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Published October 15, 2010, 12:00 AM

Prairie Fare: Just say ‘yes’ to nutrient-rich hummus

“Is there any hummus left?” I asked one of our program assistants. I was referring to a dip made by blending chickpeas with lemon juice, garlic, tahini (sesame seed paste) and spices.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

“Is there any hummus left?” I asked one of our program assistants. I was referring to a dip made by blending chickpeas with lemon juice, garlic, tahini (sesame seed paste) and spices.

“No, that’s all gone,” she said. She then noted the leftovers that were available from the previous day’s menu.

I really wanted some hummus. I felt as disappointed as when I discover that someone has consumed my restaurant leftovers at home without my permission.

Next time I’ll put some in a container with my name on it. Maybe I will add a note saying “hands off the hummus.”

We had been testing recipes for a special project on pulse crops. I realized that when there are no leftovers, you have a popular recipe.

Pulses are a type of legume, which produce seeds within a pod. Pulses include chickpeas, lentils and dry peas. Chickpeas also are known as garbanzo beans.

Pulses are notably nutritious and play a dual role in current nutrition recommendations. According to the recommendations at www.mypyramid.gov, pulses can count toward the daily recommendation from the meat and beans group or vegetable group.

One cup of cooked lentils, chickpeas or split peas counts as 1 cup of vegetables toward an adult’s daily goal of 2.5 to 3 cups per day. One-fourth cup of cooked chickpeas, lentils or split peas counts as an “ounce equivalent” in the meat group. On average, an adult needs 5 to 6 ounce equivalents per day from the meat and beans group.

Pulses are particularly high in fiber, with about 13 to 16 grams of fiber per cup. Pulses contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber may help reduce blood cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber helps maintain digestive health. One cup of cooked pulses provides about one-half of the average daily fiber recommendation.

Be sure to drink plenty of fluids when you add fiber to your diet, though.

Pulses provide vitamins, including folate, which we all need for maintaining healthy cells. Folate is a B vitamin that helps reduce the risk for certain types of birth defects if women consume enough of it before and during a pregnancy. Pulses contain minerals, including iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium.

As a result of all these attributes, pulses can play a role in healthy eating plans, as well as in several special diets.

Pulses are gluten-free and can be used as a food source for people with celiac disease. People with celiac disease cannot consume gluten, a protein found in wheat and some other cereal grains. When they consume wheat, an immune reaction is triggered and can cause damage to their intestinal tract and poor absorption of nutrients.

Vegetarians can count pulses as an excellent protein source that also provides several vitamins and minerals. When people with diabetes consume pulses, they may find that their blood glucose levels remain more stable after a meal.

Thinking about all these features of pulses makes me hungry for some hummus, which is the Arabic name for chickpea. Hummus is believed to be one of the first prepared foods in history. Its roots have been traced to ancient Egypt, as well as to India and the Mediterranean region.

Try some hummus as a snack. This protein-rich, flavorful dip or spread goes well with raw vegetables, crackers or pita bread. Some people add variety to the hummus by including roasted red peppers or eggplant, scallions or olives in the recipe.


Hummus

1 (15.5-oz.) can chickpeas

4 Tbsp. tahini*

¼ cup lemon juice

3 cloves crushed garlic

1 tsp. salt

Optional spices (cumin, cayenne pepper, hot sauce)

Puree peas in blender or food processor. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. The final product should be thick and smooth. Serve with vegetables, such as carrots, celery or chunks of red or green pepper, or with whole-grain crackers or pita bread.

*Tahini is available in grocery stores, often in the specialty food or health food section.

Makes 12 servings. Each serving has 70 calories, 3 grams (g) of fat, 0.4 g of saturated fat, 3 g of protein, 10 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber, 160 milligrams (mg) of sodium, 0.7 mg of iron and 29.3 micrograms of folate.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

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