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What are legumes?

Legumes are plants of the pea or pod family, including peas, beans and lentils. They are rich in fiber and protein.

Is a legume a vegetable?

From a botanical perspective, yes legumes are vegetables as they are an edible portion of a plant. However, according to theDietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025, eating a serving of legumes (now listed as “Beans, Peas, and Lentils”) counts towards both your daily vegetable and protein requirement. This is because the nutrient profile of legumes mirrors both categories. 

A list of legumes.

TheDietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025has changed the name legumes to “Beans, Peas, and Lentils”. The following foods fit into this vegetable subgroup:

  • Beans such as kidney, pinto, white, black, lima, and fava
  • Peas such as chickpeas, black-eyed, pigeon, and split

Green peas and green string beans are not considered legumes because their nutrient content more closely reflects starchy vegetables. Meanwhile. Soybeans are considered part of the “Nuts, Seeds, and Soy Products” subgroup.

What are the health benefits of eating legumes?

Legumes are known for their high levels of fiber and B vitamins. They’re also popular among vegetarians and vegans as a source of protein. 

Legumes have been found to protect against Type 2 Diabetes, lower blood pressure, help control weight, and lower your risk of heart disease.

Related Terms


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Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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