November 02, 2019 at 05:00PM by CWC
It’s safe to say that hummus has reached cult-favorite status in the snack department, even spawning creative variations in all sorts of different colors and flavors including avocado, beet, chocolate, and ice cream hummus (yup, that’s a thing!).
As delicious as those iterations may be, there’s nothing like the creamy, garlicky original. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s not a party until hummus has made an appearance. (What on Earth will you dip your baby carrots in?)
Of course, nothing is perfect—not even hummus. And it’s easy to wonder how something that tastes so good could even be healthy. So for the sake of journalism, we asked three nutrition pros this very question. The short answer: yes, hummus is indeed a healthy snack (cue sigh of relief) thanks to its good-for you ingredients.
Here, the experts break down the nutritional benefits of hummus, the healthiest way to eat it (or buy it, if you’re in a pinch), and the many ways you can enjoy your hummus.
Hummus nutrition benefits: what’s the lowdown?
Although there are many variations of hummus, traditionally, it consists of just six ingredients: chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and tahini. Each one of those ingredients is packed with nutritional benefits.
Chickpeas, the primary ingredient in hummus, are a great source of fiber and protein. “Hummus is loaded with dietary fiber which is a key factor in gut health,” says Alison Cody, certified holistic nutritionist and founder of Avocado Ali. Most Americans don’t eat enough fiber, she says, which makes chickpeas (and thus hummus) a very easy way to increase one’s intake.
Emily Marr MS, RDN, adds that the fiber in chickpeas also helps promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria that produces butyrate, a fatty acid that nourishes cells inside the gut. So hummus will help keep you full and regular (score!). Plus, Cody says that chickpeas are high in iron, folate, phosphorus, vitamin B6, vitamin K, zinc, copper, manganese, magnesium, choline, and selenium.
Looking for other foods that are good for digestive health? Check out a dietitian’s top picks:
The lemon juice in hummus also provides health benefits, albeit in very small amounts. “The juice of a lemon is extremely high in vitamin C which improves our immune system and bone health,” Cody says. “Lemons also contain a good deal of folate and potassium.”
Thanks to the olive oil, hummus can be a great anti-inflammatory food. “Olive oil is rich in powerful antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory benefits,” Marr says. “In particular, virgin olive oil contains the antioxidant oleocanthal which is believed to have similar anti-inflammatory properties as common anti-inflammatory medicines.”
Tahini, which is made from sesame seeds, is also known to be anti-inflammatory. “It may help reduce markers of inflammation in the body like IL-6 and CRP, which are elevated in inflammatory diseases like arthritis,” Marr says. But that’s just one of the benefits of the tahini. “It also has a lot of fiber, copper, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, magnesium, iron, and calcium,” Cody says. “It’s a rich source of B vitamins (especially thiamine) which increase energy and improve brain function and is high in vitamin E which protects against heart disease, stroke, and nerve damage.”
All of these ingredients combine to create a nutrient-dense food that’s high in protein and fiber (offering two grams of each per two-tablespoon serving) and pairs really nicely with pita chips, if I do say so myself.
How do I make hummus?
As with most foods, the healthiest way to eat hummus it is by making it at home.
Start with chickpeas—nutritionist and author of How to Be Well When You’re Not, Ariane Resnick, CNC, recommends grabbing some tetra-pak chickpeas from the grocery store instead of canned or jarred to avoid things like BPA. (You can also opt for a BPA-free can.)
Once you’ve drained and rinsed your chickpeas, Marr suggests removing the thin outer skin on each chickpea. It’s a pain, but worth it for the vastly smoother texture.
Then gather up the rest of your ingredients: extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic, and organic tahini (one with just sesame seeds in the ingredients is best, Marr says). Combine them in a food processor, then add a splash of water or a bit more oil and blend until you get your desired consistency. Slowly add in more liquid if needed to thin out the hummus, if desired.
If you’re feeling #fancy, Marr suggests adding in extra ingredients such as roasted red peppers, pickled beets, or artichoke hearts for an added punch of flavor. You can even switch out the chickpeas for other types of beans like black or white. Feel free to get as creative as you’d like. (Our favorite add in: avocado. You’ll thank us later.)
How to buy the healthiest hummus
All that said, as easy as it may be to whip up yourself, sometimes you just can’t be bothered (we get it). Luckily, there are tons of store-bought options to choose from—if you know what to look for.
“Try to prioritize hummus recipes that don’t have any harmful add-ons,” Marr says. “Sodium, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives are the big three to look for since hummus is meant to be a low-sodium, low-fat, all-natural dip.”
Similarly, Resnick recommends looking for a hummus that uses a good quality oil (such as extra virgin olive oil) and avoiding ones that use vegetable oil, which are considered by many experts to be potentially inflammatory and less beneficial for health. Go for an organic, vegan, and non-GMO option if it’s available and affordable to you. Basically, the smaller and simpler the ingredient list is, the better, Cody says.
The best ways to eat hummus (besides, you know, as a dip)
One of the best things about hummus is its versatility. Yes, you can use it for dipping gluten-free crackers, pita chips, or crudités. But here are a few other ideas to help you expand your hummus palate:
- Use hummus as a spread in sandwiches, wraps, or toast. Cody even adds hummus to quesadillas with spinach, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers.
- Marr says that hummus makes a great addition as a sauce base for a buddha bowl. (Try it with this recipe from Mind Over Munch.)
- At Sabra’s “Whirled Peas” hummus-themed pop-up in New York City, guest chef Deborah Vantrece even used hummus instead of mayonnaise to make deviled eggs. (Here’s a version from Living Well Kitchen that you can try at home with only four ingredients.)