Eating an appropriate mix of foods from the food groups and subgroups—within an appropriate calorie level—is important to promote health. Each of the food groups and their subgroups provides an array of nutrients, and the amounts recommended reflect eating patterns that have been associated with positive health outcomes. Foods from all of the food groups should be eaten in nutrient-dense forms. The following sections describe the recommendations for each of the food groups, highlight nutrients for which the food group is a key contributor, and describe special considerations related to the food group.
Healthy intake: Healthy eating patterns include a variety of vegetables from all of the five vegetable subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other. These include all fresh, frozen, canned, and dried options in cooked or raw forms, including vegetable juices. The recommended amount of vegetables in the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern at the 2,000-calorie level is 2½ cup-equivalents of vegetables per day. In addition, weekly amounts from each vegetable subgroup are recommended to ensure variety and meet nutrient needs.
Key nutrient contributions: Vegetables are important sources of many nutrients, including dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, copper, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin B6, folate, iron, manganese, thiamin, niacin, and choline. Each of the vegetable subgroups contributes different combinations of nutrients, making it important for individuals to consume vegetables from all the subgroups. For example, dark-green vegetables provide the most vitamin K, red and orange vegetables the most vitamin A, legumes the most dietary fiber, and starchy vegetables the most potassium. Vegetables in the “other” vegetable subgroup provide a wide range of nutrients in varying amounts.
Considerations: To provide all of the nutrients and potential health benefits that vary across different types of vegetables, the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern includes weekly recommendations for each subgroup. Vegetable choices over time should vary and include many different vegetables. Vegetables should be consumed in a nutrient-dense form, with limited additions such as salt, butter, or creamy sauces. When selecting frozen or canned vegetables, choose those lower in sodium.
About Legumes (Beans and Peas)
Legumes include kidney beans, pinto beans, white beans, black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), lima beans (mature, dried), split peas, lentils, and edamame (green soybeans).
Legumes are excellent sources of protein. In addition, they provide other nutrients that also are found in seafood, meats, and poultry, such as iron and zinc. They are excellent sources of dietary fiber and of nutrients, such as potassium and folate that also are found in other vegetables.
Because legumes have a similar nutrient profile to foods in both the protein foods group and the vegetable group, they may be thought of as either a vegetable or a protein food and thus, can be counted as a vegetable or a protein food to meet recommended intakes.
Green peas and green (string) beans are not counted in the legume subgroup, because their nutrient compositions are not similar to legumes. Green peas are similar to starchy vegetables and are grouped with them. Green beans are grouped with the other vegetables subgroup, which includes onions, iceberg lettuce, celery, and cabbage, because their nutrient content is not similar to legumes.
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