| 15.2°C Dublin

Ask Elsa: Hummus and headaches

Q A friend recommended that I try eating hummus. I've no idea how I'm supposed to eat it or even if it's good for me. What's your advice?

A Hummus is a popular food from the Mediterranean and Middle East regions. It's a super- healthy blend of pureed chickpeas, garlic, lemon, sesame tahini, and oil. Chickpeas have no saturated fat and no cholesterol. They aid in improving blood-sugar levels and help reduce cholesterol. They are also high in protein and fibre. Hummus is traditionally used as a dip for pita bread or fresh-cut vegetables. Many people use hummus as a spread on sandwiches, either as a substitute for mayonnaise, or as a main ingredient in a vegetarian sandwich.

Hummus is readily available in most supermarkets. Experiment with different brands until you find one you like. Alternatively make your own using my recipe below. I suggest making up a batch of it at the weekend and keeping it in a covered bowl in the fridge. Not every supermarket stocks tahini (sesame seed paste) so you may need to purchase it from a health food store.

Simply rinse and drain two cans of organic chick peas. In a blender combine the chick peas with a quarter cup of tahini, a quarter cup of lemon juice, two crushed garlic cloves and a teaspoon of cumin powder. Blend and gradually add two ounces of extra virgin olive oil and a little warm water until the mixture has a creamy consistency. Refrigerate overnight to bring out the flavour.

Q Over the past few months I seem to have had a lot of headaches. They tend to come on straight after lunch -- have you any suggestions?

AWhen exploring the causes of headaches, the easiest and cheapest place to start is diet. Keeping a food diary for a week is a good way to identify food triggers. Food allergies and intolerances are a significant contributor to headaches and symptoms can often be eliminated, or at least alleviated, by cutting out problematic dietary items. Foods that most commonly induce headaches include: cow's milk, cheese, MSG, wheat, eggs, chocolate, artificial sweeteners, rye and citrus fruits.

Also, aged cheeses, vinegar, beer and wine induce headaches in some people, because they contain histamines and tyramine that cause blood vessels to expand.

Similarly, nitrates, which are found in processed and cured meats such as bacon, salami and hot dogs, should also be avoided.

Stress and blood sugar dips can also bring on a headache, so make sure to eat every few hours and drink two litres of pure water per day.

Elsa Jones is a nutritional therapist and presenter of How Healthy are You? on TV3. The new series starts Wednesday, June 22, at 7.30pm. For consultations see www.elsajones nutrition.ie