All About Falafel: Health Benefits, Calories, Nutritional Aspects, And More
Falafel is one of the most popular Middle Eastern foods, served at almost every traditional restaurant in the UAE. The vegan dish presents a great opportunity for vegetarians to expand their tables.
Falafel is made of chickpeas, spices, herbs, and dough, and is then deep-fried or oven baked to convert them into a yummy snack.
Falafel is served hot or cold, sometimes as an appetizer, other times as the main course. The fritters are also combined with pita bread, tortilla, hummus, and sauces to make falafel durum or wraps. In short, there are many ways a falafel patty can be served. It depends on the preference of the one who eats to decide how they would like it to be served.
In this article, we will analyze the nutritional value, health aspects, and taste of this Middle Eastern dish.
What is Falafel?
Falafel is a round fritter made of chickpea dough, spices, and herbs. It is deep-fried into a falafel patty and served with hummus and other hot sauces. Often, the patty is also made out of mashed potatoes.
Chickpeas or fava beans are used in the preparation of this round-shaped patty. These come in the food category of legumes and form the main component of any falafel recipe. The beans are soaked in water with baking soda for sufficient softening. After that, they are grounded with added spices and ingredients to create a dough for the patty.
Falafel is a nutrient-dense vegetarian food, that is a good source of protein, fiber, and complex cards. It is typically served as falafel wraps, falafel burritos, or falafel sandwiches in restaurants. A hummus and falafel sandwich is very delicious and nutritious at the same time. The chickpea and fava bean-infused recipe delivers ample energy and satiety.
What Is Falafel Made Of? The Main Ingredients:
Most falafel recipes follow the same pattern, but they may differ in spices and a few ingredients. The prime ingredient, however, remains chickpeas, which are also called garbanzo beans by some. This type of legume has a hard exterior and a light brown color. However, the nutty and creamy texture of these beans makes them perfect for falafel dough.
Wondering what falafel taste like? Well, the taste is quite straightforward. It tastes rich, nutty, and savory. It’s the ultimate comfort food for a lot of vegetarians. As falafel is high in proteins, it makes a great meat alternative for them.
Aside from proteins, the food is also rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy carbs, and fiber. Some commonly used ingredients in a falafel recipe are
- Chickpeas or fava beans
- Herbs and spices.
Some people also add chopped chilies, onions, and potatoes into the recipe to make it more interesting. The spicier versions often go really well with a hummus dip, which is made from chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, and garlic. They also make quite a tasty vegetarian falafel wrap or sandwich.
Nutrient Profile Of Falafel:
As mentioned above, a single falafel patty carries a whole range of nutritious elements. From proteins to fiber and energy, it is rich in a number of nutrients that should be part of our daily diet.
Here is a review of what a 17g falafel patty would contain:
|Recommended Daily Amount (RDA)
The recommended daily amount (RDA) in this chart is relevant for an adult taking an average daily diet of 200 calories. The daily value for each individual may vary according to a number of factors, like age, weight, daily food consumption, etc.
Is Falafel Healthy?
The addition of chickpeas makes falafel a healthy snack. Those who are concerned about the deep-frying procedure can opt for air-fried or baked falafel. Either way, the snack carries a strong nutrient profile. Here are some factors that make falafel a healthy snack.
Low Calories Per Serving
A small-sized falafel patty contains about 57 calories. Most of these come from the water and carbohydrate content of the fritter. If you are conscious about your calorie intake, avoid buying pre-made falafel from stores, as they are much bigger in size. A homemade-style or restaurant-style patty is smaller and contains just enough calories to keep it under your daily minimum amount.
The carbohydrates in chickpeas or fava beans make up about 5 grams of a single falafel patty. Falafel is a good source of soluble fiber and complex carbohydrates. Both components work together to ward off the bad cholesterol, i.e., the LDL cholesterol.
A lot of people think that the deep frying method makes it a high-cholesterol food. However, falafel is not high in cholesterol, as opposed, the fiber in it helping regulate cholesterol.
Low Fat Food
A falafel is made of chickpeas, which fall in the category of low-fat food. A single falafel patty contains about three grams of fat, which does not exceed the daily recommended amount.
However, the process of deep-frying might make them high-fat food. To limit the fat content, make sure to consume falafels cooked in high-heat cooking oils or unsaturated fat oils. You can also try to prepare your falafels in a shallow frying pan to avoid overusing the oil.
Excellent Source Of Plant-Based Protein
Chickpeas are a type of legume that contains a high proportion of proteins. It contains 15 grams in a one-cup serving, which is the second highest of all legumes. Because of the abundance of protein content, a lot of vegetarians prefer this as a snack or a meal. It’s a plant-based source of protein, enclosing about 17 to 30% of proteins.
