Chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) are part of the legume family and are the main ingredient of hummus. They are considered a staple food for most vegetarians and vegans. Recently, they have become a popular tasty snack as people are looking for a healthy, crunchy alternative to chips, and this plant-based protein does the job.
Like other legumes, such as lentils, they are high in fiber and protein. They also contain important vitamins and minerals and have numerous health benefits.
This page will answer common questions about this beloved food, including if they are safe for keto, what macro and micronutrients it has, how much you can eat on the ketogenic diet, important things to know about the different types, and keto-friendly alternatives.
The most common chickpea is a beige colour and round in shape, but one would also find black, green, or red. They are a legume of the Fabaceae family, a subfamily of Faboideae. It is also known as gram, Bengal gram, garbanzo bean or the Egyptian pea.
Chickpeas were introduced into India in the 18th century, and by 2019, India was responsible for 70% of global production. In Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, these legumes are a key ingredient. They are used in hummus and in the famous falafel. In Indian cuisine, they are used in salads, soups and stews, and curry.
Legumes, and therefore chickpeas, are unique, as they are one of the only foods that contain a significant amount of carbohydrates and protein per portion. They are high in fiber, and are low GI when compared to other starch-containing vegetables like sweet potato or butternut.
Having a low glycemic index (GI) means that the body absorbs and digests them slowly. Also, the type of starch that chickpeas contain, amylose, digests slowly. The GI and the amylose help keep your blood sugar and insulin from spiking and dipping, which is great for sustained energy, especially for those with diabetes.
They are high in dietary fiber, particularly a soluble fiber called raffinose. The good bacteria in your gut ferment the fiber, giving additional health benefits. Eating more fiber will help you to pass softer bowel movements more frequently. If that wasn’t enough, the soluble fiber also lowers your risk of heart disease by lessening your total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
Vegans and vegetarians might have problems consuming enough protein if they do not include legumes in their diet.
Chickpeas are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients for strong bones. But you will have to soak the dried versions first to get rid of an anti-nutrient called phytate, which can inhibit calcium absorption.
Serving size: ½ cup cooked chickpeas
As you can see, there are about 16g of net carbohydrate in a ½ cup serving, or 32g of net carbohydrate per 1 cup (keep in mind that this does not include any spices or oil).
Well, that depends. Can you control the portion size?
They have numerous health benefits, so including them in small amounts is a good idea. Since the serving of ½ cup contains more than 10 g of net carbohydrate, you could instead enjoy ¼ of a cup, which will provide you with around 8 g of net carbohydrate and 3 g of fiber
Meal planning will always help you to stay within your daily carbohydrate allowance. Decide how many carbs you can spare that day without going over your daily total.
The amount you can safely fit into your diet depends on your personal daily carbohydrate limit (calculate yours here) and what else you eat that day.
If you aim to eat less than 50 g of net carbs each day, you can probably get away with consuming ¼ cup of cooked (8g of net carbs).
If you’re eating less than 30 grams of net carbs a day, you could consider having just 1 Tbsp, with 3.4 g of net carbs. However, it can be difficult to eat such a small amount, so you may be better off avoiding this food altogether.
One of the best things about garbanzo beans is that they are available all year round and are easy to store. You can find them in the shop, either canned or dried. If concerned with the nutritional content between dried and canned, they do not lose any nutrients when canned, so the choice of dried or canned is up to the buyer.
How to buy:
Remember that all chickpeas contain carbohydrates and need to be eaten in moderation, depending on your individualized requirements. The only type that would be totally off-limits are those with a chocolate coating, unless you can find a sugar-free version.
All legumes and pulses are good for your health and provide a number of health benefits. This being said, most of them have a similar nutritional profile, so to stay under a certain carb limit, portions need to be controlled. Some alternatives (that are nutritionally similar) include:
For those of you looking for a similar texture to hummus when blended and mixed with olive oil and spices, you can try:
Do you still have some questions about chickpeas and how to incorporate them into your diet? Take a look at our FAQs for some additional information.
If you have time and you prefer to cook foods from scratch, follow these steps:
About 2 cups of chickpeas make 1 ⅓ cup hummus because they are ground down to form a paste. This means that hummus is concentrated and thus will contain more carbs cup for cup.
This being said, you can use hummus in a number of ways and so don’t necessarily need a large portion, if you control your portions you can easily incorporate it into your plan. Check out our article "Is hummus keto-friendly?" to learn more!
There is some evidence that beans can cause some stomach upset if you aren’t used to them (due to their high fiber content). Therefore, start slow and eat in smaller amounts before building up. It is important to rinse them before use, and remove the skin if you experience discomfort. If you have IBS, please discuss it with a registered dietitian.
Yes, absolutely! They can be enjoyed if you are restricting the amount of gluten in your diet. Some processed versions might have gluten in the flavoring, so be mindful of the ingredients.
Chickpeas are low GI and contain a high amount of fiber, which keeps you fuller for longer, control appetite, and assist with maintaining a healthy weight.