If you’re a foodie, you might know about the ongoing debate about beans and where exactly they belong in the food pyramid. You may have your own personal opinion on where you categorize beans in your diet, based on the type of diet you have chosen for yourself.So we need to know what food group do beans belong to? If this debacle is one you have previously not heard of, the following article will lay out all of the facts regarding why many people cannot decide how to accurately categorize beans. Are they a legume, fruit, vegetable, source of protein? Aren’t legumes technically fruits? What is the definition of a vegetable?
What Food Group do Beans Belong to? Let’s debunk
In order to decide where beans fall in the realm of the food groups, let us first define each of them so that we can most accurately decide where beans belong. We often associate vegetables with savory, and fruits with sweet, but what exactly are legumes? Most of us know beans, peas, and nuts are often referred to as legumes, but where does this category come from?
What Food Group do Beans Belong to? (Legumes)
The name legume refers to the species of plant in which beans (as well as nuts, peas, etc.) come from. The Leguminosae family is a family of flowering plants, whose seeds are produced inside of a pod. These seeds are actually the beans, peas, nuts, etc. that humans have incorporated into their diet. Legumes are the seeds of the plants of the Leguminosae family.
Legumes can be uniquely identified due to their structure. Have you ever heard the saying “two peas in a pod?” Have you ever tried to use an old-fashioned nutcracker at an Aunt’s house before, only to throw away the walnut inside? Those are prime examples of legumes existing in their pods. Legumes are also considered to be “nutritionally unique.” They are often categorized as a vegetable, but why? And is this claim legitimate?
Before we decide if beans can double as legumes and vegetables, we need to debunk what makes a vegetable a vegetable. Meriam-Webster defines the vegetable as a plant that is grown for its edible parts which is usually eaten as part of a meal. The edible portion of a vegetable is usually a root, stem, or leaf of a plant as opposed to its ovary. Now that we know the definition and specification of what makes a legume a legume, it seems as though it would be acceptable to also categorize a bean as a vegetable as well as a legume. A bean stalk is a plant that may be grown for its edible parts, along with pea and nut plants as well.
Legumes vs vegetables vs.. fruits?
Although the most common topic of discussion is whether beans belong to the vegetable group or not, there is also speculation regarding if beans can be considered fruits.
The definition of a fruit is similar to that of a vegetable. Like vegetables, fruit is also the edible part of a plant, however it must contains seeds as the edible part of the plant must also be the reproductive body of the plant. This technical definition gets pushed aside in our minds as we tend to categorize vegetables as savory items used in lunch or dinner meals and fruits as sweeter treats that can be enjoyed on their own or found in a dessert or smoothie.
When we think of food this way, there’s no way we could consider a bean a fruit. I wouldn’t want to have bean pie or bean shortcake for dessert, would you?! However when we think back to the true definition of a legume, the debate makes sense. A legume is the seed of a plant of the Leguminosae family. So now we are left to decide, if fruits are the edible part of a plant that contains seeds, could a bean itself be considered a fruit if it is the seed?
It seems as though the argument to place beans in the vegetable category is a legitimate one. If we think of vegetables as an overarching category and legumes are a sub-category, this makes sense. It seems as though classifying beans as a fruit may be a bit of stretch, as they themselves do not contain the reproductive seed of the flowering plant but rather are the reproductive seed. The answer to this debacle seems to come down to technical definitions, and others may find that based on other evidence, they do believe beans can be classified as fruits.
The definition of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and other different types of food just merely scratches the surface of how chefs, nutritionists, and botanists categorize food in their own unique way. Chefs and nutritionists tend to distinguish what foods go into the major food groups based on what nutritional value they have.
How do we categorize our food?
The major food groups in which we categorize our foods in America are loosely based on the three major macronutrient groups which are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats (lipids). For example, animal-based products (meats) are considered good sources of protein, while vegetables are known to contain starchy carbohydrates.
Our bodies need all of the macronutrients to survive. The goal of many is to determine what diet allows their body functions at an optimal level correct. This comes down to incorporating the right proportions of the macronutrients one needs into their everyday diet. In order to put together a sustainable and healthy diet, it is essential to know what foods are sources of what macronutrients, and what sources are healthier than others.
There are tons of misconceptions out there about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle through our dietary choices. If someone who was trying to lose weight, and did not do their research, if they’ve heard that vegetables are high in carbs their instinct may be to avoid them. However, vegetables are a source of healthy carbs which contribute to our cognitive function. Someone else may have the impression that meat is the only substantial source for protein in the diet, which many vegetarians and vegans will tell you is not the case.
Are beans a good source of protein?
With plant-based diets becoming increasingly popular in society today, legumes have been gaining the recognition they deserve for how much protein they contain in such a small serving. Beans, in particular, are noted to be one of the best plant-based protein alternatives, as they provide a good amount of protein and are also low in fat content.
The NIH claims that the average adult should maintain a diet in which 10-35% of their calorie intake is from a source of protein. For somebody who is vegan or vegetarian, or even just trying to reduce their animal product intake, getting enough protein in a day should always be in the back of the mind.
Incorporating animal products the diet is the most common way people obtain their daily protein intake. One ounce of red meat, skinless poultry, or fish typically contains about 6-7 grams of protein. To put this into perspective, the bean equivalent of this protein concentration is about a fourth of a cup. One ounce of these animal products is also just about equivalent in protein concentration to 1 egg, a one-half cup of nuts, or 2 tablespoons of hummus. Other than the egg, these all come from legumes!
Beans and other legumes are one of the most popular plant-based alternatives for a protein source. The typical serving size for legumes is a one-half cup, and soybeans come in first (by far) in terms of the amount of protein per serving. Soybeans, such as edamame, contain about 34 grams of protein per serving. Other beans such as lentils and cannellini beans offer around 10 grams of protein per serving, which is still high for such a small serving size.