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Kala Chana / Black Chickpeas Health Benefits

Kala Chana Black Chickpeas
Kala Chana / Black Chickpeas

Kala Chana also known as black chickpeas (Cicer arietinum L.) is a savory legume that is used extensively in Indian cuisine. Kala Chana is smaller and darker than regular chickpeas and is called "desi chana" as opposed to "kabuli chana" which is the larger, more light colored variety.

Kala chana is also known as Bengal gram and is the source of the popular Chana dal or Bengal gram dal. The outer skin of the whole black chickpeas is removed and the kernels are split forming chana dal. Chana dal has similar nutritional properties as Kala chana except for the fact that the skin of the chickpeas is removed - which also is nutrient dense. Chana dal is considered the most popular lentil and features in various Indian recipes. Being hard, it is best to first soak it for a few hours and then pressure cook for about 15 minutes. This also makes it more easily digestible and prevents bloating
Chana Dal from Kala Chana / Black Chickpeas
Chana Dal / Bengal Gram dal from Black Chickpeas

Health Benefits of Kala Chana

Kala Chana Vs Kabuli Chana

Kala Chana is more flavorful than Kabuli chana. It has a thicker coat which is chock-full of anti-oxidants, anthocyanins and flavonoids.

Antioxidant nutrients like quercetin, kaempferol and myricetin are present in higher concentrations in Kala Chana than the other varieties of garbanzo beans.

These flavonoids have been found to improve the antioxidant defences of blood and some studies have also shown an inhibitory effect on tumors and cancers.1 Kala Chana is considered more easily digestible than regular chickpeas. It also causes less gas and bloating than garbanzo beans.

Kala Chana is prepared by soaking the dry beans overnight and then if desired, pressure cooking for 10 to 15 minutes.

Satiety and maintaining healthy weight

High in fiber (35 grams per cup) and protein (39 grams per cup or 78% of the daily value) it is an ideal weight loss food. When consumed in the morning either cooked or raw (after overnight soaking), it makes for a very filling and nutritious breakfast and helps stave off hunger pangs.

Filled with protein and carbohydrates Kala chana keeps you energized and full for a long time. The protein quality of chickpeas is superior to that of other pulses. It has substantial amounts of essential amino acids, oligosaccharides and simple sugars like glucose and sucrose.2 No wonder it is a favorite of bodybuilders and wrestlers in India. Kala Chana soaked overnight and taken with a little jaggery in the morning gives a burst of energy.

Carbohydrates and dietary fibre in black chickpeas ensure stamina for a long period of time. The satiety inducing effect of Kala chana prevents unhealthy snacking and allows the body to maintain a healthy weight.

In the Western world chickpeas are mainly consumed in the form of hummus. A study showed that people who consumed chickpeas or hummus were 53% less likely to be obese and 51% less likely to have high blood sugar. It was also found that they had a lower body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference as compared to non-consumers. BMI of chickpea consumers was on an average 26.4 as opposed to 28.6 of non-consumers and waist circumference was an average of 92.2 cm as opposed to 97.9 cm for non-consumers. Some of these observed effects could also be due to the fact that consumers of legumes and pulses generally have a healthier diet and lifestyle.3

Helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels

Kala chana's glycemic index is very low which helps to keep blood sugar levels normal. A study in which chickpeas and white bread were fed to healthy subjects, it was shown that there was a 29-36% reduction in blood glucose concentration in volunteers who had the chickpeas. There was also a 83-98% energy compensation in those who consumed the chickpeas. The study concluded that chickpeas are beneficial in blood sugar control and can also help in managing body weight via appetite suppression and energy intake.4

High in mineral content and Vitamins

Kala chana's mineral nutrients include iron (69% of the daily value), potassium(1750mg - 50% of the daily value), calcium (29% of the daily value) and magnesium (1 cup gives you 85% of the daily value). It is also high in Vitamin C (13% of the daily value) which increases the bio-availability of iron. It Vitamin B-6 content is 55% of the daily value. Chickpeas also contain high levels of Beta carotene.

