Not All Chickpeas Are The Same
Do you eat canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)? Perhaps you have some in your pantry right now. If you do, are your chickpeas bathing in an innocent solution of water and sea salt, or are they soaking in water, salt and artificial food preservatives like Disodium Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid and sodium metabisulfite?
Before noshing on your canned goods, it is important to look at the nutrition label and ingredients listed on the cans. This article explains why it is essential that all food labels be read, even those found on simple products like canned chickpeas.
Before I continue with this article, I suggest that you dash over to your pantry and look at your canned chickpeas. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Okay, did you look at your chickpeas? What do the labels read? Do they contain additives?
Always read the labels
It is important to realize that not all food products are the same. Food items produced by different companies and brands may look similar, yet contain dissimilar ingredients. Today I am zeroing in on the importance of reading the labels on canned chickpeas, but everything I share in this post applies to other foods as well, not just chickpeas.
If you want to eat cleanly, you must read all labels found on non-canned foods as well. Always read the nutrition and ingredient labels on foods that are stored in bags, bottles, boxes, cartons, plastic containers, saran wrap, etc.
Please note that anytime I mention chickpeas, I am also referring to garbanzo beans. They are the same thing – ‘chickpea’ and ‘garbanzo bean’ are just two different ways of describing the same legume.
Not all chickpeas are the same
Canned chickpeas are a staple in many homes because they are convenient, yummy, versatile and pack a nutritional punch in a pinch. However, not all canned chickpeas are the same! Some brands package their chickpeas with only water and salt, while others add color-preserving, mold inhibiting, and chelating additives.
Let’s go on a chickpea journey and take a closer look at what might be sitting in your pantry right now. My own discovery led me to write this article. Here’s my story.
My chickpea story
A few weeks ago I was making dinner with a friend who was trying a meal kit delivery service. I think the company was Plated and the meal was a Mediterranean chickpea and quinoa bowl of some sort.
I was the acting sous chef for that night and it was my job to prep the veggies, including the chickpeas. I remember mindlessly opening the can and dumping the chickpeas into a strainer. The liquid that oozed out seemed oddly thick, gooey and had a slight odor. Thinking they were spoiled, I grabbed the can of chickpeas and looked for an expiration date.
I didn’t recognize the brand (Select Fare), but I did notice that the chickpeas were not due to expire for several months. As I turned the can over in my hand I stopped and looked at the nutrition and ingredient label. I am glad I did because I was really surprised at what I saw.
Select Fare’s canned chickpeas ingredient label
Closer observation of the Select Fare Chickpeas’ can showed that chickpeas were not the only ingredient. Here’s what was in the can:
Select Fare’s canned chickpeas ingredients
- Garbanzo beans
- Disodium EDTA and Sodium Metabisulfite (added to promote color retention)
Whoa nelly. This can of chickpeas contained the two preservatives, Disodium EDTA and Sodium Metabisulfite. Both of these ingredients are inorganic (man made) chemical additives (more on this later).
How disappointing! After seeing these ingredients, I tossed the chickpeas into the trash. I hate throwing out food, but I also don’t like eating synthetic chemicals!
Luckily, we had a backup can of chickpeas in the pantry cabinet… it was a 365 Everyday Value (organic) brand of garbanzo beans (produced by Whole Foods).
365 Everyday Value’s organic canned chickpeas ingredient label
I looked at the 365 Everyday Value Organic Garbanzo Beans’ label and immediately noticed that its ingredients were cleaner than the Select Fare brand. Here’s what was in the can:
365 Everyday Value’s organic canned chickpeas ingredients
- Organic garbanzo beans
- Sea Salt
Phew! There were only three ingredients listed on the label, none of which were artificial preservatives. Dinner was saved and we were able to finish cooking our dinner! I am thankful that I looked at the Select Fare’s chickpeas’ ingredients because I thwarted preservatives and most likely avoided feeling sick from the meal. Woot!
My decision to select the 365 Everyday Value brand over Select Fare was mostly influenced by the ingredients, but nutritionally, other factors stood out to me. Looking beyond the ingredients, I saw that the nutrition labels were not the same. The 365 Everyday Value’s label indicated that its chickpeas were healthier than the Select Fare chickpeas.
Let’s take a closer look at all of the reasons that led me to choose the 365 Everyday Value brand of chickpeas over the Select Fare chickpeas.
Select Fare’s chickpeas versus 365 Everyday Value’s chickpeas
Placing the Select Fare’s chickpeas’ can next to the 365 Everyday Value’s canned chickpeas gives us an opportunity to compare the labels. We are visually able to see how the two products differ from each other, and this helps us choose the healthier product.
In the above photo, the Select Fare’s chickpeas’ can is on the left, and the 365 Everyday Value’s chickpeas’ can is on the right. Both cans contain the same serving size, which is 1/2 cup (130 grams) and the same number of servings per container (3.5 servings per can). Calories (120) and fat (2 grams) per serving are also the same.
Upon closer inspection, items like the ingredients, sodium, dietary fiber, sugar, and potassium differ between the two brands. In the photo, I circled and color coded these items.
When comparing the two brands, a few things stand out to me.
Here’s what I notice:
1. Smell and texture: The Select Fare’s chickpeas had a noticeably unpleasant smell and viscous consistency. The 365 Everyday Value’s chickpeas were odorless and were not sitting in a syrupy liquid like the Select Fare brand.
2. Ingredients (circled in red): The 365 Everyday Value’s garbanzo beans are organic, while the Select Fare’s beans are not. The Select Fare has two extra ingredients, both which are preservatives. These ingredients are Disodium EDTA and sodium metabisulfite.
