By Lesley Bryant, Dietitian
Lupins are nutritious legumes that are easy to grow in poor soils and help to enrich them. This makes them an ideal food crop to sustainably support the current trend towards more plant-based dietary patterns. Australia produces around 85% of world output, but very little of this product ends up on our own grocery shelves. They’ve been flying under the radar for the average consumer for many years.
Lupins are unique among other legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils, beans and peas, for their nutritional profile. Though difference species vary, they are very high in protein (up to 40% of total weight), low in carbohydrate, low in fat (though these are healthy fats), and very high in dietary fibre (up to 38%). They are also rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
As lupins pack a powerful nutrition punch, they are ideal candidates to increase legume consumption in Australia.
A recently published systematic literature review of lupins and their health outcomes (1) found 21 studies conducted in the last 16 years. These were all controlled intervention trials on adults, using whole lupin, lupin protein or lupin fibre as part of the trial diet, and measured effects on biomarkers for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, body weight or on feelings of satiety. Here is a snapshot of what the review found.
The strongest evidence for lupin’s health benefits was related to:
- increased sense of fullness
- reduction of blood pressure,
- lowering effect on total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and the ratio of LDL:HDL (less of the “bad” and more of the “good” cholesterol),
- improved control of blood glucose levels.
The health outcome marker that demonstrated the most consistent significant improvement was satiety or feelings of fullness. In 83% of studies that measured satiety, participants reported feeling full for a longer period, or ate a smaller quantity of food, after the meal or snack with lupin than with the control.
The next most consistently improved health marker was seen in blood pressure, with 71% of studies that measured it showing significant reductions among the lupin group.
Blood lipids were seen to decrease in 64% of studies while glycaemic control was improved in 56%. Weight loss that was not intentional occurred in 25% of studies.
Findings support the inclusion of lupins in the diet which may assist in reducing risk and managing symptoms of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes
While the review concluded that current evidence for lupin’s health benefits is promising, a greater number of larger and frequently replicated studies are needed to expand and strengthen the evidence base.
Until then, we know that the unique nutritional properties of lupins, especially as a whole food, make it an ideal legume to include in a healthy diet.
- Bryant, L.; Rangan, A.; Grafenauer, S. Lupins and Health Outcomes: A Systematic Literature Review. Nutrients 2022, 14, 327.