Lupin Allergy: Are You At Risk?

Can you be allergic to beans? Lupins are gaining popularity as a protein source, and even used as a soy alternative. Make sure to check ingredient labels if you have a lupin allergy.

what is lupin

Lupin, or lupini beans, are an up-and-coming superfood.

© TheCrimsonMonkey | Getty Images

If you haven’t heard of lupin, the up-and-coming legume soon to reach superfood status, it’s time you were in the loop. Hardly a new player in the food arena, lupin beans, commonly called lupini beans, have nourished ancient Egyptians, Incans, and Romans and they continue to be popular in modern Mediterranean, Latin American, and North African countries.

As lupin beans and products are growing commercially, consequently, so is the incidence of lupin allergy. Here’s what you need to know about this emerging food allergy.

What is Lupin?

Lupin is a legume related to peanuts and soybeans. Traditionally, they were consumed in their whole form, but they can be used the same way as any other beans. Lupins are available as whole beans, bran, flakes, grits, flour, and as an ingredient in many food products. The rising popularity of this legume may be due to how well it suits several dietary patterns, including vegan and vegetarian, keto, and gluten-free. Lupins are a rich source of complete plant protein, a good source of fiber, nutrient-rich, and can be sustainably grown.

See more: Foods that contain lupin

Lupin Allergy Risks and Symptoms

For most people, eating lupins is safe. For some, however, it may trigger an allergic reaction. Because lupin and peanuts are in the same family, people with a peanut allergy are more likely to have an allergic reaction to lupin. But the allergy can present itself even in people without a peanut allergy. Studies are scarce, but lupin allergy seems to affect a very low percentage, less than 1%, of the population, though the percentage in people with peanut allergies is higher, ranging from 15% to 44%.

Allergic reaction to lupin is not more severe than to other food allergies; likewise, reactions and symptoms will vary. They may include swelling of lips and face, hives, stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting, itchy mouth, labored breathing, coughing or wheezing, even cardiovascular symptoms, like low blood pressure. Cases of anaphylaxis have also been reported.

The only way to protect against an allergic reaction is to avoid lupin and products containing any form of lupin.

Lupin Food Culprits

Those affected or potentially at risk should be aware of products that may contain lupin. Like other beans, lupins can be eaten whole, as well as ground into various forms, like flour, flakes, and bran. High in protein and fiber, ground lupin is used for adding fiber, texture, and protein to packaged foods. Because it is gluten-free, lupin is sometimes used as a wheat substitute in gluten-free products.

Lupin is also a soy alternative, so it might be used in beverages in place of milk or soy. Lupin is not one of the allergens that must be listed on U.S. packaged foods, though it may be listed as an allergen in different countries, such as those within the European Union.

lupin in a salad

Lupin can be eaten whole, just as you would any other bean. They also are often used as a vegan protein and fiber source in baked goods and other foods.

Ingredient labels should still list lupin, so be sure to scan labels and be aware that it may appear under other names including:

  • Lupin(e) bean/flour
  • Lupin seed
  • Lupini
  • Termes
  • Altramuz
  • Tarwi
  • Termos

Types of foods that may contain lupin:

  • Baked goods, like breads, desserts, cookies, muffins)
  • Pastas
  • Cereals
  • Breaded or battered fish and meats
  • Vegetarian faux meats
  • Sauces and dips
  • Tofu, tempeh
  • Milks and creams
  • Gluten-free and soy-free products (where lupin may be used as a substitute)

Now that you’re in the lupin loop, keep your eyes open for this nutrient-rich legume, but if you have a peanut allergy, be aware of the risk, however small, between a peanut allergy and potential lupin allergy. If you are affected, note the types of packaged foods, including “free-from” foods, like gluten-free, soy-free, as well as faux meat products made with plant protein, that may contain lupin. Definitely scan the ingredients list for lupin or its many pseudonyms to keep yourself safe.

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Kristen N. Smith, PhD, RDN, LD

Kristen N. Smith, PhD, RDN, LD, has been the Executive Editor of Environmental Nutrition since 2018. As a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Kristen is experienced in the areas of weight management, health promotion, and … Read More

View all posts by Kristen N. Smith, PhD, RDN, LD

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