What is Hummus?
Hummus or houmous is a Middle Eastern cuisine or more specifically Levantine and Egyptian food dip made primarily from mashed chickpeas, tahini (see what is tahini?) and other few ingredients such as olive oil, garlic and lemon juice.
At least that's what authentic hummus is in Middle East.
The hummus we know in the U.S., and we buy at the store is a different story.
Before getting into that, here are just few stats to show just how much hummus North Americans eat today.
Nearly 15 million Americans were already consuming hummus in 2008, and it's hummus loving population has been on the rapid rise ever since.
According to San Francisco Mercury News, hummus consumption saw a 26 % increase in sales from 2007 to 2013, spending nearly 250 millions a year on chickpea spread in 2013 (1).
Other sources claim the total spending to be closer to 350 millions.
Hummus is quickly becoming a dip staple. In fact, it's been called one of the two most popular dips in the United States next to guacamole by University of Illinois.
Needless to say, North Americans are embracing hummus as their own.
Considering multiple health benefits hummus provides (especially compared to sour cream and mayonnaise based dips), it's no surprise why we love it.
Is hummus healthy? Is Hummus Good For You?
Traditional, authentic hummus we think we are eating is nutritious, health conscious, yet satisfying and delicious. We can definitely say without a doubt, hummus is healthy and good for you and your health.
Some of the hummus' health benefits include:
- Helps with weight management
- Lowers cholesterol
- Controls blood sugar and insulin levels
- Reduces your risk of cardiovascular diseases
- Keeps you regular
According to Rush University Medical Center, 1 serving of hummus containing the basic ingredients (chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic) has the following nutritional values.
- Calories: 68
- Protein: 3g
- Carbohydrate: 5g
- Fiber: 2g
- Sugar: 1g
- Sodium: 0.9g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
It's loaded with plant protein, fiber and good fat (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids), according to University of Tasmania research.
Primary ingredient of hummus is chickpeas also known as garbanzo beans.
It belongs to the legume family, thus contains a high amount of plant-based protein. According to USDA, each tablespoon of chickpeas contains about 2.6 grams of protein. In one cup, that's about 41 grams of protein.
Protein is long known to have satiety benefits and helps control blood sugar levels, aid with muscle development, and recover from wounds and injuries.
According to Dr. Axe, Inadequate consumption of protein is most seen in children, vegetarians and vegans, and he recommends more consumption of chickpeas particularly to the populations.
Hummus is a great way to take in additional protein especially for those who don't consume animal or fish protein. It's a way to supplement their protein consumption while adhering to their dietary preference.
If we can find one thing in common about all dietary disciplines is probably eat more fiber.
Fiber is that important in healthy eating, and chickpeas have a plenty of it. USDA's nutritional information shows 1 tablespoon of chickpeas contain 1.5 grams of fiber.
In one cup, it contains 24.4 grams, nearly satisfying the American Heart Association's 25 grams a day fiber intake recommendation.
There is a good reason why fiber is recommended by almost every health expert.
Fiber is scientifically proven to help control blood sugar levels, improve heart health (40% lower risk of heart disease), decrease your stroke risk (every 7 grams you eat daily can reduce the risk by 7 %), lose weight, relieve Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and reduce your risk of hemorrhoids, says Dr. Mercola.
Fiber is also a key component in many weight loss diets; so much so that one study published in Annals of Internal Medicine claims eating more fiber (30 grams a day) alone is a legitimate way to lose weight and lower your blood pressure.
Generally, Fiber helps you lose weight by filling you up, keeping humber in check, and preventing overeating.
It also helps you improve your body's response to insulin and manage your blood sugar levels.
According to Dr. Frank Hu, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, when fiber is taken from food, its benefits go beyond weight control.
It can help prevent type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Hummus or chickpeas are not free of fats. In one cup of raw chickpeas, there is 5.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 2.8 grams of monounsaturated fat and 1.2 grams of saturated fat (USDA).
Since polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are healthy fats, much of fatty acids in chickpeas are healthy and even beneficial to our health.
According to MayoClinic, polyunsaturated fat is proven to improve blood cholesterol levels, decrease your risk of heart disease, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes while monounsaturated fat helps you control insulin and blood sugar levels, which also benefits type 2 diabetic patients.
Low Glycemic Food
Glycemic index (GI) measures how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar levels, and higher the GI score is, more it raises your blood glucose and causes an insulin spike, which we know now as a health threat.
Typically, starchy, sugary foods are considered high glycemic foods and often advised to limit to prevent type 2 diabetes and curb appetite.
To illustrate better, on the same Harvard published food list of glycemic index, quinoa and apple are also considered low glycemic foods scoring 53 and 39, still much higher than hummus.
This makes hummus one of the lowest glycemic foods on the list (Kale's GI score is between 2-4. See Kale Benefits), making it least likely to cause an insulin spike and raise in blood sugar. Compared this to a typical sour cream dip (French onion dip), you can see the difference in hummus' health benefits.
A typical sour cream dip contains 50 calories per serving, of which 45 calories come from bad fat.
It's loaded with sodium (200mg), cholesterol (15mg), and saturated fat (3g), while it lacks protein (1g) and fiber (0g). It may be tasty, but as far as your health and waistline go, there isn't much added value except double digit pounds you are doomed to pack on.
To sum up, hummus is good for you and your health.
