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7 Health Benefits Of Falafel: Recipe, Side Effects, And More

Falafel is a delicious traditional Middle Eastern snack. This popular deep-fried street food is served with salads or pita bread with tahini sauce, veggies, and pickles. Occasionally, it is baked instead of fried to make it healthier. This vegan and gluten-free snack is made with chickpeas and has many health benefits. Keep reading to learn this savory snack’s benefits, nutrition profile, recipe, and more.

What Is Falafel?

Melissa Mitri, MS, RD, says, “Falafel is a deep-fried ball or patty-shaped fritter made of mashed chickpeas. It is a popular Middle Eastern dish.”

It is prepared with dried ground chickpeas or fava beans or a mix of both. The legumes are soaked in water, crushed, kneaded, seasoned, and then fried in hot oil. Traditional recipes also contain ingredients like onion, garlic, parsley, paprika, and sesame seeds. Sometimes, baking soda is added to make the batter more airy (1).

Mitri adds, “Overall, falafel is a healthy vegetarian food. It is primarily made of chickpeas, fava beans, or a combination of the two. These beans are high in protein, soluble fiber, and complex carbs to provide energy and enhance satiety.” The next section gives a proper breakdown of the nutrients in falafel. Scroll down.

Falafel Nutritional Facts

A 17 g falafel patty contains (2):

Calories

56.6 kcal

Proteins

2.26 g

Carbohydrates

5.41 g

Total lipids (Fat)

3.03 g

Calcium

9.18 mg

Potassium

99.4 mg

Magnesium

13.9 mg

Sodium

50 mg

Phosphorus

32.6 mg

Iron

0.58 mg

Rhyan Geiger, RDN, states, “Falafel contains nutrients like protein, B vitamins, iron, and fiber. Because of its protein content, it’s a popular choice among vegans and vegetarians.”

Since falafel is fried, its oil content is high, which may be a cause for concern. However, there are a few other cooking methods to minimize the oil content and make it healthier.

Geiger continues, “The health aspects of falafel may be questioned because of the preparation methods. If deep-fried in oil, they may be higher in fat and calories. Instead, choosing to bake falafel increases the nutritional benefits.” Here is the easiest and tastiest way to bake crispy falafel at home.

How To Make Healthy Falafel

What You Need

  •  1 can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  •  ½ cup of white onion (finely diced)
  •  1 cup of fresh parsley
  •  1 cup of fresh cilantro
  •  ¼ teaspoon of black pepper (freshly ground)
  •  1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  •  1 teaspoon of coriander
  •  2 teaspoons of cumin
  •  2 teaspoons of baking powder
  •  2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed
  •  1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  •  1 teaspoon of salt or as needed

How To Prepare

  1.  Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2.  Coarsely blend chickpeas, onions, parsley, and cilantro in a mixer.
  3.  Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, coriander, cumin, baking powder, and flaxseed. Blend until smooth.
  4.  Grease a large baking sheet.
  5.  Roll the falafel mixture into balls and place them evenly on a baking sheet. Flatten each ball into a disc (or any shape you want).
  6.  Bake for 20 minutes. Flip the patties and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
  7.  Serve with pita bread or salad.

This is one of the healthiest ways to prepare falafel at home. Other than the cooking method, the ingredients, especially chickpeas, in falafel make it quite healthy. Take a look at its health benefits.

Health Benefits Of Falafel

1. Rich In Proteins

Chickpea-based falafels are a good source of protein, and the body readily absorbs chickpea proteins than proteins from other beans. Also, chickpea flour contains dietary fiber, folate, beta carotene, and other healthy fatty acids (3).

2. May Help Control Weight

Legumes like chickpeas and fava beans are considered low-GI foods (a glycemic index of 55 or less). A study showed that falafel, served with pita bread, pickle, salad, and tahini sauce, had an average GI of 33. A diet comprising nutrient-balanced low GI foods promotes greater weight loss and is crucial for preventing several associated metabolic syndromes (4), (5), (6).

3. May Promote Heart Health

Chickpeas are widely used in the Mediterranean diet. A study showed that chickpea supplementation could reduce the total serum cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), two biomarkers of cardiovascular diseases. Legume-rich diets also help lower systolic blood pressure and may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions (7).

4. Good Source Of Vitamins

Chickpeas contain important vitamins, such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, folate, and beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. They also contain tocopherols, vitamin B complex, and folic acid. A study evaluated authentic falafel obtained from Israel and found that it contained 0.30 mg of thiamin (vitamin B1) per 100 grams. In other words, about five falafels can cover 40% of your daily recommended thiamin intake (8), (9), (10).

5. May Prevent Anemia

Chickpeas are rich in vitamin B12 and folate, two crucial nutrients required for making red blood cells (erythropoiesis). A low red blood cell count may cause anemia, leading to circulation issues in the body (3), (11). While falafels are not proven to prevent anemia, consuming chickpea-based falafels may help maintain the folate and vitamin B12 levels in your body.

6. Is Gluten-Free

Traditional falafel is made with chickpea flour or fava beans, or both. These legumes are gluten-free and rich in dietary fiber. Falafel can be a healthy addition to a gluten-free diet to cover up the deficiency of other nutrients (especially fiber). It is also good for people with celiac disease (a digestive disorder triggered by gluten) (12), (13).