High In Fiber:
Falafel is high in fiber, which makes it a great option for people with bowel issues. The high fiber content results in reduced production of ghrelin hormone (responsible for hunger), and stimulation of cholecystokinin, peptide YY and peptide-1 (responsible for the feeling of fullness). (1, 2, 3)
Most falafel recipes do not include any kind of gluten-containing component. The main ingredient in a falafel is chickpeas or fava beans, which are both gluten-free legumes.
This means that falafel is also gluten-free and can be infused into the diet of those who are a victim of celiac disease(a digestive disorder worsened by gluten consumption). It can also be a way to make up for the lacking nutrients in a vegetarian or gluten-free diet. (4, 5)
Benefits Of Eating Falafel
The nutritional value of the components of falafel offer numerous health benefits. Regular consumption of this food can help reduce symptoms and risks of certain diseases and health conditions. Here is a brief list of factors that answer the question of how falafel can be beneficial for health.
1. Helps In Weight Management
Falafel is healthy for weight loss due to its fiber and protein-rich profile. These two nutritional elements work in unison to help regulate a person’s weight. With reduced hunger, higher satiety, and slower digestion, this chickpea-containing food helps prevent overeating and weight gain.
Daily intake of chickpeas can help a person reduce weight by 25%. A published study also claims that regular intake of chickpeas increases the likelihood of weight loss by 53%. In addition to that, it was noticed that people who consume chickpeas every day had a reduced waist circumference. (6, 7)
2. Helps Maintain Sugar Levels
People often ask if falafel is healthy for diabetics. The simple answer is yes, it can be. Anyone running a risk of diabetes or having diabetes can consume falafel on a regular basis.
It helps maintain blood sugar levels by regulating the release of glucose and insulin in the body. According to a study, the glucose concentration in the blood of the study participants underwent a 29% to 36% decrease after chickpea consumption.
3. Supports Bowel Movement:
Bowel diseases have become widely prevalent over the last few decades. This is due to the reduced intake of fiber in our diets. Bowel issues such as constipation and diarrhea are becoming quite common.
Falafel is high in fiber, which helps give bulk to the stool, resulting in an easy passage. The smaller the stool, the more painful it is to excrete.
Dietary fiber in chickpeas has been tested to be beneficial for bowel health by various studies. These studies also show that daily consumption led to a reduced risk of colon cancer and heart complications. (9, 10)
4. Keeps You Full For Hours:
Any food that contains fiber in abundance follows a slow digestion pattern. A full falafel meal keeps you full for hours, which in turn promotes diet control.
In addition to that, it also contains acetate, which is an appetite-resisting molecule. It is released into the bloodstream, bowel, and brain after the consumption of fiber. It stays there for a few hours and continuously sends chemical messages to organs, translating that the stomach is full.
5. Reduces Risk Of Heart Diseases:
Chickpeas are one of the main components of a low-fat diet. A previous study has verified the credibility of chickpeas and chickpea supplementation in warding off the two prime causes of heart and cardiovascular insufficiency, i.e., LDL-C (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) and serum cholesterol level. (11)
Diets that are sufficient in legumes may help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering systolic blood pressure.
6. Fights Off Anemia:
Chickpeas in falafel are a good source of folate and vitamin B12. These promote and regulate the production of red blood cells, aka erythropoiesis, in the bone marrow. When there are not enough red blood cells in the human body, it can lead to anemia and inefficient blood circulation. (12, 13)
While falafels don’t have a direct effect on anemia, the chickpeas in them deliver a sufficient amount of vitamin B12 and folate to the body, supporting a healthier RBC count.
Summing It Up:
Falafel has gained much popularity outside the Middle East due to its numerous health benefits and nutrient-rich profile. It tastes slightly nutty and also infuses some notes of spices and herbs into it.
The deep-fried chickpea patty is one of the favorite snacks of many. Falafel has no meat in it either, which makes it a great meat substitute for vegetarians. It is also safe to be added to a gluten-free diet.
The yummy treat is often eaten with hummus dip for an enhanced taste. Restaurants make burritos, wraps, and sandwiches with falafel for a touch of diversity.
Falafel can be found in almost every Arabic and Emirati restaurant. You can try making it at home, or visit a restaurant to have a taste of this yummy and healthy snack.
The chef at Arabian Tea House has adopted a secret recipe to make this savory treat all the more delicious. Head over to our restaurant to try our falafel appetizers and main courses today!