In fact, far better than other sour cream or mayonnaise based dips. You can even enjoy hummus while on "diet to lose weight".
Calories in Hummus
Although hummus is loaded with plant-based protein, good fat, and fiber, its calorie count brought some media attention.
Also SFGate warned it can be fattening.
Case in point: hummus calories are not low. They are in fact higher than not so healthy sour cream dip mentioned above.
So why should you still consume hummus when other dips may be lower in calories?
It's a good point; however, healthy diet is never just about calories.
Another report from Harvard on The Best Diet: Quality Counts points out food quality is equally as important as calories in managing weight.
They further suggest rather than selecting foods based on calories, choose foods based on its nutritional values.
Choosing hummus over other fatty (bad kind) dips is about choosing food quality over caloric values.
In one study led by Carol E O’Neil of Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, health benefits of hummus became apparent.
Researchers saw a lower BMI and waist circumference, better nutrient profile and reduced risk of obesity in hummus (chickpeas or garbanzo beans) consumers compared to non-consumers.
To lose weight on hummus, it's important to control its portion.
Keep in mind that each tablespoon full (about 2-3 dips) of conventional hummus is about 25-40 calories.
If you want to keep your snacks under 100 calories, have 2 tablespoons of hummus with one of the followings.
- 2 raw celery stalks - 20 calories
- 1 small carrot cut into stripes - 20 calories
- 1 cup of sliced bell peppers - 18 calories
Conventional "Hummus" Secrets Revealed and You Won't Like It
Sadly though, much of conventional, store-bought hummus in the U.S. is not as healthy we hope it to be.
The hummus we are buying and consuming is full of saturated fat, canola oil (bad oil), sodium and cholesterol. It's not a pure hummus like Arabs make it.
For those non-soy eaters, it's can also be quite shocking to learn most of the conventional hummus actually contains soy. Even for not non-soy eaters, considering 90% of soybeans may be genetically modified, you'd probably want to limit your exposure to it as much as possible.
Another bad news is that your hummus may be full of GMOs (unless you made it yourself or bought organic) Organic Consumer Association reported that 75-80% of all non-organic processed foods contain GMOs.
Needless to say, their hummus not only contains GMOs but is full of soybeans and canola oil.
Other hummus brands such as Otria and Cedar's also have bad oils and GMOs in their hummus, so be aware.
To be sure that your hummus choice is not blended with things that don't belong in hummus, watch out for these four chemicals and additives.
Preservatives: Potassium sorbate (PS) and sodium benzoate (SB) are food additives known to be toxic when consumed at high doses.
Sodium: Sodium or salt is frequently used to season food products, and most likely most things you pick up at a grocery store have some level of sodium. However, too much salt can cause your body to retain water and place too much burden on your heart and blood vessels.
It's important to be mindful of your salt intake and read your labels to avoid too much salt.
American Heart Association recommends daily salt intake to be only up to 1,500 mg.
As a general guideline, look for low-sodium foods with less than 5% Daily Value (DV). A sodium content of 20% DV or more is considered high and should be avoided.
Oils: Authentic, nutritional hummus is made with olive oil and/or tahini. Oils such as soybean oil, canola oil, and/or vegetable oil should not be part of your hummus as they dilute the food quality.
If your label reads hydrogenated soybean oil, be aware. Soybean oil accounts for about 65% of U.S. consumption of edible oils and often used as a preservative to prolong a product's shelf life.
A great example of an oil that's hydrogenated is "margarine". Its raw counterpart, butter has much shorter shelf life than margarine.
To look for them yourself, use the list below for easy identification (provided by Non GMO Project).
Common Ingredients Hinting GMOs
Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Ethanol, Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins, Yeast Products.
Get the Most Out Of Your Hummus
The simplest and easiest way to get the most out of your hummus is to make your own.
Below you'll find our favorite hummus recipes, all only containing the best and most nutritious ingredients. They are also so yummy; you might as well call them Yummus!
As a starter, let's get started with the most basic on how to make hummus (without a recipe), per Hillary Pollak on Food52.
How to Make Hummus
No.1: Choose a Flavor
Image credit: FOOD52
According to Hillary, anything from roasted vegetables, a jar of pesto, or a spice blend can be used as an added flavor to hummus.
If added roasted vegetables, slice, season with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast them first in an oven between 375° and 425° F until soft and caramelized.
Once they are cool, chop them for easy mixing later on.
No.2: Mix in Your Food Processor
Image credit: FOOD52
Combine all ingredients including 2 cups of chickpeas (or 1 cup of chickpeas and 1 cup of roasted vegetables from step 1), around 1/4 cup of olive oil, a few dollops of tahini, the juice of a lemon, a chopped garlic clove, a large pinch of salt, and the added flavor such as paprika or cumin (optional).
No.3: Blend it
Image credit: FOOD52
Blend it all together until your hummus is silky smooth with no visible chunks. It's about 1-4 minutes depending on your food processor.
Taste it and adjust the taste and consistency with salt, lemon juice and olive oil.
No.4: Enjoy it!
Image credit: FOOD52
Hummus make a great alternative to as a dip or spread. Spread it on sandwiches or eat it with carrot sticks for a healthy, fulfilling snack.
There you have it! You have just learned what hummus is, and what to look for when buying hummus.
Where do you normally buy your hummus? Leave us a comment below to let us know!