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When it comes to snacking, you want foods in your pantry that not only taste good, but that also keep you full. Hummus is often touted as a nutritious, protein-packed snack that’s especially good for athletes. But does it live up to the hype?

To find out, we spoke to Maya Feller, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. and Kelli McGrane, R.D., about just how good hummus is for you and what you need to consider when relying on it as a go-to snack.

The Claim:

Hummus is one of the healthier snack options out there, especially for athletes.

The Evidence:

Hummus is a good source of plant-based protein, but how healthy it actually is all depends on the serving size, ingredients, and what you pair it with, explains Feller.

The chickpea-based dip is a rich source of healthy fats and fiber, both of which are important for heart health, explains McGrane. It also contains essential trace minerals and vitmains, such as calcium, iron, potassium, folate, phosphorus, and B vitamins, all of which are especially beneficial for vegans and vegetarians who may not get such micronutrients from meats or animal products. In addition to chickpeas, hummus is usually made with sesame, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice—all of which are healthy whole foods. (Olive oil is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and garlic is a prebiotic that supports gut health.)

Previous research, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that plant-based monounsaturated fats, like those found in olive oil and chickpeas, are associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease and other causes. And, research published in Food Science and Wellness found that garlic promotes growth of good gut bacteria and may help ward off bad bacteria growth.

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The key is to finding a healthy option is to read the label and opt for one that uses ingredients you recognize without preservatives and stabilizers. Some makers use alternative legumes such as edamame or black beans, and those are great as well, Feller says. But look for minimal whole-food ingredients (the shorter the list, the better), such as extra-virgin olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and spices, McGrane says. It’s also relatively easy to make at home if you feel so inclined.

It’s worth noting that you should avoid hummus that’s touted as “low-fat,” because a reduction in fat often means an addition of sugar, salt, and/or artificial ingredients such as thickeners and stabilizers to balance the flavor and texture, McGrane says. Also, steer clear of brands that use cheaper, less healthy oils such as soybean or sunflower oil.

One downside of hummus being rich in healthy fats is that it’s also higher in calories. As a result, it’s easy to overdo it without realizing just how much you’re eating.

A typical snack-sized serving of hummus is 2 tablespoons (tbsp), and while it may vary slightly by brand, contains 50 calories, 2 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber, and 160 milligrams of sodium, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Everyone has different caloric needs depending on your activity levels, size, and goals, but in general, aim for snacks of around 200 to 300 calories throughout the day or immediately after a workout to refuel and maintain a steady blood sugar.

While it’s tempting to pile up your plate with pita bread or chips for dipping, it’s just as important to eat these in moderation or, better yet, pair it with other healthy snacks like fresh veggies—McGrane suggests options such as raw bell peppers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers. Additionally, hummus pairs well with a serving of almonds, which supplies additional good fats, as well as satiating protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, Feller says.

The Verdict:

Hummus can be healthy, but like most foods, it’s best consumed in moderation. As long as you’re eating hummus made from whole, natural ingredients, it can boost your intake of healthy fats, protein, and important vitamins and minerals—such as such as iron, folate, phosphorus, and B vitamins.

Pairing two to four tablespoons of hummus with options such as veggies or almonds is a great way to have add a healthy, filling snack to your diet.

Is Hummus Healthy? | Health Benefits of Hummus
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