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Healthful hummus – why you should be eating this nutritious spread

Healthful hummus – why you should be eating this nutritious spread

The rise of hummus in America has been meteoric. Over the past few decades, this nutritious food has gone from being an exotic delicacy in the United States to a popular dip and garnish.

Most nutritionists and natural health experts agree that this creamy mixture qualifies as a plant-based powerhouse of nutrition.  After all, just about every ingredient in hummus - including chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil and a sesame paste known as tahini - is rich in vitamins and minerals, with outstanding antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities.

Now, recent research shows that hummus could even be a valuable tool against overweight and obesity. In fact, hummus may have a secret “superpower” – the ability to promote healthy eating by reducing food cravings, curbing snacking and limiting appetite.

It’s official -- Hummus helps you to maintain a healthy body weight

A 2020 review published in Nutrients characterizes hummus as “anti-obesity,” with the scientists reporting that this food can reduce snacking by 20 percent and cut the sensation of hunger by up to 70 percent. Hummus is thought to be especially beneficial when used to replace other foods in the diet (such as commercial dips and spreads) that may be high in (toxic) saturated fats and added sugars.

But, this isn’t the only research to illuminate the appetite-suppressant qualities of hummus. An intriguing study published in 2016 revealed that people who regularly enjoyed hummus were found to consume more fiber, more healthy fats, and more antioxidant vitamins and minerals - including heart-healthy magnesium and potassium - than those who didn’t partake in hummus.

Of course, hummus itself contains these healthy ingredients – so that could explain some of the phenomenon.  Still, some researchers believe that the act of eating hummus makes people more likely to intuitively reduce their consumption of “junk” foods and crave healthier fare.

The takeaway: While hummus is not a particularly low-calorie food (a 100-gram serving provides 214 calories) this food’s appetite-satisfying effects can lead to reduced intake later in the day, making it an excellent “caloric investment” and an important weapon against becoming overweight.

Hummus combats type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer

Because hummus is so fiber-rich, natural health experts have long advised it to help regulate glucose and insulin levels, thereby supporting better control of blood sugar.  And scientists agree. A very recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition supports the ability of an afternoon snack of hummus to lower blood sugar by a small but noticeable amount.

Researchers have also noted that hummus may help reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high levels of harmful LDL cholesterol and inflammation. And, its generous content of fiber and folate (vitamin B9), may help it to fight cancer.

Hummus has a stellar nutritional profile

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a 100-gram serving of hummus (a little over three ounces) contains a generous 10 grams of protein – much more than is found in many other plant-based foods. This makes hummus a particularly good choice for vegetarians and adults over 50. (Or, those who are both).  

Another plus is that the tahini in hummus is rich in an essential amino acid called methionine, which has powerful antioxidant and detoxifying effects. The serving also contains a hefty 7.1 grams of fiber - which has been shown to protect against cancer and heart disease - and is high in bone-building calcium. Hummus also contains a significant amount of iron, needed for the production of red blood cells.

While the 100-g serving of hummus does contain close to 9 grams of fat, this is of the highest quality, especially if it's organic.  In fact, even conventionally-trained dietitians classify hummus as a “moderate-fat” food.

However, a typical serving of commercially produced hummus may contain over 600 mg of sodium. In excessive amounts, sodium can contribute to higher risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, so most experts recommend consuming under 2,300 mg a day. By making your own hummus, of course, you can control the sodium content.

Making your own healthy hummus couldn’t be easier

You can whip up your own hummus by simply pureeing a can of organic chickpeas (or make your own), then spicing it up with tahini, garlic, lemon juice and cumin or other spices. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your your own embellishments, such as roasted red pepper, paprika, dill, tarragon, pine nuts, capers or fresh or sundried tomatoes. To enhance the creamy texture, you can blend in some olive oil, a healthy oil high in polyphenols and monounsaturated fat.

For maximum benefit, of course, bypass the commercial potato or tortilla chips and scoop up your hand-crafted hummus with stalks of fresh organic celery or carrot sticks.

There’s no doubt about it - when it comes to content of healthy ingredients, hummus leaves many other popular snack foods “in the dust.”  And, as a bonus, it may help maintain healthy weight, while simultaneously combating chronic degenerative diseases. In other words, it's hard to find fault with the many virtues of  hummus. Maybe it's time to make it a part of your daily diet.

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