This month is for all the vegetarian runners out there, with two protein rich, meat-free dishes containing garbanzos (chickpeas). Chickpeas are a great source of protein, without the hefty calorie count or saturated fat that can come from other sources. Especially beneficial for female runners, they have a high iron content and contain phytoestrogens, which may help the body modulate its own oestrogen production, lowering the risk of breast cancer and osteoporosis.
Low on the glycaemic index scale, the carbohydrates in chickpeas are broken down and digested slowly, providing a steady release of energy and also contributing to 'fullness' feelings which is helpful for appetite and weight loss. Padding out meals with chickpeas is a cunning way to create a super filling meal without the calorie cost.
Evidence shows chickpeas can lower LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) as the soluble fibre combines with bile salts causing them to be excreted. Bile salts are required for emulsification of fats, and so the body then re-forms new bile, using up more cholesterol and therefore lowering blood levels. Insoluble fibre adds bulk to stools and helps prevent constipation or gut diseases. They are also rich in folate, which help reduce homocysteine levels, good for the heart and blood vessels.
A portion of chickpeas is packed with 85% of your daily manganese requirements; a trace mineral which plays a key role in energy production and antioxidant defences.
Chickpeas are great hot or cold in salads, soups (adding thickness when blended), tagines, curries and stews. They also count as one of your five a day.
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