By Renee Rogers RD, LDN
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends that 10 to 35 percent of our calories come from protein sources. Legumes are a rich source of protein. If you are eating 1,800 calories per day, that translates to a healthy calorie range of 180 to 630 calories from protein per day (45 to 157 grams of protein per day). One of the most popular legumes, black beans, contain 228 calories per cup which is all you need to fit within the recommended range of calories from protein per day.
Due to their rich nutrient content, many public health professional recommend legumes as a key food group to optimize health and prevent disease.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends at least 3 cups of legumes each week.
Legumes are a broad term that refers to beans, soybeans, peas, and lentils. Legumes are low in calories and fat, and rich in protein, fiber, folate, iron, potassium, selenium, magnesium, and zinc. Peanuts, which are also legumes, are the exception since they are high in both fat and calories. Peanuts are a very good source of monounsaturated fats and also rich in niacin, folate, copper, manganese, and protein.
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A resent study in the Journal of Agriculture Food Chemistry, 2004 found that serving per serving, legumes have more disease-fighting antioxidants than almost all fruits and vegetables.
Due to their high nutrient content and rich protein source, the USDA allows legumes to be the only food category to be included into both the meat and bean group and the vegetable group. Individuals have flexibility in counting legumes as either a vegetable or protein food.
Serving size for legumes depend on your age, sex, and level of physical activity.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends most adults get between 5 to 6 ounce equivalents of protein from the protein group each day. 1/4 cup cooked legumes counts as a 1-ounce equivalent from the Protein Foods Groups.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends most adults get at least 2.5 cups of vegetables from the vegetable group each day. 1 cup cooked legumes counts as 1 cup of vegetables from the vegetable group.