Are Canned Chickpeas Still Good For You?

Chickpeas are a woefully overlooked food. According to the USDA, 100 grams of chickpeas (a little under half a cup) packs 270 milligrams of potassium. Given that most Americans only get about half their daily recommended potassium intake — per this 2012 report also from the USDA — most people could really use the nutrient boost chickpeas offer. And that's before you look at the vitamin C, vitamin E, and trace nutrients in these little legumes.

Unfortunately if you run to the store, there's a good chance you're not going to find fresh chickpeas in the produce section. You will, however, find them in the canned vegetable aisle, usually labeled as garbanzo beans. And that brings up the question: Are the canned beans just as healthy as fresh beans?

When it comes to potassium, yes! Canned chickpeas and fresh chickpeas add the same amount of potassium to your diet. But what about the vitamin content? And, worse yet, added sodium?

Canned chickpeas by the numbers

This is where canned chickpeas lose some of their shine. The USDA keeps separate lists for canned vegetables versus their fresh counterparts. And when you compare the numbers for chickpeas, you find that you'll get 1.1 milligrams of vitamin C from fresh beans but only .2 milligrams from canned. Vitamin E levels also drop — from 1.09 milligrams to .32 milligrams.

Of course, you can counter these losses by adding in other vitamin-rich foods. But the real issue with canned food is usually the increased sodium content. One hundred grams of fresh chickpeas contain 222 milligrams of sodium. Canned, on the other hand, contains 327 milligrams. That's a pretty hefty jump, especially if you're worried about your blood pressure.

Don't write off canned chickpeas just yet, though. It turns out that, unlike most canned foods, you can reduce the sodium content of canned beans by rinsing them. Cook's Illustrated, one of the most trusted food magazines in the world, had a lab check the sodium content of canned chickpeas before and after testing. They found that rinsing the beans removed around 100 milligrams of sodium! That takes canned chickpeas down to only 227 milligrams of sodium — 5 milligrams higher than fresh beans.

Fresh chickpeas still offer higher levels of vitamins and trace nutrients. But as long as you rinse your beans, canned chickpeas are still a great source of potassium and fiber that you don't want to pass up.