My Plate Exploration: Beans and Peas

— Written By Lethia Lee and last updated by Cindy Nance

This may be my favorite My Plate Vegetable Subgroup. Beans and peas are unique because they can belong to 2 different My Plate groups – protein foods or vegetables. Basically, you can count them as whatever you need them to be most. If you get plenty of vegetables, count beans and peas as protein foods. If you’re looking to increase your veggie consumption, then count them as part of the veggie group. As part of our exploration today, beans and peas are going to be part of the vegetable group – they’re even their own veggie subgroup!

What’s in the Beans and Peas Vegetable Group? Black Beans, Chickpeas (a.k.a. Garbanzo Beans), Kidney Beans, Lentils, Mature and Dried Black-Eyed Peas, Navy Beans, Pinto Beans, Soy Beans, Split Peas, and White Beans. So, why are these beans and peas considered welcome in either the protein or the vegetable food group? It all comes down to their nutrients, according to My Plate. These foods are excellent sources of plant protein, and also provide other nutrients such as iron and zinc. They are similar to meats, poultry, and fish in their contribution of these nutrients. Therefore, they are considered part of the Protein Foods Group. However, they are also considered part of the vegetable group because they are excellent sources of dietary fiber and nutrients such as folate and potassium. These nutrients, which are often low in the diet of many Americans, are also found in other vegetables.

So there you have it – beans and peas are welcome in two worlds! Now let’s take a closer look at those nutrients.

Beans and peas are nutrition powerhouses. Here are some of the top nutrients in these foods…. Beans and peas are fantastic sources of folate. Take lentils, for example – a single cup of lentils has 90% of the daily value for folate. That’s huge! Many other beans and peas have over half the daily value of folate in a single cup – think chickpeas, black beans, black-eyed peas, white beans, and kidney beans. Even soybeans, with the lowest folate content of the bunch, still weigh in at 23% of the daily value. In addition, these beans and peas are great sources of protein. Here’s a rundown of the daily value of protein that you can find in these beans: Soy -57%, Lentils – 36%, Split Peas – 33%, Kidney Beans – 31%, Black Beans – 30%, Chickpeas – 29%, Navy Beans – 29%, Black-Eyed peas – 28%, and pinto beans -23%.

Dietary fiber is also a serious contender in the beans and peas My Plate Vegetable Subgroup. White beans have the most fiber, with 74% of the daily value for fiber in a single cup, but split peas, lentils, and black beans are also of note with 65%, 63%, and 60% of the daily value, respectively. Navy beans have 53%, white chickpeas have 50%. The roundup continues with kidney beans 45%, pinto beans 44%, soybeans 41%, and black-eyed peas 25%. While all beans do contain at least 14% of the daily value for iron, the top sources in this subgroup are soybeans with 49%, lentils with 37%, black-eyed peas with 29%, white beans with 28%, and navy beans with 27%.

If you need a potassium boost, then soybeans are perfect for you. With 25% of the daily value for potassium in one cup, these beans are a great way to get more of this nutrient of concern. However, soybeans aren’t the only sources of potassium. Here’s a look at the potassium content of the other beans and peas: White Beans – 24%, Navy beans – 22%, Lentils – 21%, Kidney Beans – 20%, Split peas – 20%, Black-eyed Peas – 18%, Black Beans – 17%, Pinto Beans – 17%, and Chickpeas – 14%.

Finally, there’s Zinc. Who could forget zinc? Black-eyed peas are the best source of zinc in the beans and peas group – they have 21% of the daily value in a single cup. Chickpeas and lentils are next in line, with 17% of the daily value, and the rest of the beans and peas have between 13% and 11% of the daily value.

That’s enough for right now, I will allow you to absorb all this information, and I will follow up with part two about Beans and Peas. So stay tuned for more interesting news.

Information source is taken from My Plate Vegetable Subgroup/ Nutrition Education.

For more information contact Lethia Lee, EFNEP Assistant with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at 910-592-7161.