Green peas are a popular vegetable. They are also quite nutritious and contain a fair amount of fiber and antioxidants.
Additionally, research shows they may help protect against some chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer.
On the other hand, some people claim green peas are harmful and should be avoided due to the antinutrients they contain, which can cause bloating.
If you think that peas are humble, ordinary vegetables, think again! These tiny bead-sized jewels carry quite a punch when it comes to nutrients and health benefits.
Peas are in the group of foods known as legumes. Legumes are plants that produce pods with seeds, or beans, inside. Other foods in the legume family include lentils, soybeans, chickpeas, and all types of beans.
There are three varieties of peas that you eat:
- Garden or green peas
- Snow peas
- Snap peas
Garden or green peas grow inside green, rounded pods. The peas inside are sweet and starchy. Snow peas and snap peas grow inside edible pods, and their taste is slightly sweeter than garden peas.
Peas are part of the plant family, Fabaceae, also known as the bean family or pulse family. Although their beginnings may trace back to Asia and the Middle East, peas are grown worldwide today.
What are peas?Peas are not actually a vegetable but a small, edible legume and as such they belong to the same family as lentils, chickpeas, beans and peanuts. Peas grow in pods on a vine and once the pod is plump, they are ripe for picking. In the UK, peas are in season from May to October, but the majority of peas we consume are frozen, making them an all year staple.
High in Many Nutrients and Antioxidants
Green peas are fairly low in calories and contain several vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They’re also high in fiber and protein.
Green peas have an impressive nutrition profile.
Their calorie content is fairly low, with only 62 calories per 1/2-cup (170-gram) serving (1).
About 70% of those calories come from carbs and the rest are provided by protein and a small amount of fat.
Furthermore, peas contain just about every vitamin and mineral you need, in addition to a significant amount of fiber.
A 1/2-cup (170-gram) serving of peas provides the following nutrients:
- Calories: 62
- Carbs: 11 grams
- Fiber: 4 grams
- Protein: 4 grams
- Vitamin A: 34% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 24% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 13% of the RDI
- Thiamine: 15% of the RDI
- Folate: 12% of the RDI
- Manganese: 11% of the RDI
- Iron: 7% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 6% of the RDI
What makes peas unique from other vegetables is their high protein content. For example, a 1/2 cup (170 grams) of cooked carrots has only 1 gram of protein, while 1/2 cup (170 grams) of peas contains four times that amount.
They are also rich in polyphenol antioxidants, which are likely responsible for many of their health benefits.
Health BenefitsThe high concentration of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients in peas provides important health benefits that range from keeping your eyes healthy to protecting you against certain cancers.
DigestionPeas can do wonders for your digestion. The high fibre content present in pods helps in maintaining good digestive health. Fibre adds bulk to the stool, thereby enhancing smoother bowel regularity. Feel free to include them in your salads, sides, stews and curry.
Good Source of IronPeas are a good source of iron. Iron deficiency is the leading cause of anaemia. If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells thereby causing haemoglobin deficiency. Iron helps combat fatigue and gives you strength.
Eye HealthPeas contain the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients help protect your eyes from chronic diseases, such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin act as filters from harmful blue light, which contributes to cataracts and macular degeneration.
Immune Health and Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Peas are packed with antioxidants, which help build your immune system. The following are nutrients in peas that act as antioxidants:
- Vitamin C
- Vtamin E
- Anti-inflammatory nutrients in peas have been associated with lowering the risk of inflammatory conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.
- The following vitamins and nutrients found in peas help reduce inflammation:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B
- Caffeic acid
- Pisumsaponins I and II
- Pisomosides A and B
Blood Sugar Control
Peas are loaded with fiber and protein, which help to regulate the way you digest starches. The protein and fiber in peas slow the breakdown of carbohydrates and helps to control your blood sugar. Studies show that eating a high-protein diet decreases postprandial (after meals) blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.
Peas also have a low glycemic index. This means that you are less likely to have sudden spikes in blood sugar after eating them.
Builds ImmunityPeas are rich in vitamin C, which makes it one of the best immunity building foods. According to the book ‘Healing Foods’, “a single serving of peas or snow peas supplies half your daily needs. Peas, especially pea shoots, also contains phytoalexins, an antioxidant that can inhibit H.Pylori, the bacterium that causes stomach and duodenal ulcers and stomach cancer.
Weight LossThe bite-sized peas can help you shed some quick pounds too. Peas are low in fat and also immensely low on calories as compared to heavier legumes like beans and cowpeas. 100 grams of peas contains only 81 calories. The high content of fibre too plays its role in weight reduction. Fibre helps induce the feeling of fullness which keeps you from bingeing into other foods.
Good for skinPeas are an excellent source of Vitamin C, which plays a significant role in in the production of collagen. Collagen helps keep the skin firm and glowing. Vitamin C also protects the cells from damage caused by free radicals. The antioxidants help fight oxidative damage caused by the free radicals. The antioxidants which are present in it such as flavonoids, catechin, epicatechin, carotenoid and alpha carotene helps prevent signs of ageing too.
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Keeping skin healthy
Some research indicates that dandelion may help protect the skin from sun damage.
Ultraviolet (UV) light causes considerable damage to the skin and contributes to skin aging. A 2015 study on skin cells in a test tube found that dandelion could reduce the impact of one type of damaging UV light.
Protecting the skin from UV damage can help a person look younger for longer. Research in humans is needed to verify these results.
Should You Eat Green Peas?
Green peas are high in nutrients, fiber and antioxidants, and have properties that may reduce the risk of several diseases.
Yet they also contain antinutrients, which may disrupt the absorption of some nutrients and cause digestive symptoms.
However, there are several things you can do to help prevent these effects. These include trying certain preparation methods and watching your portion sizes.
Overall, green peas are an incredibly healthy food to incorporate into your diet.
How to Prepare Peas
There are a number of ways to cook peas. To preserve the most nutrients in your peas, you can steam them in a small amount of liquid for a short time and add seasonings at the end.
- Bring ⅛ to ¼ cup of water or light stock to a boil
- Add enough peas until the liquid just covers them
- Cover pan and simmer on low for 5 to 10 minutes or until the peas are tender and bright green
- Drain the water and toss peas with melted butter or any fresh herbs of your choice