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Legumes, part of our diet

Generically, legumes are known as dry, clean, healthy seeds that are removed from the pod and are part of the Fabaceae family. These include beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, soybeans, lupins, etc. Legumes are the plant-based food with the highest protein content (19-35%), though they are deficient in sulphur-containing amino acids (such as methionine and cysteine) and are high in lysine (unlike grains). They are also a great source of complex carbohydrates and fiber. They are very low in polyunsaturated fats, and contain calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and non-heme iron. Legumes are also rich in thiamin and riboflavin, and have a high folic acid content (chickpeas especially).

According to data from the project "Nutritional Evaluation of the Spanish Diet in accordance with the Food Consumption Panel", undertaken jointly by the Spanish Nutrition Foundation (FEN) and Spain's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment (MAGRAMA):

  • Global consumption of legumes barely declined between 2000 (13.5 g/person/day) and 2008 (12.9 g/person/day).
  • Almost 90% of legume consumption in Spain in 2008 was in the home.
  • This data contrasts considerably with household consumption figures for 1991, 20.2 g/person/day, reflecting a decline of more than 10 g/person/day.

Guides have been drafted with a view to advising the public about adopting the right eating habits, and include information about the healthiest foods and lifestyle with a view to promoting good health and preventing illnesses.

FEN created the Healthy Food Market diagram to illustrate its recommendations. The goal is to use this new picture to inform Spaniards about healthy eating, and it shows recommended consumption of the different food groups to help people plan a varied and balanced diet. FEN recommends eating legumes 3-4 times a week.

As for portion size (in terms of the raw material), this varies considerably and it is difficult to standardize such measurements. For example, the portions consumed by a child and an adult are very different. Moreover, the amount in a recipe will depend on the number and quantity of the other ingredients and even on the other dishes with which it is being served. Broadly speaking, the portion for a child under six is equivalent to 60% of an adult-sized portion and increases by 10% for every year until the child is ten. Using average consumption data from various research analyses in Spain in healthy people, portion size for white, broad, and pinto beans, as well as chickpeas, peas, lentils and dry soybeans varies according to age:

  • Children: 35-50 g
  • Young people: 50-80 g
  • Adults: 60-80 g
  • Senior citizens: 50-70 g
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