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LUPIN BEANS AND HEALTH

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Lupin beans are one of the most popular snacks on Portuguese relaxing moments, especially in the Summer. This seed is often served as a snack in Mediterranean countries and in Latin America.

The lupin beans, like other legumes, such as grain, beans, lentils, fava beans, or peas have several nutritional properties that are very interesting for health.

Lupin beans are one of the most popular snacks on Portuguese relaxing moments, especially in the Summer.

This seed is often served as a snack in Mediterranean countries and in Latin America. In Portugal, the name derives from the Arabic, al-turmus, revealing the long tradition of its consumption among us, unlike many other Western countries where it is an illustrious stranger at the table. The lupin bean is the seed contained in the pod of the fruit of a very beautiful plant, called “lupine” of the genus Lupinus, whose flowers have papilionaceous corolla, which can be blue, pink, purple, white, yellow (the one that originates the lupin bean), red, or even have several colors. The flowering occurs in Spring and Summer.


Image by John De Boer

 

The lupin beans, like other legumes, such as grain, beans, lentils, fava beans, or peas have several nutritional properties that are very interesting for health. However, lupin beans in the natural state has an amino acid and neurotoxic alkaloids. After cooked and covered with water – that must be changed frequently for several days until it loses its original bitterness – alkaloids are eliminated. From that moment on, they become the excellent snack that we all enjoy.

Most of the plants of the Fabaceae family have the property of fixing nitrogen in the soil, being used as a natural fertilizer in agricultural areas, allowing to reduce the use of fertilizers, which makes it doubly useful as a supplier of protein food and a protection of the environment.

Lupin bean is a food with low energy value (about 70 kcal in a 60 g portion), which makes it a very interesting snack compared to others of its kind. In its composition, considering 100 g, we found about 16 g of protein of good quality and digestibility, and 5% of fiber. It is characterized by being low in fat (about 2% of its composition), which is mostly mono and polyunsaturated. It also contains vitamins, highlighting folate in substantial quantities, and mineral salts, such as calcium, potassium, manganese, iron, and zinc.

The high presence of protein, the fiber quality, and the reduced energy value make lupin bean a very interesting food that satisfies and reduces the appetite. Lupin bean can be used as a substitute for animal protein and particularly in vegetarian diets, being gluten free. The seed is one of the main existing vegetable sources of protein (and less irritating to the stomach when compared to soy, for example), and it has been unfairly ignored considering it. According to some studies, the high presence of fiber allows the lupin bean to play an active role in the regulation of cholesterol and glycemia, in addition to the regulation and protection of the intestinal flora, due to the high presence of phytochemicals contained in these seeds. For some people, lupin bean can even be considered a functional food.

The disadvantage of lupin bean is the high amount of salt coming from the brine in which they are most often preserved, with a portion of 60 g reaching one fifth of the maximum recommended daily dose of salt, which is 5 g. A homemade solution is to rinse the lupin beans under running water or soak them before consumption, and when buying them packaged read the labels and buy the ones with the lowest salt content.

A table is presented below with the nutritional information for 60 g, equivalent to one saucer of lupin beans.

Quantity considering a portion of 60 g   % RDI
Energy (kcal) 70 kcal 4%
Lipids (g) 1.4 g 2%
Saturated fatty acids (g) 0.2 g 1%
Carbohydrates (g) 4.3 g 1.7%
Sugar (g) 0.3 g 0.3%
Fiber (g) 2.9 g 11.6%
Protein (g) 9.8 g 19.6%
Salt (g) 1.37 g 23%

Source: Tabela de composição de Alimentos Portuguesa (Portuguese Food Composition Table), 2006

In short, lupin bean is a low-calorie food, highly filling, and with several health benefits, mainly if it is possible to reduce the salt content in its preparation.