Hummus is one of the world's oldest foods, with evidence suggesting use of chickpeas by ancient Egyptians 7,000 years ago and active cultivation in the Mediterranean basin beginning around 5,000 years ago. With the emergence of health-conscious food trends, hummus has become a popular dish for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, and is a staple of modern Middle Eastern cuisine.
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The nutritional value of traditional hummus is derived mainly from its chief ingredient, chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans. Other contributing ingredients are olive oil and garlic. Hummus also contains small amounts of lemon juice and cumin. Variations of hummus can include spinach, red peppers, kalamata olives or tahini, a sesame-seed paste.
Chickpeas are relatively low in fat, but the presence of olive oil boosts the fat content in hummus. Olive oil, however, is rich in monounsaturated fat, a type that is heart healthy. Thus, not only does olive oil contribute its unique flavour to hummus, but it also imparts significant health benefits relative to creamy or other high-fat alternatives.
Hummus is a natural, vegan food that can be a part of virtually any diet. Chickpeas, like most beans, are an excellent source of fibre that digest slowly and keep blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly, making them ideal for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycaemia. Combined with rice or whole grains, they provide a complete protein. Chickpeas also contain molybdenum, a trace mineral that helps the body detoxify sulphites, as well as iron and manganese, which are essential for healthy blood and high energy.
Because hummus is so versatile, often used as a dip for vegetables and as a sauce, pinning down a typical serving size can be difficult. At least one popular commercial brand lists a serving size as 2 tbsp or 27 grams, an amount that contains 50 calories, 5 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fat and 1 gram of protein.
As with any legume-based dish, food pairings can be important when adding hummus to a diet. Because chickpeas, like other beans, contain both carbohydrate and protein elements, they tend to be digested slowly and can cause uncomfortable gas or bloating. Hummus pairs best with raw vegetables. Paired with meats or raw fruit, hummus will be digested even more slowly, increasing the chances for undesirable results.
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