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Beans, Peas, and Lentils

Beans, Peas, and Lentils

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Beans, peas, and lentils are unique foods

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How to count beans, peas, and lentils

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Beans, peas, and lentils are unique foods

Beans, peas, and lentils belong to a group of vegetables called “pulses.” This group includes kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas, and lentils. Lentils come in varieties that are mostly differentiated by their colors, such as brown, black, red, and green. Most beans, peas, and lentils are available in dry and canned form, and some are available frozen.

Beans, peas, and lentils are excellent sources of plant protein, and also provide other nutrients such as iron and zinc. Because they are similar to meats, poultry, and fish in their contribution of these nutrients, they are considered part of the Protein Foods Group. Many people consider beans, peas, and lentils as vegetarian alternatives for meat. Due to their high nutrient content, consuming beans, peas, and lentils is recommended for everyone, including people who also eat meat, poultry, and fish regularly.

Beans, peas, and lentils are also excellent sources of dietary fiber and nutrients such as folate and potassium. These nutrients, which are often low in the diet of many Americans, are also found in other vegetables. Therefore beans, peas, and lentils are also considered part of the Vegetable Group.  Individuals can count beans, peas, and lentils as either a vegetable or a protein food.

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12 wooden spoons of different beans and peas

Green peas, green lima beans, and green (string) beans are not considered to be part of the beans, peas, and lentils subgroup. Green peas and green lima beans are similar to other starchy vegetables and are grouped with them. Green beans are grouped with other vegetables such as onions, lettuce, celery, and cabbage because their nutrient content is similar to those foods.

How to count beans, peas, and lentils in the USDA food patterns:

Generally, individuals who regularly eat meat, poultry, and fish would count beans, peas, and lentils in the Vegetable Group. Vegetarians, vegans, and individuals who seldom eat meat, poultry, or fish would count some of the beans, peas, and lentils they eat in the Protein Foods Group. Here's an example for both ways:

Count the number of ounce-equivalents of all meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds eaten.
 

1

If the total is equal to or more than the suggested intake from the Protein Foods Group (which ranges from 2 ounce-equivalents at 1,000 calories to 7 ounce-equivalents at 2,800 calories and above) then count any beans, peas, or lentils eaten as part of the beans, peas, and lentils subgroup in the Vegetable Group.

2

If the total is less than the suggested intake from the Protein Foods Group, then count any beans, peas, and lentils eaten toward the suggested intake level until it is reached. (One-fourth cup of cooked beans, peas, or lentils counts as 1 ounce equivalent in the Protein Foods Group.) After the suggested intake level in the Protein Foods Group is reached, count any additional beans, peas, or lentils eaten as part of the beans, peas, and lentils subgroup in the Vegetable Group.

Note: Click on the top row to expand the table. If you are on a mobile device, you may need to turn your phone to see the full table.

Foods eaten (Protein Foods Group only – not a complete daily list)

  • 3½ ounces chicken
  • 2 ounces tuna fish
  • ½ cup refried beans

The 3½ ounces of chicken and 2 ounces of tuna fish equal 5½ ounce-equivalents in the Protein Foods Group, which meets the recommendation at this calorie level. Therefore, the ½ cup of refried beans counts as ½ cup of vegetables towards meeting the 1½ cups per week recommendation for beans, peas, and lentils vegetable subgroup in the 2,000-calorie pattern.

Foods eaten (Protein Foods Group only – not a complete daily list)

  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ Tbsp. peanut butter
  • ½ cup chickpeas

The 2 eggs and 1½ Tbsp. peanut butter equal 3½ ounce-equivalents in the Protein Foods Group. Two more ounces are needed to meet the 5½ ounce recommendation for this group. Since the daily recommendation for the Protein Foods Group has not been met, these remaining 2 ounce-equivalents are provided by the ½ cup of lentils. This ½ cup of lentils would not count toward meeting the 1½ cups per week recommendation for the beans, peas, and lentils vegetable subgroup in the 2,000-calorie pattern. Instead, it would count as part of the Protein Foods Group.

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