Legumes are nutrient-dense foods and can be an environmentally sustainable alternative to meat consumption. Data on legume intake are scarce and data on legume consumption in Sweden are lacking. This study investigated dietary intake and dietary patterns, together with iron, vitamin D, and folate status, in relation to legume consumption in Sweden.
Cross-sectional dietary and biomarker data (n 1760) from the 2011 Riksmaten national survey were analyzed. All legume foods (including soy) were identified from 4-day dietary records and ferritin, folate, and vitamin D status in a subgroup (n 280). Participants were classified into non-consumers and quartiles of legume intake. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was performed to uncover dietary patterns associated with legume intake. Partial Least Square (PLS) regression was used to identify variables associated with variations in legume consumption.
Legumes were consumed by 44% of the population, with mean (SD) intake of 138 (84) g/d in the highest and 11 (5) g/d in the lowest quartiles. Among consumers, 6% reported being vegetarian, compared with 0.9% among non-consumers. Legume consumers drank less alcohol, but had higher intakes of energy, dietary fiber, folate, thiamin, and several minerals, and more often met recommended intake levels for folate and fiber, critical nutrients in Sweden. Biomarker status did not differ with legume intake. PCA revealed multiple loadings on legumes that generally reflected healthier eating habits for legume-consuming women. PLS revealed that vegetarianism was most influential for high legume intake. Other influential variables were high fruit, tea, nut, and seed intakes. High intake of meat, sodas, fast foods, and sweet foods, together with omnivorism, were influential for low legume intake. The associations were similar for men and women.
This study supports dietary recommendations on inclusion of legumes in a healthy diet. Greater focus on assessment of legume intake is necessary to explore the population-wide health effects of legumes as sustainable meat alternatives, and to reinforce national nutritional guidelines.