Health benefits of hummus include improved digestive system, cardiovascular health and muscular functions. Consumption of hummus has been found to be beneficial in diverse medical conditions including cancer, diabetes, inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and hypertension. It has been considered safe and healthy during pregnancy and makes an excellent weaning food for infants.
It is an Arabic and Mediterranean dish that is typically made from chickpeas. In fact, the word hummus is the Arabic version of chickpeas. Due to multiple claims made by various ethnicities and umpteen variations in its preparation, the exact historical origin of hummus has been mislaid in antiquity. However, it is believed to be an ancient and a popular delicacy that started off in Middle East. Chickpeas, which are the base of hummus, have been a part of human food diet for thousands of years. It is one of the earliest pulses grown in Mesopotamia and was a part of street cuisine in ancient Rome.
What is hummus?
It is a paste or spread made with chickpeas, olive oil and tahini or sesame paste. It has been quite popular in Middle Eastern countries like Greece, Turkey, Syria and Israel since ages. Attributing to its appealing flavor and superb health factor, over the time it has found its place amongst the latest food trends and has gained popularity in western countries and all over the globe.
Nutritional value of Hummus
According to USDA standards, traditionally prepared hummus is rich in essential minerals such as potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc. It also provides vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B6 and folate. It is a good source of protein and brings valuable fiber content to the plate. In addition to this, hummus offers essential fatty acids without any harmful cholesterol. However, basis the recipe followed, nutritional content of hummus varies. For instance spinach and carrot hummus would have more vitamin A and scallion based humus would have more amount of vitamin C and K.
Health Benefits of Hummus
The main ingredient of hummus i.e. chickpea is admired and consumed all over the world attributing to its high nutritional quality which provides a range of health benefits. Other ingredients including olive oil, sesame paste, fresh lemon etc. also accentuates the taste and nutritional value of hummus. The benefits of hummus for medical conditions have been discussed as under:
Diabetes: Hummus helps in the regulating the blood sugar levels attributing to the low glycemic index of chickpeas. For preparing it at home, it is advisable to choose dried chickpeas instead of canned chickpeas as latter has a higher glycemic index. Fiber content present in it, being a complex carbohydrate, does not get digested and hence slows down the release of sugar in the body. This helps in keeping a check on diabetes. American diabetes association also recommends the use of hummus as a part of diabetes meal plan.
Healthy snack for pregnancy: Delicious and multiple-nutrient food such as hummus provides a range of health benefits at all ages including the stint of pregnancy. Folate-rich hummus helps in preventing the threat of birth defects in the babies, known as spina bifida. Other essential nutrients including proteins and minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium and omega-3 present in it also contribute significantly towards the health of the mother as well as the growing fetus. Hummus makes an excellent snack for an ever-craving and hungry mother during pregnancy.
Digestive health: As already stated, it is a good source of fiber which helps in maintaining a healthy digestive system. Consumption of fiber-rich hummus has been proven beneficial in the regulation of bowel movements and brings relief from constipation. It adds bulk to the diet and keeps the hunger satisfied and makes you feel full for a longer duration. Thanks to hummus, you won’t look for something else to nibble soon after eating it.
Healthy muscles: The base of hummus i.e. chickpeas is a source of amino acids which are important for building healthy muscles and tissues. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins which the body uses for physiological processes such as muscular strength, repairing of tissues, functioning of brain and energy production.
Weaning food for babies: NHS recommends hummus for small babies as their weaning foods from nine months onwards. In absence of diet containing animal products such as meat or fish, it contributes beneficially in providing essential proteins and other nutrients to the body.
Cancer: Hummus has been found to work against the growth of various cancer cells owing to the presence of various healthful components such as phytic acid and saponins in chickpeas. Hummus being a resource of fiber keeps the harmful toxins from binding with the colon lining and flushes them from the body. This protective action assists in reducing the risk of colon cancer. Chickpeas also contain healthful isoflavones and phytoestrogens which are implicated in the reduced risk of lung cancer.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Another active ingredient that is present in hummus is olive oil which is rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids which provide multi-dimensional health benefits including relief from chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, coronary artery diseases, hypertension and cancer.
Healthy levels of cholesterol: Hummus helps in maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol attributing to the antiatherogenic nature of olive oil present in it. A study evaluating the effect of olive oil on the low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol has revealed positive results in terms of reduction of harmful LDL cholesterol and its vulnerability to oxidative cell damage. Another comparative study conducted on the patients suffering from peripheral vascular disease has advocated the health quotient and protective effect of olive oil over sunflower oil against oxidation. All these evidences validate the health factor hidden in basic ingredients of hummus.
Cardiovascular health: As mentioned, hummus contains heart-healthy olive oil which helps in maintaining cardiovascular health. According to a research, consumption of olive oil has been suggested to be the reason behind the low mortality of cardiovascular diseases in southern Europeans Mediterranean countries. As also stated by wall street journal, consumption of olive oil rich foods such as hummus helps cut down the chances of cardiovascular complications such as stroke.
Although readymade traditional hummus can be found in any grocery store, the self-preparation of hummus also does not require much. All you need is a food processor with a grinder or blender. The basic ingredient required for making hummus is cooked and mashed chickpeas. Other ingredients such as olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper or paprika can be used to add flavor to the hummus. It is prepared by grinding all the ingredients to form a smooth dip like consistency and adding preferred seasoning to taste. Apart from the traditional preparation, you can also create a variation with hummus by adding roasted cumin powder, spinach, honey or get creative and try other new ingredients as per your own preference.
Hummus: serving suggestions
Hummus can be served as a dip with fresh raw vegetables like carrots. It is a healthy and tasty alternative to the sauces served with whole wheat tortilla and crackers. Hummus can be used as a spread on sandwiches, burgers and wraps. Hummus can also be incorporated in spicy salsa, pasta, rice dishes or as a dressing in the salads.
Hummus: word of caution
Generally hummus is a nutritional food item which can be enjoyed by vegans, vegetarian and non-vegetarians. However, one needs to watch out for the intake basis their specific conditions. For instance- hummus can prove fruitful for individuals who are looking for increasing their fiber content. On the other hand, people suffering from diarrhea and gas should avoid high-fiber foods such as hummus. Also, individuals who are allergic to sesame seeds or other ingredients used in the recipe should consider carefully before consumption.
Hummus on the whole is a healthy and a convenient food which can be incorporated with almost any meal. Hummus is a good source of proteins for vegans who do not get their share of nutrients from animal and dairy products. The amino acids present in hummus helps elevate the mood and promotes better sleep. Omega-3 fatty acids present in hummus cares for better skin and stimulate hair growth. According to a study conducted at obesity research center, hummus is a healthy and appetizing way to train little children to eat raw veggies which they might be refusing for their bitter taste.