7. May Improve Bowel Movement

The dietary fiber in chickpeas helps smoothen the bowel movement, increases the frequency of defecation, and softens the stool composition to prevent constipation (7).

You can store falafel or its batter for several days or months if you follow proper storage techniques. Here are a few tips from the experts.

Storage And Food Safety

Geiger recommends, “To store falafel, place it in the refrigerator for up to 7 days or freezer for up to 6 months. There are no food safety concerns with falafel unless eaten past expiration.” However, ensure that you store the batter or falafel patties in an airtight container or ziplock bag.

The consumption of street food, including falafel, is often associated with health, safety, and regulatory issues mainly due to the unhygienic methods.

Elizabeth Barnes, MS, RDN, LDN, explains, “As with any food, make sure you follow proper food handling. The CDC is a great place to find out more about food safety.”
She suggests the following food safety tips for cooking falafel:

  •  Wash your hands thoroughly before cooking.
  •  Do not eat uncooked falafel batter.
  •  Cook thoroughly.

Falafel is prepared using a variety of ingredients, and some may cause allergies.

Possible Side Effects And Allergies of Eating Falafel

  •  Sesame seeds are a common allergen and often used in dips and sauces served with falafel dishes. They may cause severe allergic reactions in people allergic to them (14).
  •  Even chickpeas may cause allergic reactions. Barnes explains, “Some people, particularly those of Mediterranean or Indian ancestry or an existing allergy to another legume, may have an allergic reaction to chickpeas. Symptoms experienced may include rashes, hives, and skin redness.” Studies have also confirmed this claim as lentils, chickpeas, peas, and green beans have been described as potential allergens in Mediterranean countries and India (15).
  •  Another possible side effect Mitri mentions is, “Those who are sensitive to fried foods or fiber may experience bloating or indigestion.” Certain carbohydrates in chickpeas can also cause flatulence. We lack the enzymes to digest them, so they accumulate in the large intestine, resulting in gas buildup (3).

Mitri suggests, “If you’ve never had falafel before, try a small portion first to make sure you don’t experience these side effects.”

The Final Word

Falafel is a meat alternative for vegans and vegetarians and a deliciously flavorful snack. It can be eaten alone or paired with pita bread, hummus dips, and salads. It is extremely nutritious and loaded with micronutrients, dietary fibers, proteins, and vitamins. Though falafels are deep-fried, you can take the healthy route by baking them. However, ensure that you are not allergic to any of the ingredients used in them to avoid undesired effects. Go ahead and taste this nutrient-packed street food today!

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Is falafel high in carbs?

Yes. Although legumes are considered a high carb food, they are associated with many health benefits, so it is a healthy high carb food.

How many calories are in four falafel balls?

Four falafel balls contain 228 calories.

Is falafel keto-friendly?

No. Legumes are a high-carb food, which makes falafel unsuitable for the keto diet.

Is falafel good for building muscle?

Yes. Falafels are rich in proteins, which are necessary for building muscle.

Is falafel healthier than chicken?

Falafel has higher calories, fats, and carbohydrates but fewer proteins than chicken.

Is falafel anti-inflammatory?

Yes. Chickpeas and sesame seeds (ingredients used in falafel) contain anti-inflammatory compounds.

Is falafel a processed food?

Not really. Falafel can be prepared at home. However, you will also get processed falafel premix on the market.

Is falafel high in sodium?

Homemade falafel is not high in sodium; however, certain commercially available falafel mixes are high in sodium.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Falafel: A Meal with Full Nutrition
    https://www.scirp.org/journal/paperinformation.aspx?paperid=80589
  2. FoodData Central
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172455/nutrients
  3. Achievements and challenges in improving nutritional quality of chickpea
    http://oar.icrisat.org/9241/
  4. Glycemic index and obesity
    https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/76/1/281S/4689499?login=true
  5. International Tables of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values: 2008
    https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/31/12/2281
  6. Consumption of Traditional Saudi Foods and Their Estimated Glycaemic Index and Glycaemic Load
    https://scialert.net/fulltext/?doi=pjn.2018.518.523
  7. The Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Chickpeas and Hummus
    https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/8/12/766/htm
  8. Nutritional quality and health benefits of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.): a review
    https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/nutritional-quality-and-health-benefits-of-chickpea-cicer-arietinum-la-review/BCD8920297E987AAABBC12BFF90EB0CF
  9. Daily Value on the New Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels
    https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/daily-value-new-nutrition-and-supplement-facts-labels
  10. Vitamin composition of ethnic foods commonly consumed in Europe.
    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3402/fnr.v56i0.5639
  11. NEW INSIGHTS INTO ERYTHROPOIESIS: The Roles of Folate Vitamin B12 and Iron
    https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.nutr.24.012003.132306
  12. Complimenting gluten free bakery products with dietary fiber: Opportunities and constraints
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0924224417305964
  13. Celiac disease: Overview and considerations for development of gluten-free foods
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213453016300325
  14. Falafel burger anaphylaxis due to sesame seed allergy
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8346864/
  15. Allergy to Peanut Soybean and Other Legumes: Recent Advances in Allergen Characterization Stability to Processing and IgE Cross-Reactivity
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mnfr.201700446

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