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The health benefits of lupin — the powerhouse legume

Lupin beans

You’ve probably heard of lentils, chickpeas and red kidney beans, but what about lupins, the rising star of the legume world?  Dietetics expert Antigone Kouris takes you through the health benefits of powerhouse legume lupin.

Your guide to lupin

While lentils and chickpeas are a fixture on supermarket shelves, the lupin is a less familiar sight. This yellow bean, the seed of the lupin flowering plant, has been part of the traditional Mediterranean diet for centuries. Particularly popular in Egypt and parts of South America, lupins are now grown in Australia.

Legumes such as lupins make excellent meat substitutes — so if you’ve been wanting to reduce your meat intake and eat healthier meals, legumes are your go-to ingredient. Studies confirm that replacing a few meat-based meals each week with at least half a cup of cooked legumes can reduce your risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, bowel cancer and inflammation — and help with weight management, gut health and longevity.

Three times a legume

A powerhouse of goodness, lupins contain three times more plant protein than quinoa, three times more fibre than oats, three times more antioxidants than berries, three times more potassium than bananas — and three times more iron than kale.

You can pickle or salt lupins, and eat them as a whole-bean snack. They can also be milled into flour to make breads, biscuits, cakes and pasta. If you use lupin flour, the legume’s high protein and fibre content reduces the carb content of baked goods.

Since lupin flour doesn’t need to be cooked, you can even add it to smoothies and stews to help with thickening. Although lupins are gluten free, they contain proteins similar to peanuts and soy, so are best avoided if you’re allergic to these foods.

A powerhouse food

Compared with other legumes, lupins are:

  • Lower in calories but higher in nutrients, including thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and zinc
  • One of the richest sources of plant protein and fibre (at least twice as much as other legumes, contributing to their hunger-busting effect)
  • Much lower in carbs, with a lower glycaemic index
  • A significant source of polyphenols and zeaxanthin, which include beneficial antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering phytosterols
  • A good source of all nine essential amino acids, including arginine, which lowers blood pressure
  • A source of the novel protein gamma conglutin, which may help to regulate blood glucose and insulin levels, as shown in a La Trobe University study on lupin biscuits (Skinnybik).

Most lupin species grow as herbaceous plants that can reach from 30cm to 1.5 metres

Article sources and references

  • Kouris-Blazos & Belski. 2016. Health benefits of legumes and pulses with a focus on Australian sweet lupins. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 25(1): 1-17.
  • Skalkos S & Moschonis G et al. 2020. Effect of Lupin-Enriched Biscuits as Substitute Mid-Meal Snacks on Post-Prandial Interstitial Glucose Excursions in Post-Surgical Hospital Patients with Type 2 Diabetes. Nutr. 12(5): 1239.

Date modified: January 26 2021
First published: Jan 2021

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