Tarwi: The Next Quinoa?

Here are six reasons why Tarwi, a protein-rich Andean superfood, is set to become increasingly more common in the North American diet.

Tarwi (lupinus mutabilis) is a little-known crop outside of the Andean highlands. However, it has been widely consumed by locals for at least two millennia before Spanish conquest. Tarwi’s taste and high-nutritional value were some of the reasons it was once an integral part of the Inca diet.

The introduction of meat protein and the complex process involved in removing the alkaloids from its crust resulted in a decline of this crop’s popularity over time. While still being consumed in the Andes, the crop did not make it to an international stage, in contrast with quinoa, maca and other crops which became (rightly) known as “superfoods” this past decade.

However, as we continue our search for vegetable-based protein sources and nutritionally-complete foods, we take a detailed look at this wonderful crop, with plenty to offer. So here are 5 reasons why tarwi is set to become the next quinoa:

1. Highest Protein Content of All Legumes

With a protein content that ranges between 44-49% (1), it is significantly more abundant in protein than soy (33%) and other beans (in the 22% range), which are typically regarded as protein-dense. Also, since it is mainly an organic and ecologic crop, it is a non-GMO product.

If you are vegetarian, or an athlete looking for natural alternatives to whey/egg/meat-based protein. This is your dream food.

2. Rich in Essential Amino Acid Lysine

When it comes to most isolated vegetable-based protein, amino acid content is always an issue. This is the case for soy, lentils, beans, and even quinoa. This is a critical matter since amino acids are the building blocks for protein synthesis and crucial for those using protein powders in order to rebuild muscle after a workout. Lysine is present in tarwi in high dosages.

3. Tarwi’s Protein is Highly Digestible

A big issue with plant-based proteins is that they are not very digestable and not easily absorbed by the body. This is casein-based protein supplements are the go-to choice for athletes and body builders… until now.

When mixing tarwi with other cereals (adding about 0.2% methionine), protein digestibility increases significantly and it becomes as digestible as casein (1).

4. It is as Nutritionally-Complete as It Gets

Tarwi’s macro ratio of 45-20-35 (Protein-Fats-Carbohydrates) is balanced enough that it could potentially be used as a meal replacement in it of itself, which is the case with some poor regions in the Andean highlands, where tarwi is used as the primary source of nutrients. In doing so, anemia levels have been consistently declining for the last decade.

Tarwi also contains high amounts of phosphorus and magnesium.

5. It is a Sustainable Crop

sustainable - nanax

Tarwi can be planted just about anywhere and thrives in poor and depleted soils, which are often the result of intensive organic farming. The crop can grow at an altitude that ranges from 800 to 3000 m. The crop withstands exceptional levels of drought. Mature plants are resistant to frost, whereas seedlings are sensitive to low temperatures (2).

Tarwi is able to fix nitrogen from the air. Therefore, succeeding cultures can profit from additional nitrogen per hectare and an improved soil structure. (3)

6. High in Fiber

Tarwi has up to 7.5 grams of fiber (per 100 g), which is, in short, a lot!

So In Conclusion…

Tarwi has earned its well-deserved title: superfood, perhaps even more so than any other crops that Peru has had to offer (and there have been plenty of them as of late!). It is higher in protein content than any other food on the planet, it is versatile, and tasty!

So is tarwi on its way to becoming the new quinoa? We believe so. Stay tuned.