A healthy gut is the basis for overall health. It is linked to immunity and can even affect your mental health. What you eat plays an important role, and choosing the right snacks can help — or hinder — your microbiome.
When it comes to taking care of your digestive system, yogurt is usually the go-to snack thanks to its beneficial probiotics, but it’s not your only option.
If you’re looking for a nutritious snack that’s good for your stomach, gastroenterologists have a great choice: carrot sticks and other vegetables with a side of hummus for dipping.
This snack can help support gut health because it’s high in fiber, offers a variety of nutrients, and can even help calm inflammation.
Here’s why gastroenterologists choose this snack.
Why hummus and vegetables are good for your gut
There’s a lot to love about hummus and veggies. This snack is delicious, comforting and nutrient dense. It’s also a great choice for promoting gut health.
1. It gives you healthy fats
Many nutrients play a key role in healthy digestion, and probiotics are often the focus. But it’s not the only thing to consider when trying to control your gut health, says Aniruddh Setya, MDa certified gastroenterologist.
In addition to probiotics, Setya recommends incorporating sources of healthy fats into your diet. “Hummus, which is usually made with olive oil, is a very good source of fat,” he says.
Healthy plant-based fat sources such as olive oil may help increase bacterial diversity in the gut, according to April 2022 research inNature. Bacterial diversity is a marker of a healthy microbiome.
Researchers recommend replacing saturated fats in your diet with more polyunsaturated fats, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Olive oil and tahini, two ingredients commonly used to make hummus, are both sources of these healthy fats.
Dietary fiber is another often-mentioned nutrient when it comes to gut health, and for good reason. It’s known to aid digestion and prevent constipation, but it can also help treat bowel conditions like diverticulosis, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
“Vegetable fiber can help with both constipation and diarrhea,” Setya says. This is because fiber can soften hard stools and add substance to watery stools.
Hummus is made from chickpeas and tahini, both of which are sources of fiber. A 3.5 ounce serving of hummus provides almost 6 grams, according to the USDA.
Fiber recommendations are 25 grams per day for people designated female at birth (AFAB) and 38 grams per day for people designated male at birth (AMAB), according to the Nutrition and Dietetics Academy.
This means that one serving of hummus can provide you with between 15-24% of your daily fiber needs. Pair it with fiber-rich carrot sticks and other veggies, and you’re even closer to hitting that goal with just one snack.
3. It offers antioxidants
Polyphenols are plant compounds that also act as antioxidants, and they’re important because they help ward off free radical damage that can increase your risk of disease.
Many disease-causing bacteria enter the body through the gut, so it’s worth focusing on getting more of these nutrients from your daily diet. “Polyphenols in vegetables like carrot sticks have properties that can be restorative for gut health,” Setya says.
Specifically, polyphenols may have prebiotic and antimicrobial effects on the gut, according to September 2019 research in Nutrients. In other words, they can help feed good bacteria and fight the growth of bad bacteria.
Many plant foods contain polyphenols, but the olive oil in hummus is a notable source with myriad health benefits, according to a March 2018 review in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
4. It’s anti-inflammatory
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to harmful invaders. But when your immune system is overloaded for an extended period of time, you can enter a state of chronic inflammation, where it begins to attack healthy cells.
Chronic inflammation is linked to a growing number of health problems, such as heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the best diets for reducing inflammation, according to Harvard Health Publishing. That’s because foods like hummus and olive oil all contain nutrients known to fight it, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
“Inflammation and ‘leaky gut’ can be caused by eating too many processed foods,” says Setya. “Leaky gut” describes a condition where the lining of the digestive tract is damaged, allowing harmful pathogens to enter the bloodstream. “Vegetables offer fiber, polyphenols, and other nutrients that help an inflamed, ‘leaky’ gut.”
There are also many digestive conditions characterized by inflammation of the gut, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Lifestyle factors, altered gut bacteria and leaky gut can all contribute to IBD, but eating a balanced diet rich in plant foods can help, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Hummus is usually made from legumes like chickpeas, which are a powerful source of protein. High-protein snacks can increase satiety, so you feel full between meals.
Hummus Recipes for Digestive Health
On your next trip to the grocery store, keep an eye out for the many varieties of hummus. Some are made with the classic combination of chickpeas, tahini, and olive oil while others provide extra flavor and nutrients from ingredients like red bell pepper, garlic, and beets.
For more control over the ingredients that go into your hummus, try making it at home. It’s easy to make and doesn’t have the extra saturated fat and sodium you might find in store-bought hummus.
To make hummus at home, you can add the following ingredients to a food processor, depending on the Mayo Clinic:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Cloves of garlic
- Black pepper