Hummus a valuable snack for Americans who aren’t eating the recommended amount of legumes, says Sabra-funded study

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock/Alleko
Photo: iStock/Alleko

Related tags Nutrition

A new analysis of American food consumption patterns based on NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys) dietary intake data reveals that Americans who regularly consume hummus are more likely to have a healthy diet overall.

“Hummus is widely consumed, much more so than chickpeas. Obviously whole foods are ‘the better option,’ but in practicality, hummus is a nutrient-rich option to increase [Americans'] consumption of legumes,” ​Dr. Taylor Wallace, the lead researcher in the study published in Nutrients​, told FoodNavigator-USA.

The review, which received a grant from Sabra Dipping Co., LLC, explored the nutritional value and health benefits of chickpeas and hummus based on existing literature, and how these foods may help improve the nutrient profiles of meals. Citing data from the USDA 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans​, it reported that about three quarters of the population has an eating pattern that is low in vegetables, fruits, dairy, and oils. On average, no age or gender group, except male and female infants, meets the 2015 Dietary Guidelines' recommendations for legume intake.

“Since legumes have a similar nutrient profile to both vegetables and protein foods, they may often be used to fulfill requirements of both food groups,”​ the authors argued.

A high ‘Naturally Nutrient Rich’ Score

Wallace pressed that hummus is a healthy snack option when compared to other dips and spreads because of its ‘Naturally Nutrient Rich’ score, a calculation designed by University of Washington researcher Adam Drewnowski and published​ in the American Society for Clinical Nutrition​ journal in 2005.

“The NNR score is a basic calculation of nutrient density. It compares the amount of nutrient in a food to the amount of calories,” ​Wallace explained. “So what we really found with the NNR score is that [hummus] was the better spread to have when you’re watching a football game, or having people over.”

The essential nutrients include various minerals (potassium, phosphorus, magnesium), vitamins (vitamin A and folate), and macronutrients such as protein, calories, and fiber.

Americans with healthier eating habits eat hummus, says CDC survey

Among populations with a high score Healthy Eating Index, which comes from the government-backed Center for Disease Control’s NHANES dietary intake surveys from 2003-2010, hummus consumers have better sub-component scores “for total vegetables, dark green and orange vegetables, and whole grains, compared to non-consumers,”​ the authors reported.

“They do a cross-section survey of Americans every year, it’s a two-day, 24-hour dietary recall,” ​Wallace said. Respondents list out what they’ve eaten in the past 24 hours for two days, and data taken from it reveals the nutrient intake versus calorie intake.

“People that are eating nutrient-rich foods with low calories will have a very high Healthy Eating Index, so we encourage people to eat hummus because it will give them a higher Healthy Eating Index,” ​he added.

Source: Nutrients

Published online, doi:10.3390/nu8120766

The Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Chickpeas and Hummus

Authors: Taylor C. Wallace, Robert Murray, and Kathleen M. Zelman

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