Falafel Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Quick and Easy Falafel Recipe

The Spruce / Preethi Venkatram

A falafel provides a healthy dose of plant-based protein. With chickpeas or fava beans as one of its signature ingredients, the falafel stands out as a popular entrée choice for meatless eaters. Full of flavorful spices, fresh herbs, garlic, and shallots, the falafel is a menu staple of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and vegetarian restaurants.

This food contains a modest amount of sodium (less than 1 gram of salt per serving), a heavy dose of protein from chickpeas, and antioxidants from shallots (a bulb vegetable similar to an onion that is known for its heart and bone health properties). Typically served in the shape of a ball or patty, a traditional falafel is either baked or fried and topped with condiments and vegetables for additional flavors and textures.

Falafel Nutrition Facts

This nutrition information for one medium-sized falafel patty measuring 2.25 inches around and weighing 17 grams is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) FoodData Central.

  • Calories: 56.6
  • Fat: 3.03g
  • Sodium: 50mg
  • Carbohydrates: 5.41g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Sugars: 0.5g
  • Protein: 2.26g

Carbs

A falafel patty contains a little more than 5 grams of carbohydrates, the majority of which come from the chickpeas or fava beans. The food is high in complex carbohydrates and soluble fiber—the type of fiber that helps lower LDL cholesterol (known as the "bad" cholesterol).

Fats

With 3 grams of fat per serving, falafel is a low fat food. However, most falafel patties or balls are deep-fried in oil which will increase the fat content. To stave off the fat content, look for falafels cooked in unsaturated fat oils or cook them yourself using a high heat cooking oil like avocado oil and a small frying pan to control the amount of oil you are using.

Protein

Rich in plant-based protein, a falafel contains chickpeas or fava beans that make a nutritious protein choice for those who prefer an alternative to meat. Chickpeas, by comparison to other plant food choices, contain higher proportions of protein—17 to 30% by dry weight.

Vitamins and Minerals

The top nutrients found in a home-prepared falafel include the following:

  • Calcium, which promotes bone health (54mg)
  • Magnesium, which helps regulate blood pressure normal (82mg)
  • Phosphorous, which promotes strong bones (192mg)
  • Potassium, which helps with fluid regulation (585mg)
  • Folate, which promotes healthy cell growth (93mg)

Calories

A single, homemade 17-gram falafel patty contains 56.6 calories. The majority of these calories come from carbohydrates and water (about 40%). Typical store-bought patties, however, are much larger and average approximately 250 calories per patty.

Health Benefits

The nutritious ingredients that make up falafel contribute to its health benefits. In fact, falafel may impact everything from weight management to insulin regulation. Here are some of the potential health benefits of falafel.

May Support Weight Management

According to a review published in the journal Nutrients, diets with elevated fiber and moderate protein consumption were found to help control weight. In this review, researchers found that chickpea consumers were 53% less likely to experience obesity and 51% less likely to have heightened glucose levels (which can lead to fewer type 2 diabetes diagnoses).

They also had a lower body mass index (26.4 versus 28.6) and a smaller waist circumference (92.2 versus 97.9 centimeters) compared to people who did not eat chickpeas.

May Assist with Glucose and Insulin Regulation

Chickpeas in a falafel can help to regulate your glucose and insulin levels, which is especially helpful for prediabetics and diabetics, according to the Journal of Food Science and Technology. In one study, researchers found that after chickpea consumption, participants experienced a reduction of 29% to 36% in blood glucose concentration.

May Lower Cardiovascular Disease Risk

As a healthy plant-based protein, low in cholesterol, and void of any trans or saturated fats (two of the largest contributors to high cholesterol), a falafel is a nutritious option for anyone following a heart-healthy diet.

May Provide Relief of Cancer Conditions

Researchers found that garlic, an ingredient in falafel, shows credible evidence for therapeutic effects in cancer treatment based on human clinical studies. Garlic also can help provide relief from cancer conditions in breast, colorectal, gastric, lung, and pancreatic cancers.

Such research on garlic's cancer benefits is necessary and valuable. Based on the National Cancer Database and the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results, about 16.9 million people were identified with cancer in 2019. This number could rise to greater than 22.1 million in 11 years.

May Help with Proper Bowel Function

For people who struggle with constipation, incorporating falafel into your diet could help. With falafel's high fiber and complex carbohydrate content, the food can support digestive health because of the length of time it takes to digest the chickpeas when compared to lower fiber meals.

Allergies

The most common allergic reaction to eating falafel is due to the main ingredient—chickpeas. Allergic responses to consuming chickpeas usually involve skin-based irritations, such as redness, inflammation, rashes, and hives. A serious allergic reaction can lead to anaphylactic shock, which can be life-threatening. If you think you may have an allergy to chickpeas, it is important to talk with a healthcare professional.

Adverse Effects

Store-bought falafel mixes can contain a heavy amount of sodium. If you are on any heart medications or following a low-sodium diet, you should speak with a healthcare professional before adding these products to your diet. You also might want to consider making your own falafel from scratch to control the amount of salt used.

Storage and Food Safety

Store falafels in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can freeze patties for up to 3 months.

How to Prepare

The most common way to prepare a falafel is to roll the ingredients of this vegetarian food into the shape of a flat patty similar to a hamburger or into a round ball and then fry it. You can then consume the falafel as you would a burger between two buns, inside pita bread, or on its own.

Because falafel can taste dry, adding liquid condiments can often create a more satisfying flavor profile. Popular toppings include tzatziki, yogurt dip, hummus, and tahini. You might also want to add vegetable toppings such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and pickled onions.

Recipes

 

 

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