Too often we get sucked in to what I like to call the marketing health halo food vortex. It makes many people (including those of us in the nutrition profession), feel a bit crappy about ourselves for eating something as simple as rice or apples or a slice of bread.
Therefore you might have noticed, our SOL foods of the month tend not to be the ‘latest craze’ or ‘food of the moment’. Instead we choose foods that have been around for awhile, are affordable and easy to cook with or eat.
So with that said, our February food of the month is Hummus!
Let’s learn more about hummus
The word Hummus or houmous is Arabic in origin and I believe if translated means chickpeas or chickpeas in tahini. It’s most commonly eaten throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Of course now it’s a popular food in the west with ready-prepared versions available on our mainstream supermarket shelves.
If you aren’t too adventurous in the food department and haven’t actually eaten hummus it generally includes core ingredients of chickpeas, sesame seeds, olive oil, lemon & garlic mixed to make a spread/paste/dip. There are like all foods, a few variations in recipes.
Hummus can be used as a dip on ready-prepared snack foods like chips and crackers or with breads (like pita), It can be eaten on the side of almost anything! Some cultures warm the hummus to have with bread. The options are endless.
The nutritional benefits of hummus (what’s so good about it)
1. It’s a great source of protein
Owing to the chick peas, hummus is a great source of protein – particularly for vegetarians and vegans. Three tablespoons of hummus provides about 6g of protein. That’s the same amount of protein that’s in a glass of milk, 30g/serve of nuts, a small tin of baked beans or a serve of cheddar cheese (about the size of a matchbox)
2. It contains iron
Again for vegetarians and vegans this is especially useful. For that same 3 tablespoons of hummus you get about 1.5mg of iron. Whilst not as much as is in a lot of animal foods, this is on par with the amount of iron in dried fruit, nuts and more than some dark green veggies.
3. It’s a handy low GI carbohydrate option
Not many people realise chickpeas have carbohydrate within them which can help to provide us with energy. A 3 tablespoon serve of hummus provides almost 6g of carbohydrate – that’s the equivalent to approx. half slice of bread or half a piece of fruit. It is low glycemic index (GI) which means the carbohydrate is absorbed more slowly and unlikely to cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly.
When anything contains a vegetable or legume it’s likely to contain a good amount of fibre which is awesome for bowel health. Three tablespoons of hummus has about 5g of fibre in it. This is more than most fruit, vegetables, nuts and even some breakfast cereals. They also contain a range of the different types of fibre which is even more awesome for our gut health.
5. A source of B vitamins (like folate) , zinc, magnesium and calcium
The sesame seeds and the chick peas in hummus help with giving it a great little micronutrient profile. Although not super high in these vitamins and minerals, it will help to bump up your intake.
6. It contains phytochemicals like isoflavones
Phytochemicals are chemicals naturally occurring in foods that aren’t essential for life but do have health benefits. Those found in hummus play a role in prevention of some cancers.
7. It contains essential healthy fats
Due to most cultures and people adding olive oil into their hummus recipe, hummus can help bring some lovely healthy fats into our diet. Of the fat in hummus, about 80% is from mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (it’s mostly the monos) both of which play a good role in our health health. Olive oil also has anti-oxidant properties which aids in cancer prevention (yay!)
So there you go, that’s seven reasons to eat hummus. Obviously a store bought hummus could have some additional additives (which can in some circumstances have some negative health effects).
If you are going to a restaurant or making it yourself you can be assured it is a great little side dish that will amp up your nutrient intake.
source: nutrient information was obtained from NUTTAB online.