The first record of garbanzo beans being consumed dates back about 7,000 years in the Middle East, where varied food cultures still heavily rely upon this high-protein legume also known as the chickpea. They were first cultivated around approximately 3000 B.C. in the Mediterranean basin and subsequently spread to India and Ethiopia. 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.

These beans have a delicious nutlike taste and buttery texture and provide a concentrated source of protein that can be enjoyed year-roun. They are available either dried or canned and have a wealth of health benefits.

In just half a cup of garbanzo beans there are 7 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber with very little fat and no cholesterol. This is an incredible source of protein, especially for vegetarians and vegans. With 35 percent of the recommended daily intake of folate and 15 percent of iron in the same half cup, garbanzo beans are also a great source of nutrition for women. They are also rich in heart-healthy potassium as well as the powerful antioxidant mineral selenium, which can help protect the body against the damaging effects of free-radicals.

Garbanzo beans are also high in fiber, which helps stabilize blood sugar and lower cholesterol levels to help fight heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Like spinach, they provide a healthy alternative to red meat as a source of iron. Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism.

There are a variety of ways to prepare and cook garbanzo beans. In a pinch, canned beans work well, too. Here are some quick serving ideas.

  1. Puree garbanzo beans, olive oil, fresh garlic, tahini and lemon juice to make hummus.
  2. Sprinkle garbanzo beans with spices and herbs and eat as a snack.
  3. Add garbanzo beans to green salads.
  4. Enhance the flavor and texture of vegetable soup by adding garbanzo beans.