It’s another of our comparison posts, this time chickpeas vs chicken! Why chickpeas compared to chicken? Because chickpeas are known as the high protein vegetable, and chicken is meat, and both chickpeas and chicken have “chick” in their names. It is a bit of fun and we think it might be insightful to see the nutritional differences between a representative meat and a possible substitute vegetable.
Chickpeas VS Chicken Protein
When you are thinking about substituting chickpeas for chicken, it is probably because you’re targeting chickpeas’ protein. So how do chickpeas compare? In a word, poorly. Cooked chicken breast has more than 600% more protein than cooked chickpeas, on a weight for weight basis. Browsing around the internet, you might come across different comparisons, but do not be misled. Weight-based nutrition values for chickpeas are hugely influenced by their water content.
6X Chickpeas = 1X Chicken
Whilst dried chickpeas (cooked or uncooked) contain more than 20g of protein per 100g, wet chickpeas (soaked or freshly-picked raw chickpeas) have just 7 grams of protein per 100g. Wet-cooked chickpea has 5g protein/100g. On the other hand, raw chicken breast has 22 grams of protein per 100g, whilst cooked chicken breast has 31g protein per 100g. In other words, you’d have to eat more than six times as much chickpea to get the same protein quantity as a given amount of chicken.
If you’re thinking, well maybe I would eat 6X chickpeas if it is better for my diet, let’s take a look at calorie count…
Chickpeas VS Chicken Calories
Cooked chickpeas contain an easy-to-calculate 1 calorie (4.184kJ) per gram, so 100g chickpeas is worth 100 calories (418kJ). Cooked chicken breast has 167 calories, or 700 kilojoules per 100 grams. Dry chickpeas have 356 calories/100g, whilst soaked chickpeas have 136 calories per 100g. Raw chicken breast has 104 calories, or 438kJ per 100g. As a rule of thumb, cooked chickpeas and chicken breast are roughly calorie equivalent at the ratio of 1.7 chickpea to 1 chicken breast.
Thus, you would need to eat three and a half times more chickpea calories than chicken calories to get a similar amount of protein. On this basis alone, and without delving into the plant vs animal protein issue, we can say definitively that chicken is a far better source of protein than chickpea.
Chickpea Nutrition is Highly Variable
Chickpeas are very densely nutritious. They contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals, including lots of folate, iron, and magnesium. Cooked chickpea has 10g carbs, 5g fat, 5g protein, 8g dietary fibre, and 1g sugar per 100 grams. Whilst there isn’t a single stand-out micronutrient, chickpea iron content (2.89mg/100g) is notably high.
Chicken is also a highly nutritious food. Compared to chickpea, it has an overall lower useful micronutrient content. Except for Vitamin A (44uG compared to 1uG), chicken breast has lower concentrations of micronutrients than chickpea. Cooked chicken breast has no carbs, 5g fat, 31g protein, no dietary fibre, and no sugar per 100 grams. Chicken contains a bit less than half the iron of chickpea, 1.16mg/100g.
An important thing to understand about vegetable micronutrients (like those in chickpeas), is that their levels depend on many factors. Growing conditions, soil constituents, harvesting times, processing, and seed variety can change average micronutrient values. In the case of chickpeas, cooking method, heating duration, and soaking duration changes the quantity of both macro and micro nutrients.
Garbanzo Beans VS Chickpeas
You might have come across a recipe calling for garbanzo beans, accompanied with a picture of chickpeas and wondered if they’re the same thing. Yes, off-colour jokes aside, garbanzo beans and chickpeas are different names for exactly the same legume. There are two main types of chickpea; Kabuli and Desi. Both have various names in different parts of the world, including garbanzo (America), chana (India), gram (Middle East), and Egyptian Pea.
Main Reasons to Eat Chickpea
Leaving aside questions of taste preferences, chickpeas are an excellent food choice, as part of a balanced diet. They’re a great “all-rounder” food, because they contain a broad spectrum of micronutrients as well as all the macros. If you are trying to reduce carbohydrates without cutting them out completely, chickpeas are a good substitute for rice, wheat flour, corn, and potato.
Main Reasons to Eat Chicken
Protein and taste and taste and protein. Did we mention protein and taste?
Is Chickpea a Substitute for Chicken?
Chicken and chickpeas are not substitutes for one another. There is no practical way to get the quantity and quality of chicken protein from chickpea. Conversely, there is no way to get the chickpea carbs and dietary fibre from chicken. It is also harder to cover all the chickpea micronutrient bases with chicken.