Last week my sister texted me “How bad do you think falafel is nutrition wise?” So I decided to give it a complete analysis. While traditional falafel is chock-full of nutrients, these days it is often purchased as a street food which use less-than desirable cooking methods.
- Traditional falafel contains many healthy ingredients including: fava beans, chickpeas, herbs, onions, and spices.
- Fava beans contain: protein, fiber, folate, B vitamins, iron, copper, and manganese.
- Chickpeas contain: protein, fiber, folate, phosphorus, copper, manganese.
- Falafel is often topped with tahini, tomatoes, and parsley.
- Tahini contains: copper, manganese, amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and calcium.
- Falafel is deep fried. Unfortunately exposure to that much heat destroys most the nutrients provided by all of falafel’s healthful ingredients.
- Falafel is often made with hydrogenated vegetable oil or canola oil. These oils contain trans fats which promote inflammation and negatively affect cholesterol levels.
- Falafel is often served with pita bread. Processed pita bread is usually high in sodium and contains preservatives.
- If I were to grade falafel, I would give it a C+. While most of the ingredients are nutrient dense, the deep frying and potential use of hydrogenated oil negate most of its health benefits. It is a better option than a lot of prepared foods, but unless you’re making it at home it would be misleading to label it a “health food” and ultimately should be eaten in moderation.
Ways to improve your falafel:
- Ditch the pita bread
- Eat baked patties instead of ones that have been deep fried
- Try making it at home where you can be sure you’re using quality ingredients