Dips are the quintessential party food—who doesn't love a bowl full of something delicious? Unfortunately, depending on what's in your go-to dip, it might not always be the healthiest appetizer. (Looking at you oh-so-delicious queso dip!) But when it comes to nutrition there is one tasty dip that ranks far above the rest. It's time to ditch boring ranch and say hello to healthy hummus—science says so.
Hummus is packed with fiber, protein, vitamins, and nutrients, making it the healthiest spread option, according to a new study published in the journal Nutrients. In what has to be one of the most fun science experiments ever, researchers analyzed seven popular bases for party dips—bean dip, ranch dressing, salsa, sour cream, cream cheese, hummus, and peanut butter—and ranked them according to nutritional content. Each dip was then given a "naturally nutrient rich" score. With a score of 98, hummus took the top spot, followed by salsa at 89, and bean dip at 82. For comparison, ranch dressing came in very last with a nutrient score of just 23. (It's worth noting that the study was funded by a grant from Sabra, though they weren't involved in the design of the study or the analysis of the data.)
Hummus is made with three nutritional powerhouses, chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), olive oil, and tahini (sesame seed paste). These ingredients are high in healthy fats, satiating fiber, vitamins, and nutrients which not only protect your health but can help manage your weight, says Taylor C. Wallace, Ph.D., a certified food scientist and lead author of the paper.
"Chickpeas have high amounts of minerals that most of us don't get enough of from other foods," he explains. "They're particularly high in iron, which is important for menstruating women, and potassium, a vital nutrient most of Americans fall short of."
It's also important to note what hummus does not have. There are no artificial preservatives or additives, added sugars, or other junk that's often found in packaged dips. But that doesn't mean you can't add things to put your own twist on the classic recipe. Hummus is the perfect "carrier food," says Wallace, which means it can help increase your intake of other healthy foods like whole grains (think whole grain pita bread) or dip-ready vegetables like carrots and celery. You can also top hummus with things like roasted red peppers (a rich source of antioxidants), pine nuts or olives (healthy fats), or flavorful spices (micronutrients). Ready to get creative? Check out our definitive guide to homemade hummus with 13 tasty combinations.
It helps to think outside of the bowl too. Wallace's favorite way to eat hummus? "I love using it in place of mayo on a turkey sandwich." Or try one of these 12 new ways to eat hummus, including favorites like pizza and even desserts.