Hummus: A Healthy Option for Dips and Spreads

If you’re looking to trade in dairy-based dips or cheese spreads for something healthier, hummus is a smart option. Hummus pairs well with raw veggies or whole-grain crackers or pita chips for an ideal snack that provides protein, fiber, and healthy fat. But hummus can be used for more than dipping: Swap hummus for mayo as a spread on sandwiches, toss it with pasta and veggies, thin it down and drizzle it as a sauce or dressing, or use it as the main ingredient in a meatless wrap.

Hummus Basics

Traditional hummus contains chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini (sesame seed paste), garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. However, as hummus has gained in popularity, food manufacturers have added various ingredients to create a wide variety of options. You may find everything from roasted red peppers, olives, and artichokes to spinach, kale, and basil among the hummus selections at most grocery stores. Newer versions go even further outside the recipe box by using different beans (black beans and white beans are popular) or adding vegetables such as eggplant and avocado to the base. Now, there’s even chocolate hummus made with cocoa powder, sugar, and vanilla (and without the garlic and lemon juice).

Smart Shopping and Serving

When sorting through the options, the first thing to check is the sodium content. While several hummus varieties are low in sodium, some have 200 milligrams (mg) of sodium in just one 2-tablespoon serving. Aim for a sodium content of 140 mg or less per serving; you’ll find the sodium content listed on the Nutrition Facts label.

Two valuable components of traditional hummus are protein and fiber—both of these can aid in satisfying your hunger and keeping it at bay until your next meal. Choose hummus with at least 2 grams of protein and 1 gram of fiber per serving.

Steer clear of products that contain a bunch of additives, such as colorants, thickeners, stabilizers, and preservatives. The heathiest hummus will contain a short list of ingredients that you will recognize and be able to pronounce.

Keep your serving size under control: A serving size of hummus is only 2 tablespoons. Because the calorie and saturated fat content is usually moderate (less than 80 calories and 1 or fewer grams of saturated fat per serving), you may be able to double your portion, depending on what else is going on your plate that day. However, scoop out the amount of hummus you intend to eat; dipping directly into the 8- or 10-ounce container can easily lead to eating three or more servings.


It’s easy to whip up your own low-sodium version of hummus at home by pureéing canned chickpeas that have been rinsed and drained with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and tahini in a blender or food processor. Tahini (sesame seed paste) is often located in the “ethnic” section of grocery stores, or in the condiments aisle. Making it yourself also allows you to experiement with different types of legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) and different flavor combinations. Go Thai-style by adding turmeric, coriander, cilantro, and curry powder, or spice it up with cayenne pepper, sriracha, chipotle, or your favorite variety of hot peppers.  

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