Is Falafel Vegan-Friendly? Nutritional Benefits of Falafel

This famous Middle Eastern cuisine is a plant-based and vegan lover’s dream. Typically made from chickpeas, herbs, and spices, falafel is a vegan-friendly item packed with protein and fiber.

What Is Falafel?

Falafel is a deep-fried ball typically made from ground chickpeas, fresh herbs, and delicious spices, but can be baked for a healthier option. It is a popular Middle Eastern ‘fast food’ but is thought to originate in Egypt where it is made with fava beans.

It is typically served in a falafel sandwich with tahini, roasted vegetables, and/or pickled vegetables. However, many enjoy it on a charcuterie board, as a side, or dipped in tahini.

Vegan-Friendly Falafel Ingredients

There are many variations of ingredients in falafel recipes you can find online, but all of them are usually vegan-friendly.  

The typical authentic ingredients are:  

  • Dried chickpeas 
  • Fresh herbs  
  • Parsley, cilantro, and dill 
  • Spices 
  • Cumin, coriander, garlic, onion, salt, and pepper 
  • Baking powder 
  • Sesame seeds 

Nutritional Benefits of Falafel

Falafel is packed with protein, fiber, micronutrients, and phytonutrients from chickpeas, herbs, and spices.  

Protein

Chickpeas are high in protein, with an incredible 14.5 grams of protein in one cup of cooked chickpeas. 

Protein is found in all tissues of the body and is important for building and maintaining muscle, producing hormones and enzymes, and assisting in immune system functioning.  

For these reasons, Falafel serves as a great protein alternative for anyone trying to reduce their meat intake or choose protein options that offer more nutritional benefits.  

Note:

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This is the amount recommended to meet your daily need to avoid injury or illness.  

The RDA is a minimum requirement, and I would recommend a higher goal of 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram to support healthy functioning.  

For example, an adult weighing 150 pounds would need a minimum of 68 grams of protein.  

(150 pounds) / (2.2 kilograms per pound) = 68.2 kilograms body weight 

(68.2 kilograms) * (1.0 grams of protein per kilogram) = 68 grams of protein needed per day 

Fiber

Chickpeas also contain high amounts of fiber with 12.5 grams in one cup of cooked chickpeas!  

Fiber is important for a healthy digestive tract by feeding the healthy gut bacteria to support an optimal gut microbiome and by supporting healthy bowel movements.  

Soluble fiber, a type of fiber abundant in chickpeas, is also known to reduce cholesterol levels and support cardiovascular health.  

Note:

The recommended daily amount of fiber is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, although I would recommend aiming for 50 grams for both men and women for even more benefits.  

The average American typically does not reach these minimum requirements, making falafel an excellent addition to the dinner plate.  

Micronutrients

Chickpeas, herbs, and spices naturally contain a variety of vitamins and minerals.  

Vitamins and minerals are essential for normal functioning and deficiency can lead to poor immune functioning, hormone dysregulation, mood disorders, and many other undesirable conditions.  

Key vitamins found in falafel:  

  • Folate 
  • Pantothenic acid 
  • Thiamine 
  • Vitamin B 
  • Vitamin C 

Key minerals found in falafel:  

  • Calcium 
  • Copper 
  • Iron 
  • Magnesium 
  • Manganese 
  • Phosphorus 
  • Potassium 
  • Zinc 
Note:

Recommended intakes for vitamins can be found here.

Recommended intakes for minerals can be found here.

Phytonutrients

Phytonutrients are colorful compounds in plants that provide additional beneficial properties, typically being anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants, with herbs and spices being powerhouses for these nutrients.  

Most common diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, type II diabetes, cancer, and many others manifest or worsen due to chronic inflammation.  

Consuming plants high in phytonutrients helps fight inflammation so that the body can function properly and minimize manifestations of disease.  

In Summary

Falafel is vegan-friendly and a health nut’s dream food packed into a ball of deliciousness.  

High in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, everyone can benefit from regular falafel consumption.

Sources of Information

Food Data Central

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