Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: Is homemade hummus dip much healthier than the pre-made versions available in the grocery store?
A: Many packaged hummus brands are pretty healthy - the basic ingredients are chickpeas, tahini (sesame seed paste), olive oil, garlic and lemond juice. But making it at home allows you to control the sodium, calories and nutrients. It means you can also play with the taste.
Hummus can be a great choice as a dip for vegetables, a filling in sandwiches and an ingredient in a variety of Middle Eastern-type mixed dishes. A two-tablespoon serving of hummus contains 45 to 70 calories, depending on the proportion of ingredients. If you prefer to keep calories lower, you can use lower-calorie ingredients like red pepper or other vegetables to dilute the dip; more olive oil and tahini will mean higher calories. Two tablespoons also usually contain two to four grams of fat from healthy sources such as olive oil and tahini, one to five grams of protein (depending on the amount of beans) and 0.5 to 4 grams of dietary fiber. Commercial varieties vary in the amount of sodium, ranging from 100 milligrams to well over twice that amount. If you want to make low-sodium hummus, use beans canned with no added salt or cooked from dried beans and don’t add much or any salt. For more protein, choose a recipe that includes proportionately more beans compared to oil and tahini.
If you go the commercial route, remember that small differences in calories and sodium between different brands become more significant as your portion size increases, so comparing nutrition information on labels is worthwhile.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, http://www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.