Aug 2, 2011 | By
Once a hard-to-find food, sourced only in specialty markets or in ethnic neighborhoods, the vegetarian spread known as hummus is now a mainstream staple, found across the U.S. in mainstream food stores. You can enjoy hummus as a snack or part of a healthy light meal. Hummus spreads and toppings add flavor and spice to breads or raw vegetables or serve as condiments to hot foods.
Classics hummus is a paste made from ground, cooked chickpeas or garbanzo beans, sesame paste, olive oil, some salt and other seasonings such as garlic and lemon. You can buy ready-made hummus in containers or make your own easily if you have access to a food processor. Starting out with cooked canned chickpeas saves you time and effort, but some canned chickpeas have a high salt content so check the nutrition label and select a variety that contains less sodium.
The chickpeas in hummus provide protein, almost 12 g of protein for every 1-cup serving. One cup also has 77 mg of calcium and 3.24 mg iron and 9.1 mg vitamin C. The unsaturated fat in olive oil makes hummus is a healthier alternative to other snack foods and sandwich toppings. Choosing it over cream cheese or butter helps you avoid the saturated fats associated with them. One tbsp. hummus contains only 25 calories yet has 1.19 g protein and 6 mg calcium, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Change up traditional hummus by using alternative ingredients. For example, white beans can be substituted for chickpeas and flavorings such as cilantro-infused oil, sweet red peppers and roasted garlic can add dimension. Follow your personal preferences to add variety and nutritional value to the basic recipe.
Hummus is a healthy food, low in saturated fats, low in sugar and high in fiber. Eaten regularly along with fresh vegetables and lean protein, it can even help regulate your blood sugar levels. What you pair it with, though, helps determine how beneficial it is. Eaten on raw carrots, celery or jicama, hummus is part of a low-calorie, nutrient-dense snack. Switch out a large, calorie-dense white flour bagel high in the simple carbs that can cause long-term weight gain for healthier options. For example, choose a whole grain bagel, and slice it into thinner portions before toasting and topping with hummus