Most of us are aware that the key to eating well is to enjoy a variety of nutritious foods. Plenty of advice is available including the easily digested ‘Healthy Eating pyramid’ supplied by Nutrition Australia. The pyramid reflects the latest Australian dietary guidelines, from many sources and encourages Australians to enjoy a variety of foods from every food group, every day.

There are five food groups described in the ‘Australian Guide to Healthy Eating’. The food within each one provides similar amounts of the key nutrients of that food group. There is a recommended amount of each group to be consumed each day and the Health Food Pyramid represents the quantity of one food to be consumed relative to another.

For those of you who are eagle-eyed, you may have noticed legumes are listed twice in the pyramid. They are included with both vegetables and protein. According to Nutrition Australia that is because they can count firstly towards your vegetable intake (being plants high in fibre, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals like other vegetables) and secondly as a protein food (because they also happen to be high in protein).

Legumes are not only high in nutritional value they are also cheap and plentiful. The members of the legume family number in the thousands and include beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts.

Although they are some of the least expensive and most nutritious foods on the planet their tendency to generate intestinal gas may curb some peoples enthusiasm. Yet, if legumes are introduced into the diet gradually, there tends to be less of a problem with gas.

Being wonderfully plentiful, easy to prepare, and full of protein, fibre, and nutrients they are an excellent choice for those following a meatless diet. It is not surprising though that beans, the most well-known of the legume family, are typically not considered as a first option for meat eaters.

You would think that legumes being part of two food groups would make them twice as popular. Perhaps legumes just need a celebrity to promote them. For now though, no matter what style of diet or food choices you make, legumes are clearly worth including.

This advice concerns an average person without special needs. For those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, have a health condition, food intolerance or allergies please speak to your GP for specific dietary advice.

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