Why you should enjoy plenty of vegetables and legumes in the diet every day

Well-chopped veggies

Vegetables come from many different parts of plants, including the leaves, roots, tubers, flowers, stems, seeds and shoots. Some varieties which are not strictly vegetables from the botanical aspect are included in this group because they are used as vegetables. For example, tomatoes and pumpkin are the fruit of the plant and sweet corn is a grain/cereal, but these are included in the vegetable group.

Legumes are the seeds of plants from the Leguminosae family. These vegetables are eaten in the immature form as green peas and beans, and the mature form as dried peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas.

Including plenty of vegetables of a variety of different types and colors, and legumes/beans in the diet can provide a range of nutrients that may help reduce the risk of obesity and some chronic diseases including heart disease and some cancers. Because of their low energy density, diets which are high in a variety of vegetables and legumes/beans are especially important in helping to maintain a healthy weight. See table below for examples of vegetables and legumes/beans.

Vegetables and legumes/beans are a good source of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and legumes/beans and a few vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and green peas, also provide carbohydrate. All vegetables provide vitamin C, with capsicum, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Asian greens and tomatoes particularly high in this vitamin. Dark green and orange vegetables like spinach, broccoli, carrots, and pumpkin are an especially good source of carotenes with beta-carotene converted in the body to vitamin A. Green vegetables (including some salad vegetables), beetroot, cauliflower, asparagus, dried peas, beans, and lentils are good sources of folate. Legumes/beans are also a good source of protein, iron, zinc, and carbohydrate.

Food value
  1. Root vegetables: useful in the diet because they contain starch or sugar for energy, a small but valuable amount of protein, some mineral salts and vitamins; also useful sources of cellulose and water.
  2. Green vegetables: no food is stored in the leaves, it is only produced there; therefore little protein or carbohydrate is found in green vegetables; they are rich in mineral salts and vitamins, particularly vitamin C and carotene; the greener the leaf, the larger the quantity of vitamin present; chief mineral salts are calcium and iron.
Over the week, including the following sub-groups in the diet:
  • Dark green or cruciferous vegetables such as bok choy, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts
  • Orange vegetables such as sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots
  • Salad vegetables such as lettuce, tomato, cucumber, capsicum
  • Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potato, taro, corn
  • Legumes such as dried peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas.

Choose vegetables in season as they will be more readily available, and of higher quality and better value.  Fresh, frozen, canned or dried varieties are part of this group, but choose canned varieties without added salt where available. Limit intake of fried vegetables such as potato and vegetable chips and crisps which add extra kilojoules. Chips and crisps are included in discretionary choices.

Preservation of vegetables

MethodTypes of vegetable preserved
CanningCertain vegetable are preserved in tins - artichokes, asparagus, carrots, celery, beans, peas (fine, garden, processed), tomatoes (whole, puree), mushrooms, truffles.
DehydrationOnions, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage are shredded and quickly dried until they contain only 5 percent water.
DryingThe seeds of legumes (peas and beans) have their moistures content reduced to 10 percent.
PicklingOnions and red cabbage are examples of vegetable preserved in spiced vinegar.
SaltingFrench and runner beans may be sliced and preserved in dry salt.
FreezingMany vegetables, such as peas, beans, sprouts, spinach, and cauliflower, are deep frozen.

How much from the vegetables, legumes/beans group is needed?

The minimum recommended intake ranges from 2½ serves a day for 2– 3-year-olds to 4½ serves a day for 4–8yr olds, 5 serves a day for older children and adolescents, 5–6 serves for adults including pregnant women and 7½ serves for lactating women.

Additional amounts can be included as desired but extra quantities of starchy vegetables will depend on energy needs (age, activity levels, and body size).

Examples of vegetables and legumes/beans

Dark green or cruciferousRoot/tubular/bulb vegetablesLegumes/beansOther vegetables 
Asparagus, Basil, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Broccoflower, Bok choy and other Asian greens, Cabbages, all types,including red Cauliflower, Chicory, Chives, Kale, Lettuce such as cos, mignonette, Parsley, Silverbeet, Snowpeas, Spinach, and Water spinach.Artichoke, Bamboo shoots, Beetroot, Carrots, Cassava, Celeriac, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Leeks, Onions, Parsnip, Potato, Radish, Shallots, Spring onions, Swede, Sweet potato, Taro, and Turni.Black beans, Black-eyed beans, Borlotti beans, Cannellini beans, Chickpeas, Faba beans, Lentils, Lima beans, Lupin beans, Pinto beans, Red kidney beans, Split Peas, Soybeans, and Tofu.Bitter melon, Capsicum Celery, Chilli, Choko, Cucumber, Eggplant, Green beans, Green peas, Mushrooms, Okra, Pumpkin, Sprouts, Squash, Sweetcorn, Tomato, Zucchini, and Avocado.

What is a serve of vegetables (100–350kJ)?

  • A serve of vegetables is approximately 75g:
  • ½ cup of cooked green or orange vegetables (for example broccoli, spinach, carrots or pumpkin)
  • ½ cup cooked, dried or canned beans, peas or lentils (no added salt)
  • 1 cup of green leafy or raw salad vegetables
  • ½ cup of sweetcorn
  • ½ medium potato other starchy vegetables (for example sweet potato, taro or cassava)
  • 1 medium tomato
Also see: type of vegetable  and recipes involving vegetables
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