If your only contact with chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) has been adding them to a salads or occasionally eating hummus, then you’re missing out on some of the serious benefits of chickpea flour. This type of flour has all the same benefits of chickpea nutrition, since it’s simply made using one ingredient: roasted (or sometimes raw) ground chickpeas.
Garbanzo beans were one of the first cultivated crops by humans and are still one of the most popular legumes around the world today, so it’s not surprising that some cultures have used chickpeas to make a grain-free, versatile flour for centuries.
What is chickpea flour good for? Compared to wheat flour, it has a higher proportion of fiber, no gluten and a higher percentage of protein too. Whether you can tolerate eating grains or not, you’ll likely love the dense, filling quality of chickpea flour and be surprised just how many ways you can easily begin to use it.
What Is Chickpea Flour?
What is chickpea flour made of? It’s made from ground garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas).
Chickpea flour — which is also called gram flour, garbanzo bean flour or traditionally besan — is popular in many countries, especially in Asia and the Middle East. For example, it’s considered a staple ingredient in Indian, Pakistani, Nepali and Bangladeshi cuisines.
The health benefits of legume consumption have received rising interest from researchers, and their consumption and production extend worldwide. Among European countries, higher legume consumption is observed around the Mediterranean, (with per capita daily consumption between eight and 23 grams, compared to just five grams in Northern Europe and the U.S.), which has led researchers to believe that higher levels of fiber and phytonutrients from beans might be one reason why these populations have historically experienced great health.
Chickpeas have been a part of certain traditional diets for over 7,500 years! They’re still one of the most widely grown and consumed legumes worldwide and, over the years, have often been linked with longevity, heart health and better weight management.
While it’s less popular in North America and somewhat common across Europe, luckily chickpea flour is becoming easier to find in the U.S.
Eating more legumes is a great way to increase your intake of fiber. Because they’re such a high source of fiber, many studies show that eating more chickpeas, and pretty much all types of beans/legumes, can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and even some types of cancer.
Garbanzo beans also offer a good array of vitamins and minerals and even some antioxidants, including phenolic compounds. They’re thought to have calcium and magnesium in an ideal ratio, a very high amount of folate — which is essential for a healthy pregnancy — a good dose of energizing B vitamins, like vitamin B6, and a decent amount of heart-healthy potassium.
They even contain some of the powerful antioxidant mineral selenium, as well as iron and plenty of plant-based protein. Gluten-free diets are also becoming more popular, so you’ll love the addition of this flour to your pantry if you’ve recently decided to go gluten-free.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one half-cup serving of chickpea flour (or besan) contains about:
26.6 grams carbohydrates
10.3 grams protein
3.1 grams fat
5 grams fiber
101 milligrams folate (50 percent DV)
0.75 milligrams manganese (37 percent DV)
0.4 milligrams copper (21 percent DV)
76 milligrams magnesium (19 percent DV)
146 milligrams phosphorus (15 percent DV)
0.2 milligrams thiamine (15 percent DV)
2 milligrams iron (12 percent DV)
0.25 milligrams vitamin B6 (12 percent DV)
778 milligrams potassium (11 percent DV)
3 milligrams zinc (9 percent DV)
7 milligrams selenium (6 percent DV)
1. Great Source of Fiber
As mentioned above, garbanzos are rich in dietary fiber. This makes chickpea flour an equally good source, especially when you use it in place of refined flours that have been stripped of nutrients and are very low in fiber.
Virtually every study that has looked at high-fiber diets has found some measure of health benefits, sometimes even striking ones. Some studies show that those who eat the most fiber have a lower risk of developing diabetes and colon cancer and are less likely to be obese and struggle with weight gain.
Chickpeas are rich in total and soluble fiber as well as in resistant starch, all of which contribute to the low glycemic index of this flour. The fiber in beans also makes them a heavyweight in terms of helping with digestion, preventing constipation and even aiding in weight loss since they fill you up.
2. Helps Improve Heart Health
Legumes/beans are known to help balance unhealthy cholesterol levels, reduce hypertension and protect against heart disease.
Beans can help keep arteries clear from dangerous plaque buildup, maintain healthy blood pressure levels, and decrease the chances of having a heart attack or stroke. This is why studies have found an inverse association between insoluble fiber intake and systolic and diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol and triglycerides.
Chickpeas provide ample amounts of polyphenols, many of which are potent antioxidants that fight inflammation and oxidative stress. Intervention and prospective research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that diets that include beans lower cholesterol naturally, favorably affect risk factors for metabolic syndrome, and reduce risk of ischemic heart disease and diabetes.
According to a 2021 study published in Nutrients, eating garbanzos has been shown to lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including excess body weight, poor gut microbiome environment and low-grade inflammation.
Other studies show that having just one daily serving (about 3/4 cup cooked) of beans of any kind can help decrease chances of a heart attack and help balance cholesterol. This happens because beans’ fiber works to create a gel-like substance in the digestive system that binds with fatty acids.
Both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber have been shown to be important in helping control and manage hypertension — plus high-fiber foods might also help prevent overeating and the accumulation of dangerous fat, especially around the vital organs, including the heart.
3. Stabilizes Blood Sugar and May Help Prevent Diabetes
Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, not only lowers blood cholesterol levels, but it also helps slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. This is hugely important both for people with diabetes and for anyone else with blood sugar challenges or metabolic syndrome.
Chickpea flour has a form of complex carbohydrate called starch that the body is able to slowly digest and use for energy over time in a much more beneficial way than consuming refined carbohydrates.
There’s a lot of evidence pointing to the fact that high-fiber diets are a much more effective type 2 diabetes natural remedy than diets low in fiber. Legumes in general cause less of a rise in blood glucose than foods like potatoes or almost any sort of wheat-based flour food.
While refined flours can quickly raise blood sugar levels and lead to “spikes and dips” in energy, chickpea flour is a slower-burning carbohydrate that doesn’t impact glucose levels as substantially, which means it has a lower glycemic load. Eating more low-glycemic foods is a way to naturally treat diabetes, have more energy and prevent sugar cravings.