Is Chickpea Pasta *Actually* Healthy? The Answer May Surprise You
Published on March 28, 2022
By Ariane Resnick, CNC
The word “pasta” hasn’t been synonymous with “AP flour” in some time. Of course, we’re big fans of making your own pasta facsimile by spiralizing fresh zucchini, sweet potatoes, or carrots — a super-healthy, pasta-like substitute. But there are also many whole foods that are now made commercially into dried pastas.
Read next: Read next: Mediterranean Orzo Salad & 8 More Pasta Recipes Perfect for Spring
Generally speaking, these new alternative pastas are gluten-free, but we all know that “gluten-free” doesn’t automatically mean a dish is healthy. Chickpeas are one of many different ingredients, such as brown rice, quinoa, black beans, lentils, and corn, that are now being made into pasta in all shapes and forms, and chickpea pasta is among the most popular alternative pasta flour out there. But is it as nutritious as actual chickpeas — or even close?
If you’ve been curious about chickpea pasta but are unsure whether it’s a healthy choice to add to your diet, we’ve done the homework to help you figure it out. Ahead, learn about whether or not chickpea pasta should be on your next shopping list.
How chickpea pasta compares nutritionally to whole chickpeas
The main concern most of us have when we hear that a food is being processed into another food is that a lot of nutrition will be lost in that process. Luckily, there isn’t actually a huge difference between whole dried chickpeas and dried chickpea pasta. “They are pretty comparable, as the pasta is mainly just chickpeas,” says Ellen Albertson, RD, Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach and Author of Rock Your Midlife. “The pasta appears to be a little lower in fiber than plain chickpeas,” she says, noting that this is the only major difference she could discern.
In terms of macronutrients, Amy Davis, RDN, LDN, founder of The Balanced Dietitian, thinks that chickpea pasta is an excellent choice. In fact, when you compare serving sizes, chickpea pasta has even more to offer than plain chickpeas. “Chickpea pasta has more protein — 11g vs. 6g,” she says. It’s also more caloric and carb-heavy, so it may be more filling than eating plain chickpeas, too.
The benefits of choosing pasta format over a plain bean
You’d have to be pretty darn into chickpeas to choose a serving of plain chickpeas over a bowl of pasta — who doesn’t love pasta? “You and your family probably won’t even notice the swap, but you’ll be upping the health of dishes and can even leave out the meat,” Albertson says. “I would say it’s tastier and easier to incorporate into dishes. It’s basically a fantastic substitute for regular pasta.”
Davis agrees, noting that chickpea pasta has a close enough texture and taste to satisfy a pasta craving, but is much higher in protein and fiber than wheat pasta is.
Why eat beans in pasta form?
Beans are notoriously difficult to digest. As a nutritionist who spent decades trying to get my body to agree with them because their nutrient profiles are so wonderful, I gave up on the cause a decade ago and admitted defeat. No amount of digestive assistance made my stomach able to process them in a quiet manner.
It’s because beans can be so tricky for many that the idea of breaking them down into a pasta is so appealing. While we often think of any processing of foods as being not ideal, this is one of those situations where processing a food opens up a delightful door to those who can’t digest it in its natural state.
Davis thinks the potential ease of digestion is a pro for chickpea pasta. “Chickpeas and other beans contain phytic acid, which can make beans hard to digest for some. Chickpea pasta may be a bit easier for some to digest since it is slightly more processed than chickpeas,” she says.
Albertson agrees that the processing adds value for those who have difficulties with beans. “Chickpea pasta, like hummus, is easier to digest because they have been ground, and will have more contact with digestive enzymes which serve to break the chickpeas down in the digestive system,” she says.
Yes, chickpea pasta is definitely healthy
You’ve probably already come to this conclusion: Chickpea pasta is healthy indeed. “I think chickpea pasta is an excellent choice to add to one’s diet,” Albertson says. “It’s lower in simple carbohydrates and more nutritious than regular pasta.” She notes that a two-ounce serving offers 8g of fiber, as well as 15% of the DV for iron and potassium. “As a plant food, it’s also a sustainable source of protein and contains resistant starch which may help stabilize blood sugar and improve gut health,” she says.
How to eat chickpea pasta for maximum health benefits
As always, choosing sauces high in nutrients and low in additives is key to keeping your diet healthy, and you’ll be best served making your own sauce rather than purchasing one. In addition to the sauces you choose, it’s also worth noting that despite being high in protein, chickpea pasta still needs help in the protein department.
“Chickpea pasta is considered an incomplete protein, so you’d want to pair this with a complete protein,” says Davis. “Plant-based sources could be tofu, tempeh, hemp seeds, or nutritional yeast — which is often used for a vegan cheesy sauce.”
Of course, if you aren’t plant-based, you can add animal protein to chickpea pasta — a lamb ragu or some grass-fed beef meatballs would be great with it, and you can consider the protein in the chickpea pasta simply a bonus
And don’t shy away from adding a little fat, either. “As with any meal, a source of healthy fat helps the body absorb vitamins and minerals, while helping to keep you full,” Albertson says. Two great ways to take care of that: A drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and some freshly grated parm.