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Garbanzo bean being a staple in Mediterranean diet rich in minerals

Garbanzo Beans

Garbanzo beans, a low-glycemic food, are a staple of the Mediterranean diet. Packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, garbanzo beans are a must for any healthy diet program.

Scientifically reviewed by: Holli Ryan, RD, LD/N, in August 2023. Written by: William Gamonski.

Nutritional Powerhouse of Mediterranean Diet

Nutritional Powerhouse of Mediterranean Diet  

Even as a member of the healthy legume family, garbanzo beans stand out for their nutritional prowess. They boast an all-star cast of healthy compounds—including quercetin, chlorogenic acid, and isoflavones—along with rich amounts of beneficial unsaturated fatty acids, folate, manganese, and magnesium,1,2 which is deficient in most American diets.3,4 To top it off, garbanzo beans contain hefty doses of dietary fiber, protein, and resistant starch.5

Widely known as chickpeas, garbanzo beans are classified as a “pulse” or edible seed of legumes. They possess a mild nutty flavor that has been a mainstay of Mediterranean and Indian cuisine for thousands of years.6 Garbanzo beans are often consumed as the main ingredient in hummus.

Rapidly accumulating research indicates that adding garbanzo beans to your daily diet can be a powerful weapon in warding off cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, while optimizing digestive health and acting as a valuable weight-loss aid by blunting hunger and reducing food cravings.

Combat Cardiovascular Disease

Combat Cardiovascular Disease  

Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the US—taking a person’s life every 40 seconds—despite advances in cholesterol-lowering drugs and surgical interventions.7 As a result, experts are increasingly recognizing the value of dietary modification to modulate major risk factors underlying endothelial dysfunction that precedes atherosclerosis.8

High circulating levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol increase the likelihood of their oxidation and accumulation inside the endothelium wall—leading to an inflammatory cascade that forms foam cells that lay the foundation for early arterial plaque.9-11 Research shows that by eating garbanzo beans, you can help reduce both absolute LDL level and LDL oxidation. Garbanzo beans’ ability to lower LDL cholesterol stems from a dual mechanism involving its one-two combination of polyunsaturated fatty acids and dietary fiber (insoluble and soluble). One cup of garbanzo boosts your daily fiber intake.12 The polyunsaturated fat in garbanzo beans increases cholesterol entry into cells,13 while its fiber effectively binds to bile acids to boost cholesterol excretion.14 This has produced both short- and long-term significant reductions in LDL levels.

In one study, when participants ate slightly less than half a cup of garbanzo beans daily for eight weeks, their LDL levels fell by 17.1%.15 In a separate study lasting just over a year, researchers discovered that 80% of participants experienced more than a 15% decrease in LDL levels when supplementing their diet with garbanzo beans.16

Equally as important as lowering LDL is preventing its oxidation. The presence of quercetin, caffeic acid, and ferulic acid in garbanzo beans exerts activity to reduce LDL susceptibility to oxidation.17,18

Garbanzo beans also contain folate and magnesium, which support cardiovascular health. Folate in the diet helps inhibit the build up of harmful homocysteine associated with free radical production, inflammation, and damage to endothelial cells.19 Inadequate magnesium levels contribute to elevated blood pressure that diminishes the production of heart-protective nitric oxide, leaving the endothelium vulnerable to further damage.20 This should be welcome news for the estimated three-fourths of Americans who fail to get enough magnesium in their diets.21

How to Cook and Use Garbanzo Beans
How to Cook and Use Garbanzo Beans

There are two main varieties of garbanzo beans, each differentiated by size and color. The kabuli type has large, round, cream-colored seeds. The desi type is much smaller and darker in color. Most grocery stores contain the kabuli type in dried and canned forms. Dry garbanzo beans can last for years if stored in an airtight container and kept in a cool, dark place.46

Dried garbanzo beans should be soaked in water for at least 12 hours before cooking. Make sure to rinse them thoroughly afterwards to remove most of the undigested carbohydrates and minimize flatulence. Combine the presoaked garbanzo beans with a small amount of water in a saucepan. After the pot reaches a boil, cover tightly, reduce the heat, and let simmer until tender. Although cooking times can vary, it takes approximately one hour. If you’re in a pinch, opt for the canned version since they’re already precooked and only need to be drained and rinsed.46 Garbanzo beans can also be roasted for a crunchier texture.

Cooked garbanzo beans can be eaten as a snack, served as a side dish, and added to salads, sauces, and soups. You can also purée garbanzo beans together with tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon juice, and garlic to make a delicious hummus that can be used as a dip or spread for other foods.

