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Photo by stu_spivack

Hummus – that old party bowl standby – is a popular Middle Eastern dip made from cooked, mashed garbanzo beans, tahini (a paste made from ground sesame seeds), lemon juice, salt and garlic.

So, is it Paleo?

Its first ingredient should be the big tip-off in whether or not hummus makes the Paleo cut. Garbanzo beans, (or chickpeas), are a legume. Often asked about if they could fit into a Paleo diet because they do contain nutrients, legumes don’t provide the same dense sources of nutrients that fruits or vegetables do. Also, they’re an incomplete protein, unlike other complete protein sources like meat, fish or poultry.

Beans and legumes can also pack quite a dose of carbohydrates which may, in themselves, wreak havoc in keeping blood sugar regulated. This might be a problem for many folks trying to knock off the pounds, or who have other types of medical or metabolic conditions.

The short-chain types of sugars garbanzo beans contain are also not completely digested. These sugars are absorbed by the intestines, functioning as a food for the bacteria living there. The bacteria ferment the sugars and create just what you don’t want—bloating and gas—along with the potential to bloom into gut dysbiosis, an inflammatory digestive condition.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, research is showing that beans and legumes contain potent anti-nutrient substances called lectins, which can contribute to inflammation in the body, suppress immunity and foster a host of digestive problems.

Ancient cultures found that when they rinsed, soaked or fermented legumes, it partially reduced some of their toxins. However the effectiveness of this practice in reducing toxicity can vary, although it’s often recommended today for those who still want to incorporate the food into their diet. Depending on a person’s own level of sensitivity, this method that may or may not be effective for everyone in diminishing undesirable effects.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “ It certainly isn’t Primal…b ut not all hummus is created equal. If you’re going to cheat, I implore you to use the good stuff. If you’re willing to make your own hummus, soak your own garbanzos, preserve your own lemons, etc., then hummus won’t be too bad. It’ll be free of BPA, low in phytic acid, full of healthy, Primal ingredients like olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and tahini, and it will taste pretty darn good. Extra points for fermented hummus.

Dallas and Melissa Hartwig say: Hummus: No. . . Traditional hummus is made from garbanzo beans, which are a legume. However, there are some really yummy hummus-like dip recipes out there.

Robb Wolf says: If you peruse some of the gluten- free websites you will notice folks who are still struggling with significant GI problems despite strict adherence to a gluten-free diet. Now these poor souls embark on a gluten-free lifestyle that includes rice flour and loads of legume products. This is not helping the insulin resistance most of these folks have AND it is exposing them to other lectins which have significant GI problems as well.

Conclusion?

The general consensus is that hummus is not included on the Paleo list. However, some individuals who can tolerate small amounts of legumes if well-soaked or fermented can find a place for them as a small “cheat” when the hummus is homemade, say some Paleo experts. If you want to stay clean and still get your hummus on, look to alternatives to the legume, such as macadamia nuts, cauliflower or cashews.

Issue No. 16

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