Is hummus good for weight loss?

Hummus is a simple Middle Eastern dip made with a base of chickpeas, oil, salt and garlic. It is suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and makes an excellent accompaniment to pita bread and vegetable sticks (particularly carrots and celery).

It is becoming more popular in today’s society as it is very simple to make, tastes fantastic, and it’s filled with lots of health benefits. One of those benefits is that it is excellent for helping to reduce body weight.

Nutritional Information

Let’s begin by looking at the nutritional information on hummus. According to data from the United States Department for Agriculture, 100g hummus contains:

Calories 166
Fat 10g (1g is saturated)
Cholesterol 0
Sodium 379mg
Carbohydrates 14g
Fibre 6g
Sugar 0
Protein 8g

Hummus also contains high levels of the RDA of Thiamin (12%), Vitamin B6 (10%), Folate (21%), Iron (14%), Magnesium (18%), Phosphorous (18%), Sodium (16%), Zinc (12%), Copper (26%), and Manganese (39%). The NHS website explains that:

  • Thiamin, also known as vitamin B1, is important for maintaining the health of the nervous system and working with other B vitamins to break down food into energy,
  • Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is necessary for helping the body to use and store energy, and in the creation of haemoglobin. This is the substance which allows red blood cells to carry oxygen all around the body, including the vital organs.
  • Folate is another B group vitamin and has two important functions; firstly, it works with vitamin B12 to form healthy red blood cells, and it helps to ensure that the central nervous system develops properly in unborn babies.
  • Iron is a mineral which has a role in making red blood cells. Too little iron can lead to an illness known as anaemia, which can cause symptoms including extreme tiredness, dizziness and heart palpitations.
  • Magnesium is a mineral which turns the food we eat into energy, and ensures that hormonal glands which have a role in bone health are working properly.
  • Phosphorous is a mineral which is very important for building strong bones and teeth. It also helps to release the energy found in food.
  • Sodium when combined with chloride makes salt, which many associate with decreased health. Sodium, however, is very important as it helps to balance fluids in the body to keep them at a healthy level. It also plays a role in muscle and nerve function. Too little sodium (or too much) can lead to hyponatremia, which is a condition characterised by nausea, headaches, muscle spasms, tiredness, vomiting and seizures.
  • Zinc is a trace element, meaning very little is needed in the body. It is responsible for making new cells and enzymes, helping us to process carbohydrate, fat and protein (all of which are energy sources), and helping with wound healing.
  • Copper is another trace element which is important for the production of red and white blood cells, and triggering the release of iron. It also has a suspected function in infant growth, brain development and supporting the immune system.
  • Manganese is a trace element which is very important for making and activating enzymes.

As it is clear to see, most of the nutrients found in hummus have a function related to weight loss, such as helping to body to use food for energy rather than fat storage, or helping the body to effectively perform energy-consuming tasks, all of which will burn energy from the food you consume. Hummus can also help with weight loss in other ways, which we explain below.

Hummus for Weight Loss

Satiety

One problem many people have when trying to lose weight is that they cannot cope with the feelings of hunger they get when on a diet, even immediately following food consumption. Satiety is the feeling of fullness, or satisfaction after eating, and is very important when on a diet because it can prevent overeating.

Chickpeas are the main ingredient in hummus. They are what are known as a ‘legume’, which is a class of vegetable including peas, beans, and lentils. In a research study by Murty, Pittaway and Ball (2010), 42 participants consumed a chickpea supplemented diet for 12 weeks, preceded and followed by 4 weeks of their habitual diet.

They found that intake from all foods was significantly reduced when chickpeas were introduced to the diet, and participants also thought that they were more satisfied with their meals. Furthermore, once they stopped consuming chickpeas, there was a significant increase in the consumption of high energy foods which contain little fibre and lots of sugar (e.g. processed snack foods).

This suggests that hummus, which is extremely high in chickpea content, could help to both increase satisfaction with food, and also reduce food intake.

Prevent weight gain

Many modern diets are very high in fat and sugar (which is converted into fat when stored in the body, a process known as lipogenesis), and it can be very difficult to make the appropriate dietary changes in order to achieve weight loss. Thankfully, although it is important to reduce fat and sugar consumption, some foods can prevent a number of the negative effects associated with excess consumption.

In a study by Yang et al (2007), rats were fed either a normal diet (ND), a high fat diet (HFD), or a high fat diet supplemented by chickpeas (CHFD). After 8 months, they found that although the ND group had the lowest body weight, rats in the CHFD had significantly lower body weight than those in the HDF.

These rats also had a better cholesterol profile (cholesterol is a type of fat found in the blood). In both the HDF and ND rats, levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) were increased by 40% and 23% respectively. Rats in the CHFD however, had completely healthy and normal levels. Furthermore, these rats also had better insulin resistance, which can help to reduce diabetes as high insulin resistance means the body is not as good at regulating blood sugar.

Protein

Hummus is absolutely packed with protein. 100g contains 16% RDA of protein; compared to other non-meat sources that is extremely high. Protein has been shown to be an excellent addition to a weight-loss diet. An early review by Eistenstein et al (2002) found that it is possible that a high-protein diet can result in a decreased energy intake.

This in turn, can promote weight loss, as hunger, and so food consumption, is reduced. It is worth noting, however, that consuming more than 2 or 3 times RDA protein may, in the long term, lead to bone loss. Therefore, extremely high-protein diets are not recommended for those with calcium deficiencies or brittle bones.

In more recent research, Tang et al (2013) found that both normal and high protein calorie-restricted diets led to weight loss in 43 male participants. They also found, however, that high-protein diets helped to preserve lean body mass (aka muscle mass).

Muscle weighs more than fat, and so although body weight was not reduced more in these participants compared to those on the normal protein diet, they may have lost more fat and made up for the weight difference in muscle mass.

The effects of protein are also found in women. Azadbakht et al (2013) investigated the impact of an energy-restricted high protein diet on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and body composition in 60 overweight and obese women.

A control group consumed a calorie-restricted diet without additional protein. Following 3 months of dieting, it was found that those on the high protein diet showed greater weight loss and reductions in waist circumference compared to the normal diet.

Specifically, 41% lost more than 5% of their baseline weight, and 16% lost more than 10%, compared to 29% and 8% respectively for the control group. Furthermore, risk factors for CVD including cholesterol and blood pressure were also significantly reduced in both groups.

Taken together, these studies suggest that when compared to standard calorie-restriction, the addition of protein can significantly improve weight loss outcomes. As hummus is high in protein and can also help the body to burn fat (as shown in the nutrients section above), it is an excellent way to add more protein to the diet.

Low GI

GI, or glycaemic index, refers to how food affects blood sugar levels. A high GI (100) means that the food causes a significant increase in blood sugar levels, and a low GI (1) means that it only causes a small increase. Hummus has a GI of 6 for a 30g serving size, meaning it is one of the lowest GI foods around. This is important for weight loss because spikes in blood sugar can lead to cravings for more sugary and starchy foods.

In a review by Esfahani et al (2011), most studies found that consuming a diet with low GI foods leads to a significantly greater weight loss compared to other diets. Other studies found a non-significant trend favouring low GI foods, which suggests that although low GI foods may play a role, other research is required to determine if there are any other contributing factors.

Conclusion

Combining the impact of the nutrients in hummus and its other effects on the body, it seems that hummus is a truly excellent addition to the diet of anybody wanting to lose weight. Not only can it help the body to burn energy more effectively, but it can reduce hunger, reduce food consumption, reduce blood sugar levels, reduce body weight, reduce waist circumference and reduce bad cholesterol levels. All in all, it does everything you could want from a weight loss food!