Curb Hunger and Reduce Food Cravings

Approximately 80% of weight- loss programs are unsuccessful in keeping the pounds off long term.22 One of the most prominent reasons for weight regain is increased hunger, which leads to mindless consumption of calorie-dense processed foods that in a vicious cycle further increases food cravings.23

Garbanzo beans have many attributes that can help you reduce hunger and food cravings to achieve permanent weight loss. They deliver a good dose of protein that boosts fullness more per calorie than carbohydrates and fat.24 Increasing dietary protein intake has been associated with reduced appetite and waist circumference, as well as better weight-loss maintenance.25,26

The soluble fiber in garbanzo beans improves weight control by forming a viscous gel with water in the stomach to slow down gastric emptying and prolong feelings of fullness. This subsequently reduces food intake and bodyweight.27

Both protein and dietary fiber favorably modulate appetite hormones to block hunger and increase feelings of fullness. They promote the gut secretion of satiety hormones such as cholecystokinin while at the same time inhibiting the release of hunger hormones like ghrelin.28,29 This combined effect has proven to be a recipe for healthy weight loss.

In one study, a group of obese patients followed a calorie-restricted diet with or without four servings of legumes (like garbanzo beans) per week for two months.30 Researchers found that the patients consuming the legumes experienced a 7.7% decrease in bodyweight, whereas the control group had a 5.3% reduction. The group eating the legumes also showed lower total cholesterol and had greater reductions in oxidized LDL, F2-isoprostane, and malondialdehyde—all markers of oxidative stress. These beneficial changes were credited to the effects of fiber and other compounds in garbanzo beans.

In a crossover study, scientists investigated the impact of garbanzo beans on appetite and food choices in men and women.31 A group of volunteers followed their normal ad-libitum diet (eating for pleasure) for four weeks before following an ad-libitum diet supplemented with an average of 104 grams per day of garbanzo beans for 12 weeks. The participants then returned to their normal ad-libitum diet for an additional four weeks. Scientists documented that during the garbanzo bean phase, participants reported greater satiety, ate less, and consumed fewer high-calorie processed foods. In addition, they showed improvements in bowel function. Once participants returned to their normal diet, however, these beneficial effects disappeared.

By decreasing food intake without conscious effort—especially high-palatability and reward foods—garbanzo beans can block food cravings that sabotage many weight-loss efforts.

Blood Sugar Management

Blood Sugar Management  

Controlling blood sugar remains a daunting task for the majority of adults with prediabetes and diabetes. Increasing intake of garbanzo beans can be a safe and effective way to help restore glycemic control.

Garbanzo beans have a low-glycemic index (GI)—meaning they’re absorbed slowly into the bloodstream. This prevents dangerous after-meal blood glucose surges that substantially increase the risk for various diseases.32-34 Researchers found that after-meal glucose responses to garbanzo beans was 45% lower than an equal amount of carbohydrates from other commonly consumed carbohydrates such as grains, cereals, and pasta.35

The low-glycemic value of garbanzo beans might be due to their gel-forming properties derived from soluble fiber. Evidence points to the fact that garbanzo beans contain amylose, a structural component of starch, that is resistant to digestion and therefore lowers glucose responses after meals.36

In clinical trials, garbanzo beans were found to reduce blood glucose and insulin levels alone or as part of a high-fiber or low-glycemic diet in both nondiabetics and diabetics.37 When part of these diets for diabetics, garbanzo beans were demonstrated to reduce hemoglobin A1C, a marker of long-term glucose control, by an average of 0.48%. Together, these findings suggest that garbanzo beans are effective at keeping both after-meal and long-term blood sugar levels at bay.

Improving Gut Health

Scientists have recently discovered that disturbances in the balance between beneficial and bad gut bacteria can put us on the fast track to a host of diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease, and cancer.38,39 Garbanzo beans contain a significant amount of indigestible resistant starch and oligosaccharides such as raffinose that work in tandem to restore a healthy and balanced gut microbiome.40

Cancer Defense

Since resistant starch and oligosaccharides in garbanzo beans cannot be digested in the gastrointestinal tract, good gut bacteria feeds on them to produce beneficial short-chain fatty acids such as propionate and butyrate.41 The latter protects against cancer by inducing cell death (apoptosis),42 reducing cell proliferation,43 and cutting off the blood supply responsible for cancer growth.44 This might explain the results of a study in which mice supplemented with garbanzo bean flour had a 64% reduction in the number of aberrant crypt foci—precursors to colon cancer.45


Garbanzo beans provide an array of healthy compounds that include quercetin, chlorogenic acid, and isoflavones, along with key nutrients like B vitamins, iron, and magnesium that is deficient in most American diets.

Research has found that adding garbanzo beans to the diet can contribute to an increase in protein and fiber. In fact, garbanzo beans are becoming increasingly recognized for closing nutritional gaps in the American diet, while protecting against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, poor digestive health, and obesity.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.


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