Vegetables and Legumes / Beans

Did you know most Australians eat only about half the recommended quantity of vegetables per day? 

There is strong evidence that for each serve of vegetables eaten each day the risk of coronary heart disease is reduced even further!  Also, by eating vegetables, especially colourful vegetables, there is a reduced risk of stroke and weight gain.

Vegetables, including legumes/beans are nutrient dense, low in kilojoules, and are a good source of minerals and vitamins (such as magnesium, vitamin C and folate), dietary fibre and a range of phytochemicals including carotenoids.

What’s in the vegetables and legumes / beans group?

There are many different types of vegetables grown and made available in Australia with a large variety of choice throughout the year.  Vegetables come from many different parts of the plant, including the leaves, roots, tubers, flowers, stems, seeds and shoots. 

Legumes are the seeds of the plant and are eaten in their immature form as green peas and beans, and the mature form as dried peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas.

Vegetables can be broken up into different groups, with each group providing their own unique nutrients. The main sub-groups for vegetables are:

An image of a selection of vegetables to illustrate foods from this food group.

Dark green or cruciferous/brassica

  • Broccoli, brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbages, cauliflower, kale
  • Lettuce, silverbeet, spinach, snow peas

Root/tubular/bulb vegetables

  • Potato, cassava, sweet potato, taro, carrots, beetroot, onions, shallots, garlic, bamboo shoots, swede, turnip

Legumes/beans

  • Red kidney beans, soybeans, lima beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, lentils, split peas, tofu

Other vegetables

  • Tomato, celery, sprouts, zucchini, squash, avocado, capsicum, eggplant, mushrooms, cucumber, okra, pumpkin, green peas, green beans

For a longer list of the different types of vegetables take a look at the Go for 2 & 5 Fruit and Vegetable information at www.gofor2and5.com.au.

How much should I eat from the vegetable and legumes / beans group?

Most adults should eat at least 5 serves from the vegetable group a day.  Follow the links below to find out how many serves you need to eat per day.

Minimum recommended average daily number of serves from each of the Five Food Groups

A serve of vegetables is approximately 75g (100–350kJ) which is:

  • ½ cup cooked green or orange vegetables (for example, broccoli, spinach, carrots or pumpkin)
  • ½ cup cooked dried or canned beans, peas or lentils (preferably with no added salt)
  • 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables
  • ½ cup sweet corn
  • ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetables (sweet potato, taro or cassava)
  • 1 medium tomato
     

Each day it is important to eat a variety of different types of vegetables from each of the main vegetable groups.  This will ensure you are eating a colourful range and variety of vegetables which will provide you with many of the health promoting benefits. 

Starchy vegetables such as sweet potato, taro, cassava or sweet corn should form only part of your daily vegetable intake. This is because they are higher in energy (kilojoules) than other vegetables. Choosing from a wide variety of colourful vegetables at most meals means you will be eating plenty of lower kilojoule vegetables that help fill you up and control your weight.

If potatoes are eaten as hot chips and crisps they are considered to be a discretionary food rather than a serve of vegetables.  Hot chips and crisps are high in kilojoules and added fat and added salt.

What can I do with vegetables and legumes / beans ?

It can be hard work trying to eat the number of recommended serves of vegetables per day.  However, you can do almost anything with vegetables!  Eat them raw, grate them, slice them, stir fry, steam or boil them and bake them.  Mix them together and add herbs, spices and other low salt flavourings... the options are endless.

See our snacks and recipes for more veggie ideas.

It is also easy to slip veggies into other mixed dishes, especially if you are trying to increase your daily intake, see our tips list on how to do this.

Vegetables can be used fresh, frozen, canned or dried varieties. However if using canned varieties, avoid those with added salt.

Health benefits of vegetables and legumes / beans

The scientific evidence of the health benefits of eating vegetables (including legumes/beans) has been reported for decades and continues to strengthen, particularly for cardiovascular disease. Different vegetables can help protect our bodies in different ways, so it’s important to choose a variety. All vegetables provide vitamin C, however capsicum, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Asian greens and tomatoes are particularly high in vitamin C.

Most vegetables are associated with reduced risk of site specific cancers. Green vegetables (including some salad vegetables), beetroot, cauliflower, asparagus, dried peas, beans and lentils are a good source of folate. Cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and bok choy) are believed to have compounds which provide protection against some cancers. The fibre in vegetables (and fruit) is also thought to reduce the risk of some cancers, including colorectal cancer.

Image of BBQ vegetables (tomato, zuchini, eggplant) to demonstarte how to cook with foods from this food group.