Q: What is hummus? Is it healthy for you?
A: Hummus is a staple in Middle Eastern dishes. Its main ingredient is chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), blended with other ingredients in a food processor until it becomes a smooth paste. Recipes almost always include tahini (or sesame seed paste) and also commonly call for garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and a variety of spices and other flavorings. You can also find recipes that include additional ingredients, such as sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, olives, pine nuts, chipotle peppers and my favorite, roasted red peppers.
Hummus is often served as an appetizer or snack, to be spread on pita bread or pita chips, or used as a vegetable dip. Hummus can also be used as a spread on bread for sandwiches or in place of mayonnaise or salad dressing in salads (such as the chicken salad wrap recipe below).
As we know, changing the ingredients will change the end product’s nutritional profile of any recipe. Yet, I do consider hummus to be a very healthful alternative to other types of spreads and dips. If you’re substituting hummus for a sour-cream-based dip or mayonnaise-based spread, of course you’ll be better off. Not only does hummus offer more protein and less fat, the fat it does contain comes from the olive oil and tahini, both of which are chock-full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat rather than saturated fat, which should be limited.
According to USDA, one tablespoon of commercial hummus has 23 calories, 1 gram protein, 1 gram total fat, 0.2 grams saturated fat, 0.6 gram monounsaturated fat, 0.5 gram polyunsaturated fat, no cholesterol, 2 grams carbohydrates, 0.8 grams dietary fiber, 0.3 milligrams iron, 32 milligrams potassium and 53 milligrams sodium.
But, like anything, you have to watch your portions to be certain hummus fits into a healthful diet. If you serve up a half-cup of hummus, you’ll be treating yourself to more than 200 calories and 10 to 12 grams of fat.
Here’s a recipe shared in the fourth issue of this year’s Walk Kansas newsletter. It is a hit! To change it up a bit, I like to serve it on the 100 percent whole-wheat thin buns instead of turning it into a wrap.
Vegetable Wraps with Chicken and Hummus
1 cup diced, cooked chicken (or salmon)
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/2 cup chopped sweet bell pepper (red, yellow or green)
6 thin, fresh asparagus spears (steamed, chilled and chopped)
1/2 cup chopped lettuce greens
8 quartered cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup hummus (I use the Sabra Roasted Red Pepper Hummus — it’s mild and yummy)
4 whole-wheat flour tortillas (6 to 7 inches in diameter)
4 lettuce leaves or leaf spinach
In a bowl, combine chicken, cucumber, pepper, asparagus, chopped greens, tomatoes and hummus. (Add different vegetables according to the season and your family’s preferences.)
Heat tortillas 15 to 20 seconds in microwave before assembling. Place tortillas on the counter and cover each with spinach or a lettuce leaf. Divide the chicken/vegetable mixture in fourths and spread on each tortilla, leaving at least a half-inch border around the edge. Roll filled tortillas tightly, tucking in the edges as you roll.
Makes 4 servings.
Q: What is hara hachi bu?
A: From the Japanese, hara hachi bu means “8 parts out of 10 full,” or eat a little less.
The idea is to eat until you are 80 percent full. This way you naturally consume 20 percent less calories. The secret? It goes back to “mind over matter” in that you override your body’s hunger signals every time you eat.
So here are some reminders to help you hara hachi bu:
l Use a smaller plate.
l Don’t buy junk food. Out of sight, out of mind.
l Limit portion sizes.
l Slow down! It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it is full.
l Eat vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains to help feel fuller.
l Enjoy your food! Soak in the aromas and flavors in every bite.
At the Kansas Nutrition Council Annual Conference this year, the keynote speaker, Georgia Kostas, shared that it takes about 4 cups of food in our stomach to make us feel full. Therefore, if you eat an apple and an orange (which would be equivalent to 2 cups total) before eating your meal, you’ll feel full faster and eat less, if you pay attention to your hunger cues.
— Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.