Much as I love hummus, occasionally I get a little bored of it but it’s just so convenient for lunch and snacks. So I developed some alternatives: easy bean dips that aren’t hummus – but that look vibrant, appetising and taste fantastic.
Hummus and bean dips are an easy way to get a portion of pulses into the diet; recent research showed that eating just one serving of pulses a day may significantly reduce cholesterol levels, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Studies consistently show that higher fibre diets are better for us, helping us to feel full, balance blood sugar levels (thereby balancing energy and reducing risk of Type 2 Diabetes and obesity), support digestive health, reduce cancer risk, particularly colon cancer, and lower overall cardiovascular risk.
Pulses are cheap and store for ages; when I’m stuck with seemingly no food in the house yet again, I can always rely on a forgotten tin of beans lurking at the back of the cupboard. We also normally have random veggies around to dip in, or oatcakes, crisp breads, pittas and wraps (which I make into tortilla chips). Good alternatives to celery, carrot and cucumber sticks include baby corn, asparagus tips, fennel strips and courgettes.
Hummus or bean dips are a great alternative to the lunchbox ham sandwich. They also work as after-school snacks, at barbeques and are perfect for pre-dinner nibbles when friends are over. They’re easy to ‘dress up’ for this occasion – sprinkling with cayenne pepper, a drizzling of oil and fresh herbs on top.
In an ideal world these dips are more economical to make and taste better with dried, soaked and cooked beans. They’re also fantastic with homemade crackers, oatcakes or breads. But I don’t live in an ideal world time so a tin of beans (ideally BPA free) with pre-made dippers is a more than adequate substitute. If you’re making more than one dip at a time you may end up with more than you can eat, in which case simply pop the remainder in the freezer.
If you can, use good quality extra-virgin olive oil for it’s higher polyphenol levels: the USDA recommends around 2 tbsp of olive oil per day in order to reduce coronary heart disease risk. Added to the protein and fibre content, these bean dips truly are ultra-healthy snacks.
Our favourite bean dips are ultra-quick to prepare and (click on them to see the full recipe) include:
Beetroot, thyme and white bean – high in phytonutrients and fibre, with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, the beetroots provide fantastic support for the liver, so are perfect to include on a detox. Thyme is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, supports the digestion and the oils it contains have strong antioxidant properties; it’s a perfect complement to the creamy beans and beetroot.
Artichoke, white bean and lemon – the artichokes contain inulin, which recent research has linked to turning on an ‘anti-appetite’ molecule – so in theory we should eat less after it! The artichokes, lemons and cayenne are all fantastic for liver support – so this is a great dip to include on a detox, or alongside a glass of wine with a barbecue. My daughter also regularly takes it to school.
Sunblush tomato, borlotti and basil– beautifully coloured, and packed with antioxidants including lycopene, from the tomatoes and beta-carotene from the basil.
Broad bean, mint and lemon – a lovely pale green colour, and a perfect early summer lunchtime dip. Mint and lemon support the digestion and are a perfect combination with the beans.
Roast garlic and double sesame – this combination not only tastes great but is fantastic for cardiovascular health, due to the garlic and sesame seeds. Roasting the garlic makes the taste much milder.
Black bean, jalapeño, lime and coriander – gives a Mexican twist, perfect with blue corn tortillas at a barbecue. Black beans have a higher anthocyanin (antioxidant) content than other beans due to their colour, and the red onions and coriander provide another important phytonutrient – quercitin.
Hummus of course has it’s place, but it’s good to add a little variety sometimes!
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