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Andean Lupine -- the Next Superfood?

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Updated February 11, 2014

Andean lupines or chocho growing in Peru.

Lupines growing in Peru.

Andy Krakovski/iStockphoto

The Andean lupine, also known as chocho, pearl lupine, or tarwi, is a legume cultivated and harvested in Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina. The scientific name is Lupinus mutabilis Sweet. There's evidence pointing to the seeds being a major part of the ancient Andean diet (along with corn, potatoes, and quinoa), possibly as far back as 500 BCE.

The seeds of the Andean lupine are high in protein, healthy fats and minerals. Andean lupine protein is similar to soy protein. It also has about the same amount of fats as soy, but Andean lupine oil has more oleic acid (the monounsaturated fatty acid found in nuts, olive oil, and avocado) and less linoleic acid (the omega-6 fatty acids found in vegetable oils). It also contains beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

Andean lupine is rich in minerals. It has large amounts of calcium, magnesium, and iron, plus it's high in fiber, but unlike other Andean grains (quinoa and colored corn) there doesn't appear to be any beneficial phytochemicals. It does contain some phytochemicals, but they're not good for you. They're called alkaloids, and they give the seeds a bitter taste and are potentially toxic, so they must be removed before the seeds are eaten. The traditional method was to simply cook the seeds and rinse them with water. Sometimes farmers would use the alkaloid-rich rinse water as a pesticide.

Once the seeds are processed, Andean lupine is often used as an ingredient in soups, ceviche, stews, and desserts, or it is ground into a protein-rich flour. If you can find it, Andean lupine is a great way to add plant protein, healthy fats, fiber, and minerals to your diet. Maybe it will even emerge as a superfood someday, but right now there isn't any research to suggest you'll get any additional health benefits specifically from eating Andean lupine seeds.

Sources:

Purdue University New Crop Resource Online Program. "Andean Grains and Legumes." Accessed June 8, 2012. .

Ranilla LG, Apostolidis E, Genovese MI, Lajolo FM, Shetty K. "Evaluation of indigenous grains from the Peruvian Andean region for antidiabetes and antihypertension potential using in vitro methods." J Med Food. 2009 Aug;12(4):704-13.

Schoeneberger H, Gross R, Cremer HD, Elmadfa I. "Composition and protein quality of Lupinus mutabilis." J Nutr. 1982 Jan;112(1):70-6.

Tello FT. "Letter: Lupinus mutabilis sweet-a potent food source from the Andean region." Am J Clin Nutr. 1976 Sep;29(9):933.

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