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Gram flour, chickpea flour or simply besan is commonly found in almost every kitchen in India. Made from ground roasted chickpeas, besan serves as a staple in various areas in the country. It has a distinct nutty flavour that makes it a delectable option for both desserts and savoury delicacies. Chickpea flour is rich in proteins, fats, fibres and vitamins and has a lower carb content than wheat flour.

Apart from cooking, gram flour is also used as a face wash and exfoliant. The flour is mixed with various ingredients to make a nourishing and natural face scrub that is said to be good for removing dead skin cells and giving a glow to the skin.

But besan also has several other health benefits - both known and not so known. 

Here is all you need to know about chickpea flour or besan.

  1. Chickpea flour nutrition facts
  2. Gram flour (besan) health benefits
  3. How to make chickpea flour at home
  4. Side effects of gram flour (besan)

Chickpea flour is protein and fibre rich and is gluten-free, which makes it one of the healthy food options you can choose from. Here are the other nutritional facts about chickpea flour as per the USDA:

Nutrient Value per 100g
Energy  387 Kcal
Water 10.28 g
Carbohydrates 57.8 g
Protein 22.4 g
Fibre 10.8 g
Fatty acids  
Monounsaturated 1.5 g
Polyunsaturated 2.9 g
Saturated 0.693 g
Minerals  
Potassium 846 mg
Phosphorus 318 mg
Magnesium 166 mg
Sodium  64 mg
Calcium  45 mg
Iron 4.8 mg
Zinc 2.8 mg
Manganese 1.6 mg
Vitamins  
Vitamin B3 1.76 mg
Folate 437 mcg
Vitamin A 2 mcg
Vitamin K  9 mcg

Though there isn't much scientific evidence on the benefits of gram flour, it is known to have has some of the following benefits for skin and health:

Gram flour for weight loss

Gram flour is rich in fibre, low in saturated fats and has a low glycemic index (does not increase blood glucose levels much). Hence, it is excellent option to include in a weight loss diet. Fibres make you feel full for longer and also aids digestion.

Epidemiological studies (study done on a population in a geographical area) done in the USA show that those who consume chickpeas are 53% less likely to be obese and have significantly less chances of hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels). 

Several studies show that including chickpea flour in your diet can be helpful in weight loss both by increasing the feeling of fullness and due to the low glycemic load.

Though more studies are needed to confirm the findings of these studies, the potential benefits of chickpea flour cannot be neglected completely.

Read more: Diet chart for weight loss

Gram flour (besan) benefits for skin

Gram flour is one of the most popular ingredients for homemade skincare packs and scrubs. Though there aren’t any studies that show the benefits of gram flour for skin, chickpea preparations are used to treat various skin ailments in Ayurvedic medicine

Chickpea flour has a good amount of zinc, it is said to help in improving acne-prone skin. Studies show that oral zinc intake can reduce moderate to severe acne.

Zinc also has anti-inflammatory properties, so it can help reduce the swelling and redness around acne. 

Furthermore, gram flour is known to be an efficient skin cleanser and effective in tightening the skin. It is also considered to be good for reducing dark circles, facial hair and for extracting excess oils from the skin. Again no studies are available to prove the said effect. 

Read more: Skin care tips for oily skin

Here is how you can use gram flour as a face pack and as a scrub:

Gram flour face pack 

What you’ll need:

Preparation:

  • Mix the gram flour with enough rose water to make a paste.
  • Apply a thin even layer of the paste over your face.
  • Let it sit for about 15 minutes
  • Wash with lukewarm water.

Rosewater is an astringent, it helps tighten your skin and close open pores.

Gram flour face scrub

What you’ll need:

  • 2-3 tablespoons of gram flour 
  • A few drops of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of oatmeal

Procedure:

  • Mix all the ingredients in a clean and dry bowl. 
  • Add water or raw milk to make a thick paste.
  • Gently rub the paste over your face to exfoliate all the dead skin.
  • Wash with water after a few minutes.

You can also use this preparation as a mask.

Both honey and oatmeal have anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve various skin issues. Honey is also an antibacterial agent and immunomodulatory - it helps heal wounds.

However, if you have a skin condition, it is best to consult a dermatologist before applying anything on your face.

Gram flour (besan) benefits for hair

There is no scientific evidence of the benefits or effects of gram flour on hair. However, it is believed to be helpful in providing nutrition to hair and improving hair growth, reducing dandruff, and cleansing the scalp. 

If you have a hair or scalp condition, it is always best to refer to a dermatologist before trying any home remedies. Here are some gram flour recipes you can use for your hair:

Gram flour for dandruff

What you’ll need:

  • Gram flour 2-3 tablespoons
  • Yoghurt or curd 3 tablespoons or enough to make a paste

Procedure:

  • Mix the gram flour with curd to make a thick paste - add some water if it's too thick.
  • Apply the paste on your scalp and hair.
  • Let it sit for 10 minutes
  • Wash with cold water

Gram flour for hair growth

What you’ll need:

Procedure:

  • Mix the gram flour with the oil of your choice and the almond oil.
  • Apply on your hair properly.
  • Let it sit for 15 minutes.
  • Rinse with cold water.

