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What are legumes?

What are legumes or what we might commonly call beans? Legumes are a type of plant which have their seeds enclosed in pods. They include pulses (which are the dried seeds of legumes), as well as fresh beans and peas. Legumes can be purchased in their fresh, dried or canned form or cooked as a part of a meal or soup. Examples of legumes include:

  • Beans (like haricot beans, red kidney beans, cannellini beans)
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Dried peas
  • Split peas
  • Fresh beans
  • Fresh peas
  • Lupins

Did you know? Peanuts are part of the legume family!

What are the nutritional benefits of legumes?

Legumes provide us with a range of essential nutrients that can help promote good health and wellbeing. Depending on the variety, legumes can contain fibre, protein, minerals (such as iron and magnesium), and vitamins (such as folate and thiamin). Research shows that regular consumption of a variety of legumes as part of a healthy diet can reduce our risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and can help us maintain a healthy weight. Legumes can be used as an alternative to meat and can provide us with a source of plant-based protein that is lower in kilojoules and saturated fat compared to some meat products.

How much legumes should we be eating?

The Australian Dietary Guidelines considers legumes to be a part of the vegetable food group, as well as the meats and their alternatives food group. The below table describes what constitutes a serve when legumes are considered as either a vegetable or a meat alternative:

  Recommended serves per day for adults

How much is a legume or bean serve?

Vegetables and legumes/beans

5-6 serves per day

½ cup or 75g

Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes/beans

2-3 serves per day

1 cup or 150g

Most Australians are not consuming the recommended serves of legumes, so there’s lots of room for improvement!

How can we incorporate more legumes into our diet?

Increasing our daily legume intake can be achieved by making some simple swaps to favourite household meals. Next time you make a batch of spaghetti bolognese, try halving the amount of beef mince used and replace it with some canned lentils. Add some baked beans to your eggs on toast, or try adding some roasted chickpeas to your next salad. Heinz have canned baked beanz, chilli beanz, frozen peas and broad beans, as well as lentil and bean based soups to help you increase your daily legume intake.


  1. National Health and Medical Research Council (2013) Australian Dietary Guidelines Summary. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council.
  2. Eat for Health. Vegetables and Legumes/Beans. Updated 2019 Jun 4. Available from: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/five-food-groups/vegetables-and-legumes-beans
  3. Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council. Types of Legumes. Available from: https://www.glnc.org.au/resource/types-of-legumes/
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