On the 12th June each year, it’s time to celebrate your favorite chickpea treat with International Falafel Day!
Falafel: It’s a Middle Eastern dish made from blended chickpeas, mixed with spices and herbs. The blend is made into balls, then deep-fried or baked. You can eat falafel on its own, but it’s more often than not served with the aforementioned pita bread, plus hummus or tahini, and Israeli salad.
A falafel pita can contain up to 550 calories and 32 grams of fat. The only good news is that Middle Eastern foods are generally low in saturated fat and high in iron, calcium and fiber. Falafel is also a good source of soluble fibre, the type that helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Is falafel healthy?
“There is no bad or good food”. “It depends on how you cook it and how much of it you eat”. Falafel is a great dish to encourage people to eat a more plant-based diet, which benefits the body as well as the environment. It’s high in protein and fiber from the chickpeas (one cup has 15 grams of protein and 14 grams of fiber). Plus, chickpeas contain a lot of iron, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and B vitamins. The various spices in falafel—like cumin, coriander and cardamom—are also full of disease-fighting antioxidants. “It’s a very satisfying meal that will maintain blood sugar levels and prevent excess sugar cravings” .
Most falafels are deep-fried in oil. And while the oil is often unsaturated, it still ups your calorie intake considerably. “For some, it may add too much fat to the diet” . Plus, if a restaurant or vendor heats low-quality oils above their smoke point (think: canola oil), it has the potential to produce carcinogens.
Generally speaking, though, “the frying doesn’t outweigh the benefits, and it can actually help to lower cholesterol levels.
As far as calories go, it’s important to remember where the calories come from is way more important than the number. In the case of falafel, most of the calories come from fat, at around 18 grams per half-cup serving. And while most of these fats are the heart-healthy unsaturated kind, “if you’re concerned about weight loss, you need to keep that in mind when you consume it.
How can I make falafel healthier?
Most people consume falafel on the go in a pita, and that’s where things can get a little messy—in terms of both getting it all over your clothes and nutrition. “Baking is a better option”. “If frying is what you prefer, then use a high-quality oil that can sustain high heat, like grapeseed or avocado, to prevent carcinogen production.”