oney Mustard with Jalapeño Hummus.
Hummus is a creamy, thick spread made primarily from mashed chickpeas and a few other healthy ingredients that has become popular worldwide over the past couple of decades. It has long been enjoyed in Middle Eastern and North African countries and today in commonly eaten across North America and Europe too. In fact, hummus is one of the most widely consumed Middle Eastern foods in the Unites States today; in 2008, over 15 million Americans reported that they eat hummus on a frequent basis! That is a lot of people getting to experience all of the health benefits of hummus!
If you are new to hummus and are still wondering, “what is hummus exactly?”, then read on to find out what it is all about and why you should ideally be eating it everyday. Also more information can be found within the Sun-dried Tomato Hummus recipe.
The Rich History of Hummus
Hummus has a rich tradition, some even refer to it as an “ancient” food that has a history of being consumed by important historical figures in the Middle East. According to ancient scriptures, hummus – at least as we know it today – was first consumed in Egypt around the 13th Century, although the recipe used at this time differed from today’s because it omitted tahini and used other nuts instead.
Today hummus still plays a major part in the diet of many healthy populations living around the world, mainly in the Middle East. Hummus is commonly consumed with every single meal in Israel, is frequently included in all “mezzeh tables” in Syria and Turkey, is eaten most days for breakfast along with bread in Palestine and Jordan, and is still enjoyed in Egypt and many Arabic nations in a variety of meals too.
Is Hummus Healthy?
Mediterranean and Middle Eastern populations have been consuming good-quality olive oil and tahini for thousands of years. This type of diet that is still eaten in these regions today (which also frequently includes other hummus ingredients like beans, lemon, and garlic) has been shown to be very anti-inflammatory, and we know that inflammation is the root cause of many chronic disease. Eating a diet similar to these healthy populations can help to lower cholesterol and triglycerides levels, to reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and to lessen the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
So is hummus healthy? If you make homemade hummus with real ingredients or buy a quality store bought hummus then yes! Basic hummus recipes contain 6 healthy ingredients: chickpeas, olive oil (I will go for the olives and exclude the oil!), garlic, lemon juice, sea salt, and tahini. Flavored types of hummus – for example, popular types like roasted red pepper or Kalamata olive hummus which you may have seen in supermarkets – has additional ingredients that are mixed into the basic hummus recipe described above. This is good news because it keeps the tastes of hummus interesting and offers a wide variety of options. The whole-food, unprocessed, plant-based ingredients used in hummus make it an excellent choice to include in your meals.
What Is Hummus Made Of?
Like all beans and legumes, chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) are high in plant-based protein and fiber. They help to make you feel full, to improve digestion, and aid to heart health too. They are also one of the longest consumed legumes in the world – they have been a part of certain traditional diets for 7,500 years! Additionally, chickpeas are a good source of 3 nutrients that help to reduce common symptoms associated with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): magnesium, manganese, and vitamin B6.
While there are lot of papers that describe that olive oil used in hummus is very healthy, I exclude it from the ones I make and stay with the real olives. Oil is very calorie dense and only has little nutritional value. The fat from the olives and tahini will be plenty to give you a creamy texture. Traditionally, hummus is often made with good quality extra virgin olive oil, but if you decide to make your own and want to use oil, make sure to avoid fake olive oil, and be careful to purchase extra virgin olive oil that is truly pure and free from fillers.
Raw garlic, as it is used in hummus, offers an impressive amount of nutrients including flavonoids, oligosaccharides, selenium, high levels of sulfur, and many more. Consuming raw garlic frequently has been proven to help reduce risk factors associated with heart disease and various cancers. Garlic also acts as an anti-fungal, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral too.
Lemon juice has an alkalizing effect on the body, which combats the high level of acidity that is common in most modern diets. Additionally, lemon juice helps to increase immunity, boost digestion, and to help keep blood sugar levels stable.
An unprocessed, traditional hummus will likely use a good-quality sea salt to add flavor, as opposed to more processed “table salt” which is iodized. Sea salt, especially Himalayan sea salt, has numerous health benefits: it contains 60 trace minerals. It also helps to keep your fluid levels balanced and to keep you hydrated, and provides sodium levels that help to balance potassium intake. Himalayan sea salt also contains important electrolytes and enzymes that aid in nutrient absorption (use in moderation!).
Tahini is made of ground sesame seeds and is thought to be one of the oldest condiments in the world. Sesame seeds offer a wide range of important micronutrients and macronutrients too – everything from trace minerals to healthy fatty acids. According to recent studies, sesame seeds also have important beneficial properties, including antioxidant Vitamin E, that can help reduce risks associated with insulin resistance, heart disease and cancer. Aside from having a stellar ingredient list, science shows us that when the ingredients in hummus are combined, they offer even more health benefits. This has to do with the way that the fats, carbohydrates, and proteins found in hummus work together to give us even more of a feeling of satiety after eating it. Because of the fats found in hummus, nutrient absorption is also increased if you pair hummus with other nutritious whole-foods, like vegetables.