I've been working with a number of clients lately on increasing fiber intake. Fiber is super important for heart health, supporting cholesterol levels, maintaining balanced blood sugar, and supporting healthy digestion and elimination.
You should aim to get around 30 grams of fiber a day. Start with a whole foods diet and include lots of beans, non-starchy vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. I often add flax seeds or chia seeds to my breakfast which adds fiber.
Beans are one of my favorite ways to increase fiber intake. I especially love making anything with chickpeas since they are so tasty and versatile and are packed with nutrition.
So today I want to focus on chickpeas and share a delicious recipe I've been making this winter.
Chickpeas are a wonderful vegetarian source of protein and an excellent source of fiber so they make you feel full and support healthy blood sugar levels. Chickpeas are also rich in iron, folate, and other vitamins and minerals.
From a foodie perspective, chickpeas are crazy versatile! I like to make chickpea salad sandwiches (a yummy vegan version of tuna salad). I use chickpeas in my Breakfast Hash. I turn them into hummus, brownies, interesting salads, Mediterranean dishes, and Moroccan tagines. And the list goes on.
Dinner in a flash:
If I have no time to cook, a can of organic chickpeas is an instant starting point for a 5 minute dinner. Saute an onion in oil, add chickpeas and a favorite spice (tandoori spice blend or garam masala are nice), and serve over rice or quinoa with a vegetable.
If you have a bit more time, and still want an easy-to-prepare dinner....Chickpea Extravaganza is it.
Chickpea and Sweet Potato Extravaganza
Here's a tasty way to make friends with fiber. This is just a fabulous dish – very easy to throw together and then bake -- with wonderful flavors. It’s great for leftover lunches too.
Time: 25 minutes to prep, 35 minutes to bake
Serves 3-4 (easily adapted for smaller households)*
• 2 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
• 1 large or medium red onion, chopped (yellow onion is fine too)
• 1/3 cup + 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
• 3 tablespoons capers, drained
• 1 large sweet potato, cubed (about ½ cubes), skin on
• ¼ cup raisins (brown or golden)
• ½-3/4 teaspoon sea salt (or more or less to taste)
• Freshly cracked black pepper
• 2 sprigs fresh rosemary (thyme is good too), coarsely chopped
• 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1/3 cup Kalamata olives
• 1 organic lemon, sliced into thin wheels
• ½-1 teaspoon smoked paprika, or more to taste
Heat the oven to 375° F. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt the coconut oil. When it's hot, add the onions and sauté until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Remove onions from the heat and scrape into a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.
Add the olive oil, chickpeas, capers, sweet potatoes, raisins, salt, pepper, rosemary or thyme, red chili flakes, and olives to the dish, then stir to combine. Top with slices of lemon and admire how pretty it looks.
Cover tightly with foil and bake 35 minutes. Remove the foil and add the paprika to taste. I like this by itself, but you can also serve it over cooked quinoa or brown rice.
*NOTE: This dish is easily adaptable. If you are a 1-person household, you could make the whole recipe and have leftovers, or you could easily halve it.
**VARIATIONS: omit the sweet potato and try with cubed butternut squash, or try different spices that you like (try cumin or a tandoori spice blend). Or try mixing in some chopped sautéed spinach or kale at the end, when serving.