Hummus is a well-loved condiment among almost all plant-based eaters, and even those that aren’t vegan or vegetarian. It’s savory, satisfying, creamy, and just downright tasty with chopped veggies, crackers, pita chips, and even used as a quick DIY salad dressing or sandwich spread. If you don’t make your own (because not all of us set aside time for that), store-bought options are incredibly handy. While the hummus variety used to be slim pickings at the store, this dips’ health benefits and popularity have greatly increased the options we have now too. Most stores have at least 15 different options now, and even superstores such as Walmart carry a good four or five. It’s also easier than ever to find healthy hummus options that don’t have alot of additives or ingredients that really don’t belong in hummus to begin with.

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When shopping for your next batch of one of our nation’s latest favorite dip, keep these five tips in mind to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck!

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1. Avoid These Additives

Potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, and potassium benzoate are all additives you want to avoid as much as possible. These preservatives can cause headaches, digestion upset, allergic reactions, and are generally just not necessary. You want to make sure your hummus has ingredients that you recognize and are familiar with what they are. If you see a chemical name, skip it!

2. Look for Real Flavor Ingredients

It’s also smart to be aware of how the brand of hummus you’re looking at flavors their spread. For instance, if it’s garlic and herb, does the ingredients label read real garlic and herbs, or natural flavors? If it’s red pepper flavored,  does it have red pepper flakes , red pepper pieces, or red pepper flavoring? Always go for real food ingredients in your hummus; not only is this healthier, it’s also much tastier. If you’re a gluten-free or soy-free eater, it’s also smart since many flavors are hidden sources of gluten and/or soy.

3. Buy From a Trusted Brand

Buying hummus is like buying any other condiment; go with a good brand that you trust. Preferably, choose one that’s organic and/or non-GMO for the highest-quality ingredients. While many generic brands may be fine, many times they have lower quality ingredients to provide a lower cost to consumers. When it comes to hummus and most other dips, you pay for what you get.

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4. Be Sodium Savvy

Sodium is an important nutrient we need for a healthy metabolism and electrolyte function, however, we don’t need to get too much from processed foods in such small servings. While the sodium content may be low in appearance on a label, look at the serving size and see how much you get for that amount of sodium. Most hummus containers list the serving size as 2 tablespoons (and we all know we eat more than that), so try to stick to labels that read anywhere between 30-50 milligrams of sodium per serving. Then, only eat 1-2 servings if you can. Also check the ingredient list and see if it contains sea salt, another huge plus which means its more mineral-rich than those with refined salts. Salt acts as a natural preservative that’s better than artificial preservatives, so it’s not something you have to avoid — just be smart about how much you’re consuming per serving.

5. Be Smart About the Oil

Sadly, soybean oil is found in a lot of hummus varieties out there. Real hummus is made with olive oil and/or tahini, so either go with options that include olive oil, or skip the oil and just use brands that use tahini as the main source of fat. Be sure to avoid those with vegetable oil and soybean oil when possible; these are inflammatory fats and often genetically modified. Tahini and olive oil, however, offer up antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits which make them much better choices.

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Hummus brands are consistently reformulating their options to make them healthier, so be sure you try a few different options and keep these tips in mind. Overall, the ingredients you want your hummus to include are: chickpeas, tahini, sea salt (or salt), and any of the following: red peppers, garlic, olive oil, herbs (parsley, basil, oregano, etc.), and any other real food ingredients.

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If you’d rather just make your own, here are some terrific recipes to start with!

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