Why vegans and celiacs love lupin, the next big health craze

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Anyone attempting to adhere to a plant-based diet can tell you all about the careful planning that goes into consuming all nine essential amino acids in a given meal. And while all of those bases can generally be covered by eating many combinations of legumes like beans or lentils alongside a whole grain like wheat or rice, the math gets a little more complicated for those that are gluten-free. So it’s no surprise that one gluten-free, plant-based, complete protein – meaning it contains all nine essential aminos – is now making waves across health and wellness. But chances are, you haven’t heard too much about it, so here’s what you need to know about lupin:

What we call lupin is actually the seed of the lupinus genus of flowering plants. These seeds are technically legumes, and share some common characteristics with chickpeas, soybeans, lentils and peas. Though the plant may sound unfamiliar to many of us in the U.S., it’s actually a popular crop in Australia, where 85% of the world’s supply is harvested. When prepared for consumption, lupin have the appearance of buttery, pale yellow pods. They sort of look like a cross between corn kernels and lima beans, and taste like, well, not very much at all. The flavor and texture are both quite docile, hungry to take on the flavor of other foods they are prepared with.

Photo via Getty Images/TheCrimsonMonkey

These modest-looking legumes pack a mighty healthy punch though. In addition to being an aforementioned complete protein, starchy lupin is also an excellent source of fiber. Compounding benefits, lupin is a prebiotic, meaning it is a naturally-occurring source of nutrients not just for human bodies, but for the specific sets of beneficial bacteria and microorganisms that make up the gut biome in our digestive tracts. Our bodies rely on these microorganisms to assist in digestion and the extraction of nutrients from our food, so keeping them well-fed is of critical – but often overlooked – importance.

Though it hasn’t broken out in the states just yet, lupin is enjoyed in various parts of the world. In Spain, it can often be spotted on bar tops amongst a spread of tapas. Here, lupin is soaked before eating in bowls of salt. In parts of South America, lupin is smoked or roasted much like peanuts are often prepared.

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