Gram flour benefits for diabetes patients

If you are a diabetic and are looking for food choices that don’t increase your blood glucose levels much, you may want to consider adding gram flour to your regular flour. Studies show that chickpeas have a glycemic index of 6 - which is considered to be low.

Read more: Diabetes symptoms

According to a study done in Australia, the low glycemic response of chickpea flour is due to a high amount of resistant starch along with the slow digestibility of its starches in general. This makes the sugars from chickpea flour reach your bloodstream much slower. One study found that chickpea flour has about 4.4% to 5.2% resistant starch, which is significantly high.

Further studies suggest that adding 35% chickpea flour to regular flour for making bread can significantly reduce postprandial (after meal) blood glucose levels. 

A study done on a group of healthy men indicated that all legume flours including chickpea flour have the same effect as that of whole legumes on the blood glucose levels. Hence flours from pulses can be used to improve the nutritional quality of foods and to maintain the blood glucose levels.

Read more: Exercises for diabetes

Gram flour benefits in high cholesterol

High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for various cardiovascular problems including atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke. However, a lot of people don’t even realise they have high cholesterol levels until they get one of the potentially fatal conditions. So, it is best to check your cholesterol levels regularly and opt for foods that can help maintain healthier levels.

Experts say that chickpeas are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and dietary fibres. This makes chickpea flour an excellent option for a low cholesterol diet. 

Fibre reduces total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol levels in the body but has no effects on the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol. It is suggested that fibres mediate their hypocholesterolemic (lowering cholesterol) effect by interference in the lipid metabolism process. Polyunsaturated fats also help reduce the bad cholesterol in body.

At least two different human trials suggest that supplementation of chickpea flour in the diet may help in correcting dyslipidemia (abnormal lipid levels in body) and helping control the cholesterol levels in blood.

Read more: Foods to control High cholesterol

Gram flour benefits for heart

Intake of pulses is scientifically proven to be healthy for heart and associated with a lower risk of heart diseases.

Gram flour helps reduce three of the major risk factors for heart diseases - obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes. 

Also, it has a modest amount of potassium, which is considered to be good for high blood pressure patients. According to Harvard Health, potassium helps balance the effects of excess sodium in the body and hence lowers blood pressure levels. It can also be used as a prophylaxis for high blood pressure. Furthermore, the fibre content in gram flour may add to the effects of potassium. Studies show that fibre intake can help control hypertension.

Thus it is maybe a good idea to add chickpea flour to your diet if you have a heart disease. 

Other benefits of gram flour

  • Gluten free: Gram flour does not contain gluten and hence can be an excellent alternative to wheat flour if you have gluten allergy or intolerance. Read more: Gluten intolerance vs wheat allergy vs celiac disease
  • Immunity: It is said to be helpful in improving immune function and reducing the risk of certain kinds of cancer such as colorectal cancer. The latter is mainly due to the presence of resistant starches.
  • Protein source: Chickpeas have a high protein concentration, hence chickpea flour can be a good alternative protein for vegans or vegetarian people.
  • Constipation: Since gram flour is rich in fibre it may also improve digestion and help relieve constipation.
  • PCOS: Pulse based diets are considered to be healthy for PCOS. Studies suggest that chickpeas contain certain plant-based estrogens which may be helpful in managing the metabolic disturbances in PCOS patients. However, there are no studies so far to confirm the benefits of chickpea flour in PCOS.
  • Pregnancy: Chickpea flour is rich in folate and is hence considered to be healthy for pregnant women. Folate deficiency can cause birth defects especially related to the neural tube in the baby. Also, chickpea flour has various minerals and vitamins that can help achieve the daily recommended requirements for these micronutrients in pregnant women.

Chickpea flour is easy to make at home. Here is a simple recipe for making your own chickpea flour:

  • Buy roasted chickpeas or roast chickpeas in an oven until they get a golden brown colour. 
  • Let them cool a bit then grind all the chickpeas in a grinder.
  • Separate any unground pieces left from the flour and grind the pieces again until all the chickpeas (or most of the batch) is converted into flour.
  • Store the flour in an airtight container.
  • Make sure to consume enough water if you add gram flour to your diet. Otherwise, the fibre present in the flour may cause constipation.
  • Chickpeas have antinutrients, which may reduce the absorption of other nutrients in the body. However, sprouting reduces these antinutrients so you can try and look for chickpea flour made from sprouted beans or make your own.
  • Talk to your doctor about the intake of gram flour if you are taking medications to reduce blood sugar levels or if you normally have hypoglycemia.
  • Chickpea flour has high potassium levels. Those with chronic kidney disease should either avoid it or check in with a doctor before adding chickpea flour to their diet.
  • Some people are allergic to chickpeas.

References

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