An updated version of the Australian Dietary Guidelines released in February 2013 contains grains and legume research summaries to help inform healthy eating habits.
The revised guide encourages Australians to eat a wide variety of grains and legumes to provide the nutrients needed to optimise wellbeing and help protect against chronic diseases.
The publication recommends that people consume a range of foods from five groups, including vegetable, fruit, grain, meat (and alternative protein sources, such as legumes) and dairy.
These are known as ‘core foods’, which should be eaten most of the time. In particular, the publication suggests Australians “eat a variety of grain foods, mostly wholegrain and high-fibre varieties, such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley”.
Wholegrain and high-fibre cereal foods are emphasised because they contain antioxidants and phytoestrogens (a plant chemical similar to oestrogen), which can play an important role in disease prevention.
The publication urges Australian adults who are of average weight and exercise regularly to eat six serves of grains a day – one serve is equivalent to a slice of bread or half a cup of cooked rice or pasta.
Legumes are classified under two of the five ‘core food’ categories because these highly nutritious vegetables also provide an alternative source of protein, so they can be substituted for meat.
Research shows prevention of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer, is another benefit of eating legumes. The Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council supports the recommendation that Australians should opt for wholegrain or high-fibre cereal foods at least half of the time.
The 2013 publication further recommends that Australians eat two to three serves of legumes a week, as both a vegetable and lean meat alternative – one serve is equivalent to half a cup of cooked beans, peas, lentils or chickpeas.
National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Dietary Guidelines,
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