If you haven’t heard a lot of hype over lupin beans yet, you probably will soon. The bean has been quietly growing in popularity in recent years for people following a gluten-free diet, especially since lupin is such a good gluten substitute for flours. But folks who live in the Mediterranean and Latin America have known about the health benefits of lupin beans for years. And once you find out all the nutritious and delicious advantages that they have to offer, you’ll be taking a page from lupin fans’ books in no time.
What are lupin beans?
Lupin beans, also known as lupini beans, are legumes belonging to the same plant family as peanuts. They’re grown in the Mediterranean region and South American countries such as Chile. Lupin beans come in many different forms, but the most common and commercially available ones include white lupin (Lupinus albus), yellow lupin (Lupinus luteus), and blue or narrow-leafed lupin (Lupinus angustifolius).
Lupin beans can be eaten as a healthy snack or appetizer before a meal, and lupin-derived ingredients are also used in flour. The nutritionally rich legume is often used to enrich pastas, cake mixes, cereals, and additional baked goods. Since it naturally contains no gluten, it’s especially good for people who need to follow a gluten-free diet, such as those with celiac disease.
A word of caution: Since lupin comes from the same family as peanuts, there is an increased risk for people with peanut or even soy allergies to also be allergic to lupin. “For many people, eating lupin or a lupin-derived ingredient, such as a flour, is safe,” said Stefano Luccioli, MD, a senior medical advisor at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in a press release. “But there are reports in the medical literature of allergic reactions to lupin, some of which can be severe.” In the worst-case scenario, an allergic reaction could even involve life-threatening anaphylaxis. If you ever suspect that you’re having an allergic reaction to lupin beans — or any food at all — stop eating the food and get medical help immediately.
What are the health benefits of lupin beans?
One of the biggest health benefits of lupin beans is the high protein content. One cup of cooked, boiled, and unsalted lupin beans boasts nearly 26 grams of protein. It also contains an impressive 4.6 grams of fiber. This great combination of protein and fiber can help you feel full faster after eating, as well as help you stay full for a longer period of time. Fiber can also aid with digestion and help manage weight loss, especially if you’re incorporating it in all your meals. On top of that, lupin beans also offer a generous amount of minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Lupin may also be a healthy option for some people struggling with heart disease risk factors such as obesity and high blood pressure. One case study followed a 43-year-old man with obesity who tried lupin along with therapeutic lifestyle changes for six months. He then saw a marked decrease in not only body weight, but also BMI, blood pressure, and total cholesterol.
How do you cook them?
As with many beans and legumes, there is a wide variety of ways to eat lupin beans. But if you want to try making them at home, it’s absolutely essential that you follow proper preparation and cooking instructions. The seeds and green parts of lupin beans contain alkaloids, which can be toxic to humans. In order to avoid the harmful toxins, you have to soak them in water for up to three days, boil them, or select the “sweet” varieties in the first place.
Many lupin bean recipes include this mandatory step, such as the popular “Italian Christmas Tradition” beans on the food blog An Italian in My Kitchen. After soaking lupin beans in cold water for two days, blogger Rosemary boils them for about an hour, and then goes back to soaking them again for up to 10 days — or until the beans are no longer bitter. Then, the only ingredient to add afterward is the salt. Find the full recipe here.
Although cooking lupin beans might sound like it takes a lot of work, we think it’s well worth it if you find a snack you truly enjoy that also helps keep you healthy. Who knows? Try enough recipes and you might find your next labor of love in the kitchen!