Disodium EDTA, also known as ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, is a salt synthesized in a lab from ethylenediamine, formaldehyde, and sodium cyanide. It is a metal chelation agent. This means that it binds with and deactivates heavy metal ions to eliminate metal tastes from cans. Long-term ingestion of Disodium EDTA has been linked to kidney damage, low calcium levels, headaches, migraines, heart palpitations, asthma, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, weight gain and the lowering of blood sugar.
Sodium metabisulfite, also known as E223, is an inorganic salt that is produced by treating sodium hydroxide (also known as caustic soda) with sulfur-dioxide-containing gasses in saturated sodium hydrogen sulfite solution. In food applications, it acts as an antimicrobial and anti-oxidation agent, inhibiting the growth of fungi and bacteria. Ingestion of sodium metabisulfite has been linked to allergy-like respiratory symptoms such as bronchial constriction, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and anaphylactic shock. Studies have also connected sodium metabisulfite to gastrointestinal upset and inflammation, skin irritation, rapid swelling of skin, flushing, tingling sensations, and hyperactivity in some people.
Due to sodium metabisulfite causing extreme allergic reactions in certain sulfite-sensitive individuals, it is recommended that asthmatics and people with allergies to sulfites avoid foods containing sulfites (like Select Fare’s canned chickpeas).
Note: Rinsing the chickpeas does not remove the Disodium EDTA or Sodium metbisulfite from the beans.
3. Sodium (circled in blue): Select Fare has 420 mg (18% daily value) of sodium per serving, while 365 Everyday Value is much lower at 85 mg (4% daily value). Sodium is an essential nutrient for optimal nutrition, but too much of it is unhealthy. Diets high in sodium are linked to cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and heart failure. Too much salt can also damage kidneys, bone health and lead to stomach cancer. For these reasons, it is important to watch your daily sodium intake. For canned foods, it’s ideal to choose the brands that contain less sodium in their products. In this case, the 365 Everyday Value chickpeas’ sodium levels are much lower than Select Fare, making the 365 Everyday Value brand a better choice.
4. Dietary fiber (circled in green): Select Fare has 4 g of dietary fiber (14% daily value), while 365 Everyday Value has 6 grams (24% daily value). Dietary fiber is essential for healthy nutrition. It helps with fat loss by adding bulk to your diet and making you feel satiated faster. It aids with digestion, reduces constipation, helps control blood sugar levels, lowers unhealthy cholesterol levels and reduces your cancer risk. Due to its higher fiber content, 365 Everyday Value’s chickpeas are healthier than Select Fare.
5. Sugars (circled in orange): Select Fare has 3 g of total sugars, while 365 Everyday Value has 1 gram. Because sugar is linked to many health issues, it is important to limit your daily sugar intake as much as possible. When looking at sugar content, the 365 Everyday Value brand is the healthier option of the two brands.
6. Potassium (circled in purple): Select Fare has 232 mg of potassium (4% of daily value), while 365 Everyday Value has 290 mg (8% daily value). Our bodies need far more potassium than sodium each day. A high potassium intake can help relax blood vessels, excrete excess sodium and decrease blood pressure. For these reasons, it makes sense to choose the product that is lower in sodium, yet higher in potassium. In this comparison, the 365 Everyday Value brand is the better choice.
7. BPA: The 365 Everyday Value can has a BPA-free liner, while there is written note that the Select Fare can is BPA-free. BPA stands for bisphenol A, which is a synthetic estrogen found in the epoxy coatings of food cans. Scientists have linked BPA to health concerns such as breast cancer, reproductive damage, developmental problems, heart disease and other illnesses. Whenever possible, choose BPA-free products. In this case, the 365 Everyday Value brand is the winner.
365 Everyday Value chickpeas are superior
When comparing the ingredients and nutrition between the two brands, Select Fare and 365 Everyday Value, the 365 Everyday Value chickpeas nutritionally reign superior. The 365 Everyday Value chickpeas are not blended with artificial preservatives, are lower in sodium and sugar and higher in fiber and potassium, and are packaged in a BPA-free liner.
What to look for in a meal kit delivery service
The realization that not all chickpeas are created equal hit me because someone else was doing the shopping for me. I didn’t select the Select Fare chickpeas. They were already included in the meal kit we were preparing. If you want to make sure your meal kit delivery service consists of healthy and high quality ingredients, here is what you should look for.
Just like we found out about chickpeas, not all meal kit delivery services are the same. Some are healthier than others. Before choosing a meal kit delivery service, research and compare companies. If you want to eat cleanly, choose a service that uses clean and sustainable ingredients.
Look for a company that uses responsibly raised antibiotic- and hormone-free meats, sustainably sourced seafood and certified organic produce. You want a meal kit service that delivers real, clean food free of synthetic preservatives/chemicals. A great example of this is service is Sun Basket. I used them for a while and was very happy with the quality of the food and meals.
Not all chickpeas are the same! Some contain synthetic additives, while others do not. Some brands are high in sodium and sugar as well. When food shopping, always read the nutrition and ingredient labels.
Choose products that are low in sugar and sodium and avoid those that contain preservatives such as Disdisodium EDTA and sodium metabisulfit, which are linked to health issues and there are brands that do not contain them. Once you find a healthy brand that you like, you don’t have to spend time reading labels anymore for that product, just repurchase it every time.
When shopping for a meal kit delivery service, select one that uses antibiotic- and hormone-free meats, sustainably sourced seafood, and certified organic produce.
Disodium EDTA: What You Need To Know: Disodium EDTA is an additive found in personal care products, cleaners, cosmetics and food. This article explains all you need to know about this preservative and explains why you should limit your exposure to it.
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When she is not slaying fat and building muscle, Jennifer can be found trekking barefoot, traveling, cooking and refining her photography skills. She also enjoys reading and writing about food culture, history and the science of human movement.