Recommended Amount of Legumes

The revised Australian Dietary Guidelines were launched in February 2013 and continue to encourage Australians to eat legumes such as beans, lentils and chickpeas as part of a healthy diet.

The Guidelines summarise the best available scientific evidence to provide a guide for a ‘healthy diet’. That is, they recommend food choices that provide the nutrients needed for optimal well being today and protect against chronic disease in the future.

There are five Guidelines. Guideline Two recommends people to eat a wide variety of foods from the five food groups: vegetables, fruit, grains, meat and alternatives and dairy. These are known as ‘core foods’ and are foods that we should all eat most of the time.

Legumes are recommended and included in two of the five food groups. Because they contain fibre as well as vitamins and minerals they are part of the vegetables group. They are also a source of protein so are included in the group with meat and fish. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend enhancing dietary variety of choices in this group by increasing the intake of alternatives to meat like legumes.

Legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas are recommended as an important part of a healthy diet for all Australians. This is because recent evidence confirms that legumes help protect against developing chronic disease such as heart disease and cancer.  The strongest evidence is for links between eating legumes and reduced risk of colorectal cancer and eating soy foods and reduced LDL cholesterol.

A factsheet has been developed to help explain the 2013 Australian Dietary Guideline recommendations for legumes. To download a copy click here.

How often should I eat legumes?
GLNC recommends Australians enjoy legumes at least 2 -3 times each week. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend:

  • five or six serves of vegetables including legumes each day
  • two or three serves of lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds and legumes / beans each day

Legumes are recommended for children and adults of all ages, including as first foods for infants. The Guidelines state that ‘Pureed and mashed vegetables, including legumes are important in the diets for infants from around six months of age’.

What is a ‘serve’ of legumes?
It depends on if you are eating legumes as a vegetable or as an alternative to meat:

  • As a vegetable one serve is 75g (1/2 cup) cooked dried or canned beans, chickpeas or lentils, no added salt or
  • As an alternative to meat one serve is 1 cup (150g) cooked dried beans lentils, chickpeas, split peas or canned beans OR 170g tofu.

 Australians are not eating enough legumes
The Australian Dietary Guidelines notes that Australians are only eating half the recommended 5 serves of vegetables a day and not including a wide enough variety. To meet the new recommendations, Australians need to increase their intake of vegetables including legumes by 30% and replace starchy vegetables with other vegetables and legumes.

In particular, legume intake is very low in Australia. Surveys indicate that Australians eat on average less than one third of a serve of legumes a week, and only 35% of people eat legumes regularly.

To view references click here.