Home Food Recipes Is Hummus Good for You? | Healthy Hummus Recipes – Runner's World

Is Hummus Good for You? | Healthy Hummus Recipes – Runner's World

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Hummus is giving salsa a run for number one dip status—grocery store aisles are stacked with hummus varieties that range from black garlic to Thai curry, the latter of which may make a Palestinian grandma cringe. And, yes, dessert chocolate hummus is also a thing. The rising trend toward plant-based eating is also helping its meteoric rise to superfood status.

But how healthy is this creamy dip, exactly? Turns out, the hyped health benefits of hummus aren’t overblown. Let’s dig into the potential nutrition perks of this Middle Eastern delight.

What Is Hummus?

Hummus has been a culinary staple in Middle Eastern nations for centuries. Traditionally, the key ingredients are a blend of chickpeas (“hummus” literally translates to chickpeas in Arabic), tahini (a sesame seed paste), extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic, and salt—though many brands now sell “flavors” that include everything from harissa chili paste to beets. The best hummus hails from using dried chickpeas, but using the canned version is an adequate shortcut.

Is Hummus Good For You?

When you break hummus down into its components, you realize that it indeed has some nutritional heft—and you shouldn’t stress about double-dipping. “Hummus is a truly healthful snack, combining a trifecta of protein, fiber, and healthy fats,” says Sharon Palmer, R.D.N. People who regularly eat hummus tend to have higher intakes of fiber as well as a slew of nutrients including folate, magnesium, potassium, iron, and vitamins A, E, and C, according to a 2016 study.

The base of hummus is made of chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, which Palmer says are rich in plant protein and fiber and help make the dip a hunger-fighting snack option. A 2-tablespoon serving of hummus will deliver roughly 2 grams each of protein and fiber.

People who followed a “healthful,” plant-based diet that regularly included legumes like chickpeas were less likely to gain weight over a four-year period than individuals who followed an “unhealthful,” plant-based diet that included more heavily-processed foods such as refined grains and sugary drinks, a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found.

“In addition, chickpeas contain a range of essential nutrients including iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, vitamin B6 and even vitamin C,” adds Palmer. And since chickpeas rank low on the glycemic index, they’re a carb that won’t send your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride.

For hummus, chickpeas are mashed with tahini and olive oil, which are two good sources of healthy unsaturated fats, says Palmer. An investigation authored by researchers from Harvard found that plant-based monounsaturated fats—such as those in tahini and olive oil—are associated with a lower risk of dying from heart disease and other causes, whereas animal-based monounsaturated fats—such as those found in meat, dairy and eggs—are not associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular ailments. What’s more, olive oil possesses phenolic antioxidant compounds that appear to have anti-inflammatory powers that help keep your heart beating strong.

Because it’s made from sesame seeds, tahini will also give you some extra protein, fiber, B vitamins, copper, zinc, and manganese, Palmer adds.

And, by the way, if you use vegetables such as baby carrots or sliced peppers as a delivery method for your hummus, you’ll be sneaking more nutrient-dense veggies into your diet to max out the health benefits. Dipping a warm pita into hummus after a hard run can deliver a double whammy of carbs and protein to kickstart muscle recovery.

But of course, there’s a caveat: It’s easy to go overboard on this popular dip. For store-bought hummus, a typical serving size listed on the label is about two tablespoons. At roughly 70 calories, that looks like a very smart calorie-conscious snack option. But, let’s be real—who has ever stopped at 2 tablespoons?

“If you eat hummus without being mindful of your portions, the calories can start to add up,” cautions Palmer—especially if you’re using dippers like pita bread or tortilla chips. Palmer suggests capping your intake at about ¼ cup, which gives you a satisfying dose of protein, fiber, and nutrients, without sending your snack time into calorie overload.

When buying store-bought hummus, watch out for brands who cut corners by using cheaper vegetable oils such as soybean or safflower instead of healthier extra-virgin olive oil–this is common. And keep an eye on those sodium numbers, since tubs can include a surprising amount of salt. Ideally, you want no more than 150mg of sodium in a 2-tablespoon serving. Finally, scan the ingredient list for preservatives such as potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, and other items that you would never think of adding to your own hummus. “I like to see the same things in my store-bought hummus as I would in my homemade hummus,” Palmer says.

How to Eat Hummus

Of course, hummus is an excellent dip, but why stop there? Use it as a sandwich or pizza spread, a fancy burger condiment, a mayo alternative for tuna or egg salads, or whisk a couple of tablespoons with olive oil and vinegar for a creamy salad or grain bowl dressing.

How to Make Your Own Hummus

There are plenty of great brands out there, but crafting your own hummus couldn’t be easier. These two fresh-flavored versions are guaranteed to be the hit of any summer party. Pro tip: Soaking and simmering dry chickpeas with baking soda helps to break them down so you end up with a creamier dip.

nata_vkusideyGetty Images

Pesto Hummus

Ingredients:
1 cup dry chickpeas
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup prepared pesto
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions: Cover chickpeas and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda with 2-inches water and soak overnight. Drain chickpeas and place in a saucepan with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and enough water to cover by 2-inches. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chickpeas are very tender, about 25 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water. Drain and set chickpeas aside to cool.

Place chickpeas and remaining ingredients in a food processor container and blend until smooth. If needed, blend in the reserved cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to create the desired creamy texture.

Pita and Hummus

Photography by Paula ThomasGetty Images

Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

Ingredients:
1 cup dry chickpeas
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes
3 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions: Cover chickpeas and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda with 2-inches water and soak overnight. Drain chickpeas and place in a saucepan with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and enough water to cover by 2-inches. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chickpeas are very tender, about 25 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water. Drain and set chickpeas aside to cool.

Place chickpeas and remaining ingredients in a food processor container and blend until smooth. If needed, blend in the reserved cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to create the desired creamy texture.

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