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Consumption of Dry Beans, Peas, and Lentils Could Improve Diet Quality in the US Population


      The US Department of Agriculture's MyPyramid guidelines introduced a near doubling of the dietary recommendations for vegetables. These recommendations target specific subgroups of vegetables, including dry beans and peas. Dry beans and peas provide an array of nutrients and phytochemicals that have been shown to have beneficial health effects, yet consumption levels in the United States are quite low. Few studies have examined the influence of legume consumption on nutrient intakes. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to assess nutrient and food group intakes of dry bean and pea consumers compared to nonconsumers. Dietary intake data from the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for adults aged ≥19 years was used. Results show that on any given day only 7.9% of adults are consuming dry beans and peas; Mexican Americans or other Hispanics are more likely to be consumers than nonconsumers. Consuming approximately ½ c dry beans or peas resulted in higher intakes of fiber, protein, folate, zinc, iron, and magnesium with lower intakes of saturated fat and total fat. These data support the specific recommendation for dry beans and peas as part of the overall vegetable recommendation. Increased consumption of dry beans and peas—economical and nutrient-rich foods—could improve the diet quality of Americans.
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      D. C. Mitchell is coordinator, Diet Assessment Center, Pennsylvania State University, University Park


      T. J. Hartman is an associate professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences, Pennsylvania State University, University Park


      F. R. Lawrence is an assistant professor, Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University, University Park


      J. M. Curran is manager, market innovation, Pulse Canada, Winnepeg, MB, Canada