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This little-known 'super bean' has been a secret of Mediterranean diets for centuries — and you can buy it in the U.S.

These nutrient-rich legumes are beloved for their savory flavor and healthful benefits.

Lupini beans, superbean

Photo Credit: iStock

Lupini beans are nutrient-rich legumes loved for their savory flavor and healthful benefits. 

These beans have been a staple food in the Mediterranean for centuries, but now their popularity is spreading worldwide as consumers seek out new foods that are better for their bodies and the planet.

What are lupini beans?

Lupini beans are a type of legume that belongs to the same family as peanuts and lentils. These beans are native to Italy and grow across the Mediterranean region, where they have been cultivated for centuries. In Italy, they're often found served cold in antipasto, in salads, or as a snack.

Lupini beans are a good source of protein, fiber, and essential nutrients like magnesium, potassium, and folate. They are sold dried, canned, or in a pickled form in jars or cans. Lupini beans require some preparation if cooking from scratch in order to remove the bitterness, but devotees say it's worth the effort.

Why are lupini beans important?

Isabelle Steichen, founder of LUPii, a lupini-based snack and pasta company, told The Beet that lupini beans are an incredibly sustainable food because "they are used as a rotation crop," which means they can help put nutrients back into the soil.

Like other legumes, lupini beans are significantly smaller pollution producers compared to animals raised for protein. They also require less water and need less land to grow compared to what livestock needs.

When it comes to our health, lupini beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein (about 11 grams per serving), as well as fiber, which can help improve digestion, control blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer.

"Lupini beans lend themselves very well to so many people's dietary requirements who need to keep blood sugar levels balanced, feed the good gut bacteria, and feel full — all this without a particularly high-calorie provision for those that are mindful of their energy intake," Registered Dietitian and Uplift Food CEO Kara Landau told The Beet.

How to add lupini beans to your diet

For starters, you can try your hand at cooking lupini beans from scratch. They are a bit tricky to prepare, which is why people often opt to buy them pre-cooked. 

One company, Brami, sells brined lupini beans in easy-tear pouches. Try adding them to your salads or eating straight out of the bag.

LUPii makes snack bars and pasta out of the protein-rich lupini bean. You can even try lupini beans as the superstar ingredient in Wicked Kitchen's dairy-free ice cream.

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