Good for heart health and cholesterol levels

It has zero cholesterol while being rich in folate (280 mcg) and omega 3 fatty acids like alpha-linoleic acid (70-80 milligrams per cup) and oleic acid. This translates to good news for your heart and cholesterol levels. Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to be very beneficial for cardiovascular health. They can help to reduce triglycerides and the growth rate of arterial plaque. They improve the health of blood vessels and can also reduce strokes and other heart diseases. 4 Chickpeas contain important sterols like β-Sitosterol, campesterol and stigmasterol which have powerful cholesterol lowering properties. 2 Beta-sitosterol in particular is said to be beneficial in modulating the immune system, inflammation response and pain levels via its effects on controlling the production of inflammatory cytokines.

Antioxidants keep skin and hair healthy

Kala chana's antioxidants and phytonutrients are said to help skin and hair. It also reduces oxidative stress in cells helping to keep a youthful look.

Aids in digestion and regularity

Kala chana contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. 1 cup provides 35 grams of dietary fiber or 140% of the daily value. This helps to provide roughage and promotes health of the digestive tract as well as colon cleansing. Consuming kala chana everyday will help to keep you regular.

Promotes Immunity and Prevents Inflammation

Inflammation is the body's immune response to any pain, injury, stress or other threat. However chronic inflammation can lead to a host of health issues.Chickpeas contain significant amounts of phytosterols Beta-sitosterol in particular is said to be beneficial in modulating the immune system, inflammation response and pain levels via its effects on controlling the production of inflammatory cytokines. Some studies have also shown that phytosterols like beta-sitosterol may help to bring back to normal the function of natural killer cells and T-helper lymphocytes after the body has been subjected to stress.

Increases nutritional value of other foods

Acrylamide is a harmful substance that is formed when starch and carbohydrates are cooked at high heat over 250 F/121 C. The longer the food is cooked the more acrylamide is produced. It is particularly present in potatoes, grains, bread, coffee, snacks and chips. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified acrylamide as a carcinogen. Using traditional methods of cooking can reduce acrylamide levels. For e.g blanching potatoes before frying them or soaking them in water for 10-15 minutes can reduce acrylamide levels. The addition of chickpea flour may also be another way to reduce acrylamide levels.6

Kala chana preparation

Kala chana is incorporated in a number of ways in Indian cuisine. Here are a couple of easy ways to enjoy them and avail their health benefits.

Soak the black chickpeas overnight. In the morning drain the water - this removes the phytic acid. Have the chickpeas with some jaggery.

Cooking chickpeas helps in reducing phytic acid, stachyose and raffinose. After soaking and draining the water, cook the chickpeas in a pressure cooker for about 10 minutes. Add some olive oil, chopped onions, coriander leaves, a little sea salt or black salt and a dash of lemon juice. Makes for a delicious and nutritious breakfast or snack.
Kala Chana Black Chickpeas Salad
Kala chana salad with cooked black chickpeas

Sprouted black chickpeas are extremely nutritious

Kala chana is also ground into a flour called Besan / gram flour and used as a batter to make snacks like fritters and pakoras. Besan is gluten free.

Besan is a prime ingredient in many Indian snacks. It is also known as a beauty aid and is used in face masks. It can also be used as a daily face wash instead of soap. It helps to draw out impurities and keeps skin glowing

Besan Bengal Gram Flour from Kala chana


1. Free Radical Research. 1999 Dec;31 Suppl:S75-80.
Health effects and bioavailability of dietary flavonols.
Hollman PC1, Katan MB.

2. The British Journal of Nutrition 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 1:S11-26. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512000797.
Nutritional quality and health benefits of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.): a review.
Jukanti AK1, Gaur PM, Gowda CL, Chibbar RN.

3. Nutrients. 2016 Dec; 8(12): 766.
Published online 2016 Nov 29. doi: 10.3390/nu8120766
PMCID: PMC5188421
The Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Chickpeas and Hummus
Taylor C. Wallace,1,* Robert Murray,2 and Kathleen M. Zelman3

4. Harvard Women's Health Watch
Omega-3-rich foods: Good for your heart
Published: November, 2013

5.Journal of Food Science and Technology. 2017 Mar;54(4):987-994. doi: 10.1007/s13197-016-2422-6. Epub 2016 Dec 8.
Chickpeas suppress postprandial blood glucose concentration, and appetite and reduce energy intake at the next meal.
Zafar TA1, Kabir Y2.

6. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 2015;55(8):1137-45. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2012.687418.
Chickpeas—composition, nutritional value, health benefits, application to bread and snacks: a review.
Rachwa-Rosiak D1, Nebesny E, Budryn G.

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