(POSTED: July 9, 2006)
Did you know that not all carbohydrates are created equal?
With the growing concerns over rising obesity rates in the United States has come a growing concern over the excessive intake of carbohydrates. What is often lost in the trend towardsreducing the intake ofcarbohydrates is that it is not merely the quantity, but the quality of the carbs we eat that makes a difference as to whether they promote weight gain. For example, some of our most nutritious foods, including starchy vegetables and legumes, are rich in carbohydrates. One of the ways to decide whether a carbohydrate-rich food is one you want to include in your diet is to look at its score on the glycemic index, a numerical scale that measures how quickly and how high a particular food will increase blood sugar levels. Substantial research indicates that a low glycemic diet has many health benefits, including weight control. High in fiber, high in protein and low on the glycemic index, legumes, such as garbanzobeans, are healthy carbohydrates and a highly recommended addition to your Healthier Way of Eating.
Synonymous with chickpeas, the delicious nutlike taste and buttery texture of garbanzo beans provides a good source of protein that can be enjoyed year-round; they are purchased either dried or canned. A very versatile legume, they are a noted ingredient in many Middle Eastern and Indian dishes such as hummus, falafels and curries. While many people think of garbanzos as being beige in color, there are varieties that feature black, green, red and brown beans. Garbanzo beans is the Latin American name for chickpeas.
Garbanzos (also called chickpeas) are a good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, as are most other beans. In addition to lowering cholesterol, garbanzos' high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making these beans an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. When combined with whole grains such as rice, garbanzos provide virtually fat-free high quality protein. But this is far from all garbanzos have to offer. Garbanzos are an excellent source of the trace mineral, molybdenum, an integral component of the enzyme sulfite oxidase, which isresponsible for detoxifying sulfites. Sulfites are a type of preservative commonly added to prepared foods like delicatessen salads and salad bars. Persons who are sensitive to sulfites in these foods may experience rapid heartbeat, headache or disorientation if sulfites are unwittingly consumed. If you have ever reacted to sulfites, it may be because your molybdenum stores are insufficient to detoxify them.
The Latin name for garbanzo beans, Cicer arietinum, means "small ram," reflecting the unique shape of this legume that somewhat resembles a ram's head. Garbanzo beans are also referred to as chickpeas, Bengal grams and Egyptian peas.
Garbanzos have a delicious nutlike taste and a texture that is buttery, yet somewhat starchy and pasty. A very versatile legume, they are a noted ingredient in many Middle Eastern and Indian dishes such as hummus, falafels and curries. While many people think of chickpeas as being in beige in color, other varieties feature colors such as black, green, red and brown.
Garbanzo beans originated in the Middle East, the region of the world whose varied food cultures still heavily rely upon and revere this high protein legume. The first record of garbanzos being consumed dates back about seven thousand years. They seemed to have grown wild for about two thousand years since they were not first cultivated until approximately 3000 BC. Their cultivation began in the Mediterranean basin and subsequently spread to India and Ethiopia.
Garbanzos were grown by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans and were very popular among these cultures. During the 16th century, garbanzo beans were brought to other subtropical regions of the world by both Spanish and Portuguese explorers as well as Indians who emigrated to other countries. Today,the main commercial producers of garbanzos are India, Pakistan, Turkey, Ethiopia and Mexico.
How to Select and Store
Dried garbanzos are generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the garbanzo beans are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure maximal freshness. Whether purchasing garbanzos in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure that there is no evidence of moisture or insect damage and that they are whole and not cracked.
Canned garbanzo beans can be found in most supermarkets. Look for ones that do not contain extra salt or additives. If purchasing chickpea flour, more generally available in ethnic food stores, make sure that it is made from chickpeas that have been cooked since in their raw form, they contain a substance that is hard to digest and produces flatulence. Store dried garbanzo beans in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place where they will keep for up to six months. If you purchase garbanzos at different times, store them separately since they may feature varying stages of dryness and therefore will require different cooking times. Cooked garbanzo beans will keep fresh in the refrigerator for about three days if placed in a covered container.
Tips for Preparing Garbanzo Beans
Before washing garbanzos, you should spread them out on a light colored plate or cooking surface to check for, and remove, small stones, debris or damaged beans. After this process, place them in a strainer, and rinse them thoroughly under cool running water.
To shorten their cooking time and make them easier to digest, garbanzo beans should be presoaked (presoaking has been found to reduce the raffinose-type oligosaccharides, sugars associated with causing flatulence.) There are two basic methods for presoaking. For each you should start by placing the beans in a saucepan and adding two to three cups of water per cup of beans.
The first method is to boil the beans for two minutes, take pan off the heat, cover and allow to stand for two hours. The alternative method is to simply soak the garbanzos in water for eight hours or overnight, placing pan in the refrigerator so that they will not ferment. Before cooking them, regardless of method, skim off the any skins that floated to the surface, drain the soaking liquid, and then rinse them with clean water.
To cook the garbanzo beans, you can either cook them on the stovetop or use a pressure cooker. For the stovetop method, add three to four cups of fresh water or broth for each cup of dried chickpeas. The liquid should be about one to two inches above the top of the legumes. Bring them to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer, partially covering the pot. If any foam develops, skim it off during the simmering process. Garbanzo beans generally take about two to two and one-half hours to become tender using this method.
Garbanzos can also be cooked in a pressure cooker where they take about one-half hour to cook in addition to the time it takes for the pressure to drop without disturbing the closed container. Since garbanzo beans tend to foam when cooked in a pressure cooker, you should add a tablespoon of oil to the water to prevent the vent from becoming clogged. Regardless of cooking method, do not add any seasonings that are salty or acidic until after the beans have been cooked since adding them earlier will make the beans tough and greatly increase the cooking time.
If you are running short on time, you can always use canned beans in your recipes. If the garbanzo beans have been packaged with salt or other additives, simply rinse them after opening the can to remove these unnecessary additions. Canned beans need to only be heated briefly for hot recipes while they can be used as is for salads or prepared cold dishes like hummus.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Purée garbanzo beans, olive oil, fresh garlic, tahini and lemon juice to make a quick and easy hummus spread.
Sprinkle garbanzo beans with your favorite spices and herbs and eat as a snack.
Add garbanzo beans to your green salads. Click here
Make a middle Eastern-inspired pasta dish by adding garbanzo beans to penne mixed with olive oil, feta cheese and fresh oregano.
Simmer cooked garbanzo beans in a sauce of tomato paste, curry spices, and chopped walnuts and serve this dahl-type dish with brown rice.
Adding garbanzo beans to your vegetable soup will enhance its taste, texture and nutritional content.
Source: The World's Healthiest Foods www.whfoods.org