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Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, and other legumes straddle both protein and vegetable groups. They’re loaded with protein, iron, and zinc, as you might expect from other protein sources like meat, but legumes also contain nutrients that are concentrated in the vegetable kingdom, including fiber, folate, and potassium. You get the best of both worlds with chickpeas, all the while enjoying a food that is naturally low in saturated fat and sodium and free of cholesterol.

The most comprehensive analysis of diet and cancer ever performed was published by the American Institute for Cancer Research. Sifting through some half a million studies, nine independent research teams from around the globe created a landmark scientific consensus report reviewed by 21 of the top cancer researchers in the world. One of their summary cancer-prevention recommendations is to eat whole grains and/or legumes—beans, split peas, lentils, or chickpeas—with every meal. Not every week or every day. Every meal.

Legume consumption is associated with a slimmer waist and lower blood pressure, and randomized trials have shown it may match or beat out calorie cutting for slimming tummy fat as well as improving the regulation of blood sugar, insulin levels, and cholesterol. Beans are packed with fiber, folate, and phytates, which may help reduce the risk of stroke, depression, and colon cancer.

In my Daily Dozen, I recommend at least three daily servings of beans a day, which comprise all the different kinds of beans, including soybeans, split peas, lentils, and chickpeas. A serving is defined as a quarter cup of hummus or bean dip; a half cup of cooked beans, split peas, lentils, tofu, or tempeh; or a full cup of fresh peas or sprouted lentils.

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