy recipe to make and very nutritious.  Use it on toast, in sandwiches, salad or as a dip:

175g cooked beetroot, roughly chopped

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Clove garlic, chopped

Handful coriander

Juice of 1 lemon

4tbsp olive oil

Put the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until fairly smooth.

Taste and add freshly ground pepper if you wish.


(Recipe source: 7Day Catering)

References/Further Reading

The Nutrition Value and Health Benefits of Chickpeas and Hummus – Wallace, Murray and Zelman.