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NMU – 188 Chickpeas and Hummus: Health foods that lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and improve bowel health

Nutrition/Natural Medicine Update No 188 (January 20, 2021)

with Dr. James Meschino


Topic: Chickpeas and Hummus: Health foods that lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and improve bowel health

Source: Journal Nutrients (2016)


In this Lifestyle Medicine Update, I want to highlight the nutritional value and health-promoting benefits of chickpeas and hummus. A great review paper on this subject was published in the journal Nutrients in December 2016. In short, chickpeas and hummus, especially when substituted for other starchy foods or high-fat dips, help reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and can help to reduce body fat. Chickpeas and hummus are also proven to improve the health and function of the large bowel and they contain various nutrients (i.e. isoflavones, protease inhibitors), which have anti-cancer properties. Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a great source of plant-based protein, cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, colon-cleaning insoluble fiber, and are richly endowed with many vitamins and minerals.

In Western culture, chickpea consumption is somewhat tied to the intake of hummus. Traditional hummus is a dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas, blended with tahini (crushed sesame seeds), olive oil, lemon juice, and spices. Consumers of chickpeas and/or hummus have been shown to have higher nutrient intakes of dietary fiber, polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium, and iron as compared to non-consumers of these foods. Studies show that about 75% of North American Adults have an eating pattern that is low in vegetables, fruits, dairy, and health-promoting essential fatty acids. Legumes (i.e., beans and peas) include kidney beans, pinto beans, white beans, black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), lima beans (mature, dried), split peas, lentils, and edamame (green soybeans).  More and more people are beginning to appreciate the health-promoting benefits of chickpeas and hummus in recent years. Over the past decade, sales of hummus in the U.S. grew to $530 million as of 2013, increasing by over 25% since 2010.

Four tablespoons (~100 kcal) of traditional, chickpea-based hummus per day provides approximately 2 cups of legumes per week and ~25 grams of dietary fiber—a shortfall nutrient in the diets of many adults and children. Heat treatment required to make hummus also significantly improves the protein quality of legumes, such as chickpeas, since it destroys and/or inactivates many heat liable anti-nutritional factors. This is important especially for vegans and individuals adhering to variations of plant-based diets. In other words, cooked beans and peas provide a superior level of nutrition for the body than uncooked beans and peas. Regarding cholesterol-lowering effects, the high soluble fiber content in chickpeas binds to cholesterol and bile acids in the gut, blocking their absorption in the bloodstream. The liver converts some re-absorbed bile acids into cholesterol. Thus, the net effect is a lowering of blood cholesterol, which of course helps to reduce risk of heart and cardiovascular disease. Many studies using chickpeas and other beans have shown this cholesterol-lowering effect in human trials. The high fiber content of chickpeas also slows the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream, which reduces blood sugar spikes and helps to even out and regulate blood sugar levels throughout the day.  Using chickpeas and other legumes in place of bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes is an excellent way to help reduce high blood sugar, while still achieving a high level of satiety or post-meal satisfaction. This has important implications for type 2 diabetics and pre-diabetics, as well as for those of us wishing to prevent type 2 diabetes and/or optimize blood sugar regulation. The high fiber content of chickpeas has also been shown to improve bowel function. Human studies using chickpeas report overall improvements in bowel health characterized by increased frequency of defecation, ease of defecation, and softer stool consistency while on a chickpea diet as compared to a habitual diet.

Taken together the researchers conclude, “Consuming chickpeas and/or hummus may help prevent or offset the development and progression of several chronic diseases (CVD, type-2 diabetes, etc.) and promote healthier functional outcomes (e.g., weight management). As 75% of the population does not consume the recommended amounts of legumes per week, turning to chickpeas and hummus more regularly is a commonsense way to improve many health parameters and enhance other weight management efforts.

I have included the reference for this information in the text below.


Wallace TC, Murray R, Zelman KM. The nutritional value and health benefits chickpeas and hummus. Nutrients. 2016 Dec; 8(12): 766


Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,

Dr. James Meschino

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