Lupins show healthy potential for increased human consumption

Posted by Isobel Drake on 3rd November 2008

While human consumption of lupins is presently at a very low level, with most of the crop sold to intensive animal industries, it has exciting potential for human use and a growing national and international market.

With high protein levels of 30 – 40 per cent, high dietary fibre (30 per cent) and low fat, lupins have a very low glycaemic index. So, it’s little wonder that the world’s food industry is becoming increasingly interested in exploiting their benefits.

However, the problem of allergenic proteins in lupin seeds that trigger peanut like allergies in susceptible people is yet to be solved, although work is underway to identify these proteins.

The frequency of this allergy in the general population is unknown, but thought to be low. Up to 30 per cent of those allergic to peanuts may also be allergic to lupins.

According to Dr Sofia Sipsas, from the Department of Agriculture and Food WA, lupins could deliver a number of important health benefits to counter ‘metabolic syndrome’, a collection of associated health problems, including obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and elevated cholesterol. She said food containing lupins can suppress appetite, benefit glycaemic control, improve blood lipids and bowel health and reduce hypertension.

Dr Sipsas told the recent 12th International Lupin Conference in Fremantle, which was sponsored by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), that lupins are increasingly being used in human nutrition.

In their simplest form, legume ‘bean sprouts’ have many nutritional benefits, reducing bioactive anti-nutritional factors, while boosting beneficial isoflavones, phytosterols and some vitamins. Lupin hulls are now being milled into a coarse bran for fibre enrichment in bread in Australia and Europe and have potential as a niche market for an all-bran cereal for coeliacs.

They’re also finding their way into Asian fermented food as tempe and miso, the Japanese condiment and soup base.

Lupin kernel flour is being used in pizza bases, biscuit and cake flours and many traditional European breads.

Lupin protein isolates, similarly, have many desirable attributes, with potential use in dairy substitutes, sausage fillings (including vegetarian sausages), emulsions for salad dressings, baby food and diet products and scent and taste transporters.

Lupin ice cream has already been introduced in Germany.

These are all promising developments for Australia’s export lupin market and especially for WA, the world’s leading lupin producer.