Is Hummus a Good Source of Protein?
A dietitian explains the true nutritional benefits (and downsides) of your favorite chickpea dip.
With more and more containers popping up on supermarket shelves, you might be wondering, if it's really as healthy as it's made out to be. Sure it’s delicious, and endlessly versatile, but there are so many foods that haven’t quite earned the health halos they’re donning with pride, that it's worth questioning.
The Middle Eastern chickpea spread is an easy snack that fights hunger and balances blood sugar levels—but the key here if you’re asking, “is hummus good for weight loss?” is that a little goes a long way. Serving size it clutch: Most brands and homemade recipes average about 25 calories per tablespoon (translation: a half cup equals 200 calories), so endless dunking can add up fast. (Here are 10 more times serving size really counts.)
Also worth noting while you’re analyzing hummus nutrition facts: The protein content. While we're often made to believe hummus is packed with protein on menus, in social media posts, and on food labels, it doesn't actually pack that powerful a protein punch. (So if you've ever assumed you were making a filling, nutritious choice by ordering a vegetable and hummus sandwich, but then wound up hungry an hour later reaching for more food... now you know!)
Hummus is made of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), tahini (sesame seed paste), olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and spices (usually salt, pepper, and sometimes cumin and paprika, among others). All of this makes hummus a good source of fat and carbohydrates. According to the United States Department of Agriculture's standard servings sizes, a serving of carbohydrate is equivalent to 15 grams and a serving size of fat is 5 grams. Most hummus brands provide about 4 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fat. (Psst...our Hemp Seed Hummus recipe has four times as much protein as the usual hummus!)
But as for protein? Most brands of hummus have about 2 grams of protein per serving (2 tablespoons), which is a drop in the bucket compared to what you need each day. After all, generally speaking, protein recommendations for healthy adults are 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight. (Lots of factors like activity level and certain health conditions can impact protein requirements.) A kilogram is equivalent to about 2.2 pounds. Someone who weighs 150 pounds (about 68 kg) needs about 55 to 68 grams of protein per day. (Related: What Eating the *Right* Amount of Protein Actually Looks Like)
To hit a goal of, say, 60 grams, you'd need 30 servings—or 60 tablespoons—of hummus. (Clearly, you wouldn't want to do this because you'd go seriously overboard on your carb and fat intake for the day.)
That's not to say hummus isn't a nutritious food, even if the answer to the original question of, “Is hummus good for weight loss?” is a, well, maybe. Filling fiber and healthy fats lend some staying power—just not as much as a full serving of protein. Try scooping it up with red bell peppers for even more nutrition benefits.
"Hummus boosts energy because it contains iron, and red bell pepper slices are high in vitamin C, which helps to utilize and absorb the iron from the hummus," says holistic nutritionist Peggy Kotsopoulos, author of Must Have Been Something I Ate.
Want to make your hummus a little more filling? Up the protein content by mixing your hummus (either a whole batch or a 2-tablespoon serving) with one of these protein-rich foods: