Delicious Ways to Include Chickpeas in Your Low-Fat Diet

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Typically included in many types of ethnic cuisines - such as Asian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean - chickpeas are finding their way as a staple in the American diet. Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are chock-full of protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber and are also low in saturated fat - making them a perfect food to include in your cholesterol-lowering meal plan. Chickpeas are not only versatile, there is also some evidence that they may be able to help keep your cholesterol levels healthy.

If you're looking for a few ideas of how you can incorporate chickpeas in your cholesterol-lowering diet, these healthy tips will help:

Serve Them as Appetizers

Chickpeas are quite flavorful when roasted and consumed by themselves, making them the perfect go-to, low-fat snack when you are hungry. You can also mash chickpeas and spread them on whole grain bread. Hummus - which consists of mashed chickpeas mixed with tahini, garlic, and olive oil - makes a perfect, low-calorie dip for veggies and other finger foods. You can also add other ingredients, such as red peppers or olives, to hummus to change it up a little.

Chickpeas on the Side

In your side dishes, chickpeas can be substituted for beans or for whole grains - including quinoa or barley. When you are preparing your chickpea side dish, you should make sure that you are mixing in your chickpeas with other healthy ingredients. To avoid the addition of saturated fat to your meal, you should avoid cooking your chickpeas with butter or with heavy creams.

If you are sauteing your chickpeas with other foods, you can use a small amount of olive oil or canola oil - both of which are higher in healthy, unsaturated fats. If a heavy cream is to be used as garnishment with your side containing chickpeas, you can use low-fat, plain yogurt or a low-fat variety of cream to get the same taste - without the added calories.

Delicious Soups and Salads

Chickpeas can also be easily added to many soups and salads. Chickpeas easily absorb the flavor of other foods you cook with them - guaranteeing a tasty meal. Because of their high protein and soluble fiber content, chickpeas have a tendency to be very filling - resulting in soups and salads that can also double as the main course. 

Although chickpeas are a healthy food, what you add to them could increase their calorie, fat, and sugar content. Since many types of foods can be mixed with chickpeas, feel free to experiment with many types of veggies, whole grains, legumes, and spices - all of which are cholesterol-friendly foods. But be careful - a dollop of sour cream to your soup or a squirt of your favorite dressing on your salad could add calories to an otherwise healthy meal.

Chickpeas in Your Entrée

The versatility that chickpeas possess also allows you to create some delicious, heart-healthy entrees that are low in fat and high in nutrients. Chickpeas can be prepared in a variety of ways.

For instance, chickpeas can be mashed and shaped into a patty if you are craving a "meatless" burger or can be used as a topping in lieu of a fattening cream. Because of their high-protein content, they can make a good substitute for other meats that are higher in calories and fat. Are you trying to add more fiber to your diet? You can make a hearty stew with chickpeas and a handful of your favorite beans.

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