These humble, little legumes pack a nutrient punch. Also called chickpeas, garbanzo beans are enjoying immense popularity for providing building blocks that omnivores cannot do without.

Garbanzos serve up protein (vital to all aspects of development, including the immune system), lecithin (necessary for cell production) and potassium (essential to heart, muscle, nerve and kidney function). They provide magnesium (vital to every cell in the body), copper (necessary for producing and storing iron) and folate (crucial to DNA production, plus many other functions). And there’s more; garbanzos contain vitamin A to sustain eye health, the B-complex vitamins that provide a host of essential nutrients, and vitamin C’s antioxidants, which may prevent, or delay, cell damage. To think we used to herald the garbanzo solely for easing canine constipation!

Granted, among its many benefits, garbanzos excel in promoting digestive health. Nearly three-quarters of the bean’s fiber is insoluble and remains undigested until it reaches the final segment of the large intestine (colon). Garbanzo bean fiber can be metabolized by bacteria in the colon to produce a substantial amount of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including acetic, propionic, and butyric acid. These are the SCFAs that feed the cells lining the intestinal wall, and a healthy gut helps lower the risk of colon problems, including the risk of colon cancer.

What little fat garbanzos do contain is mostly polyunsaturated–the “good” type of fat which, according to the American Heart Association, improves blood cholesterol levels, thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease. A 2014 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests that we humans would experience a 5-6% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease by consuming a single daily serving of garbanzos (130 grams or 3/4 cup).

Veterinarian, Dr. Ernie Ward has included garbanzos in his dogs’ diet for years. Dr. Ward extols them as an “excellent protein source.” (www.vetstreet.com.) Even the ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians enjoyed a diet rich in garbanzos; did they suspect that such fundamental goodness lay in each nutty, buttery bean?

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