Optimal replacement macronutrient/s for dietary saturated fat to reduce cardiovascular disease risk remains controversial. Chickpeas are rich in dietary fiber and polyunsaturated fatty acids. This exploratory study, conducted from September 2004 to May 2005, assessed the effect of incorporating chickpeas in the ad libitum diet of 45 free-living adults. Participants consumed a minimum of 728 g of canned, drained chickpeas per week (the amount in four 300-g cans) as part of their habitual diet for 12 weeks (chickpea phase), followed by 4 weeks of habitual diet without chickpeas (usual phase). In the chickpea phase, mean dietary fiber intake was 6.77 g/day more and mean polyunsaturated fatty acid consumption (as a percentage of total fat) was 2.66% more (both P<0.001), causing the polyunsaturated to saturated fatty acids ratio to change from 0.39 to 0.47 (P=0.045). Serum total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol were 7.7 mg/dL (0.20 mmol/L) and 7.3 mg/dL (0.19 mmol/L) less, respectively, after the chickpea phase (P<or=0.01), fasting insulin was 0.75 microIU/mL (5.21 pmol/L) less (P=0.045), and the homeostasis assessment model of insulin resistance was 0.21 less (P=0.01). Univariate analysis revealed that dietary fiber had the greatest single effect, reducing serum total cholesterol by 15.8 mg/dL (0.41 mmol/L) (P=0.01). Polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids had equivalent but opposing effects on serum total cholesterol and insulin. Larger studies on populations with greater degrees of hypercholesterolemia and/or hyperglycemia than the participants in this study are warranted.