Chickpeas are a powerhouse of essential nutrients, packing more than what meets the eye. But, are they safe to consume while pregnant?
Chickpeas are not only safe for pregnant women, they are also highly nutritious. However, they are part of the “Rarely Consumed Raw” produce list which means they should be cooked prior to consumption.
If you want to learn more about chickpea varieties and what types of tasty snacks you can make out of them, keep on reading!
Are Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans) Safe During Pregnancy?
Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, aren’t only safe to eat during pregnancy (provided they have been cooked), but they are nutritious as well.
There are some misconceptions and taboos surrounding the consumption of chickpeas during pregnancy. In some countries, they have been avoided because they are said to cause abdominal cramps to both mothers and growing babies (source: NIH).
Chickpea is a pulse crop. This type of crop is recommended by many health organizations. Chickpeas are also a great option if you wish to follow a plant-based diet during pregnancy.
Compared to other plant sources, pulse crops are favored for their high protein content. Chickpeas are also classified through their main varieties: Kabuli and Desi.
Kabuli is a lighter-colored seed while Desi is a darker and smaller seed (source: NIH). Kabuli is the variety most common within the U.S.
Chickpeas are commonly beige but they also come in green, yellow, red, and black varieties. The most accessible are beige (source: Montana Harvest of the Month). You can enjoy any of these types when pregnant.
Canned Chickpeas During Pregnancy
When buying canned chickpeas, avoid dented or bloated cans. This can indicate potential safety risks caused by microbial spoiling within the can (source: FDA). To be safe, examine the exterior of the can prior to purchasing.
Pregnant women are particularly prone to foodborne illnesses, as well as their unborn child (source: FDA).
Canned chickpeas are available in low sodium or no salt added variants. Either is a good choice for moms who want to minimize their sodium intake. However, if you do buy the regular canned chickpea, draining the can prior to consumption will reduce up to 40% of sodium (source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health).
You can cook dried chickpeas without soaking them. However, this will increase the cooking time as opposed to soaking them beforehand. In fact, the cooking time can be doubled (source: Detoxinista).
One very popular chickpea recipe is hummus. Hummus is a beloved dip that originated in the Middle East but is now recognized and eaten all over the globe. For more on hummus during pregnancy, read our article here.
Here’s a cooking tip for you. Pre-soak dry chickpeas to reduce cooking time. This also helps decrease the amount of oligosaccharides present which helps with bloating. Bloating is pretty common during pregnancy. So if you find yourself prone to bloating, this is a good tip.
Finally, did you know that chickpeas can be a substitute for coffee? Those who desire a decaffeinated beverage can opt for roasted ground or ready-to-brew chickpea which is a safer alternative to coffee beans that many find just as satisfying (source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health).
As for fresh or raw chickpeas, these should always be cooked – as we’ll discuss later.
Can I Eat Raw Chickpeas When Pregnant?
Raw chickpeas can be fresh, dried, soaked, or frozen. It is recommended to cook them prior to consumption to ensure safety during pregnancy. Chickpeas in a can are already cooked, so you can eat them straight out of the can, hot or cold.
Chickpeas have been identified as Rarely Consumed Raw produce. They are processed through physical (dehulling, milling, soaking), biochemical (sprouting, fermenting), or heating (boiling, canning, extrusion, puffing, roasting, frying) processes (source: Chickpea Breeding and Management).
“Rarely Consumed Raw” means that the vegetable or fruit given this title is, as a general rule, only to be consumed after cooked. This helps eliminate a high risk of microbes that may be dangerous to public health (source: FDA).
If you buy chickpeas in their pods, we recommend washing them thoroughly before cooking.
Are Roasted Chickpeas Safe During Pregnancy?
Two delicious snack options are roasted chickpeas and fried chickpeas. These can be homemade, or commercially-made.
Homemade versions often call for the use of cooking oils. We suggest using oil modestly and opting for healthier options like olive oil or canola oil instead of animal fat.
Animal fat is high in cholesterol. Having high cholesterol levels during pregnancy can increase the risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, preterm birth, and the baby developing atherosclerosis (source: NIH).
Also, the less oil you use, the less crisp the chickpeas will be. So, eat them while they’re warm.
Wanting to cut on oil? No problem. Cook them in the air fryer instead!
Canned chickpeas also already contain sodium so you may choose to forego adding salt.
Commercially-produced chickpea snacks are usually safe during pregnancy – just keep an eye on the sodium content.
What are the Benefits of Chickpeas for Pregnant Women?
A 100 g serving of chickpeas is jam-packed with dietary fiber (12.2 g), potassium (718 mg), and folate (557 mg) to name a few (source: USDA).
Fiber excels in supporting gut health, weight control, and fighting cardiovascular diseases and bloating. Potassium helps control the risks associated with consuming too much sodium, as well as to help regulate blood pressure (source: NIH).
On top of these benefits, chickpeas, whether dried or canned, have a low glycemic load and index.
They also contain amylose. This means that chickpeas digest slowly and prevent a sudden and rapid upsurge of blood glucose and insulin levels in individuals with diabetes type 2 (source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health).
However, there are no published research studies on the effects/benefits of chickpeas on gestational diabetes.
Cooked chickpeas are definitely as good and beneficial as they sound, from high vitamin, mineral, and fiber content to their effect on lowering blood glucose and insulin levels.
Overall, chickpeas are a safe, nutritious pregnancy option.