Ancient Heart-Healthy Food Beats Soy Hands Down
The Romans loved this food so much; they carried it with them to every corner of their vast empire. It helped fuel the Incas’ expansion across the Andes, too.
Today, it’s a favorite snack in Spain, Portugal and parts of South America. It’s grown from Russia to Ethiopia… from Chile to Canada… and practically everywhere in between. Yet, most Americans have never heard of it.
“It” is lupin seed. And the seed from the sweet white variety may be the next big thing in health foods. Here’s why…
Lupin seed is loaded with protein – up to 40%. And it’s high quality protein, too. Lupin protein contains the full range of essential amino acids. So, like soy, lupin is a “complete protein” source.
But unlike soy, lupin seeds are very low in isoflavones. These are plant chemicals that act like the female hormone estrogen… and one reason I don’t recommend eating a lot of unfermented soy products.
Sweet white lupin seeds are about 10 – 11% oil, mostly a healthy fat called oleic acid. In human trials, oleic acid promotes improved blood sugar control and healthier arteries.1
Sweet white lupin has another heart-healthy trait, too. It promotes lower levels of LDL cholesterol. In a German study, adding lupin to people’s diets supported a 17% drop in “bad” cholesterol in just 6 weeks.2
Other studies show that oleic acid directly supports healthier blood pressure. Soy, which is low in oleic acid, does not.3
So lupin may be a great addition to your diet if you have heart-health concerns.
Lupin is gaining popularity in Europe, where they’ve discovered it makes a good gluten-free flour. It’s also being used as a soy substitute, because many Europeans are concerned about the safety of genetically modified soy.
Lupin seeds also beat soy in other ways. They’re higher in fiber (about 30%) and the lowest commonly eaten grain in terms of the glycemic index – a measure of how much foods affect blood sugar.4
You can also sprout lupin seeds – producing a tasty addition to salads or sandwiches. Lupin sprouts are high in protein (26.3%, by dry weight) and a great source of oleic acid. It accounts for almost half the fat in lupin sprouts.5
I just have two cautions regarding lupin seeds. First, bitter varieties contain toxic alkaloids. Commercially available products should be perfectly safe. But don’t try to prepare your own seeds for consumption.
Second, lupin is a legume – related to peanuts. Some people with peanut allergies are also sensitive to lupin. So if you have a peanut allergy, you may also react to lupin seeds.
Otherwise, I see no reason to avoid lupin products – but many reasons to give them a try. Lupin is a great source of protein that offers all the benefits of soy – and more – with none of the drawbacks.
Lupin products aren’t yet commonly available in the US, but you may find pickled or roasted lupin seeds in some specialty stores. Several companies are working towards introducing lupin products in the near future… so watch your local natural grocer’s shelves.
Dr Kenneth Woliner, M.D.
Best Life Herbals
1 Ryan M, et al. Diabetes and the Mediterranean diet: a beneficial effect of oleic acid on insulin sensitivity, adipocyte glucose transport and endothelium‐dependent vasoreactivity. QJM (2000) 93 (2): 85-91.
2 Weisse K, et al. Lupin protein compared to casein lowers the LDL cholesterol:HDL cholesterol-ratio of hypercholesterolemic adults. Eur J Nutr. 2010 Mar;49(2):65-71. Epub 2009 Aug 13.
3 Terés S, et al. Oleic acid content is responsible for the reduction in blood pressure induced by olive oil. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Sep 16;105(37):13811-6. Epub 2008 Sep 4.
4 See http://www.lupins.org/products/.
5 See http://www.vsu.edu/pages/2917.asp.