Written by Randy Fritz, co-creator with Diana Herrington at Real Food For Life.
Many people think peas are just a poor man’s meat or a cheap restaurant side dish that puts ‘green’ on your plate.
Peas are really little powerhouses of nutrition that are a boon for your health and the whole planet. Read all their benefits, how to use them properly, and some easy recipes. We’ll start with the benefits of this tasty powerfood.
1. Weight management:
Peas are low-fat but high-everything-else. A cup of peas has less than 100 calories but lots of protein, fiber and micronutrients.
2. Stomach cancer prevention:
Peas contain high amounts of a health-protective polyphenol called coumestrol. A study in Mexico City determined you only need 2 milligrams per day of this phytonutrient to help prevent stomach cancer. A cup of peas has at least 10.
3. Anti-aging, strong immune system, and high energy:
This comes from the high levels of antioxidants, including:
- flavinoids: catechin and epicatechin
- carotenoid: alpha-carotene and beta-carotene
- phenolic acids: ferulic and caffeic acid
- polyphenols: coumestrol
4. Prevention of wrinkles, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, bronchitis, osteoporosis and candida:
These come from peas’ strong anti-inflammatory properties. Excess inflammation has also been linked to heart disease, cancer, and aging in general. These properties include:
- Pisumsaponins I and II and pisomosides A and B (anti-inflammatory phytonutrients found almost exclusively in peas)
- Vitamin C and vitamin E, and a good amount of the antioxidant mineral zinc
- Omega-3 fat in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
5. Blood sugar regulation:
Peas’ high fiber and protein slows down how fast sugars are digested.
Their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents prevent or reverse insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes)
All peas’ carbohydrates are natural sugars and starches with no white sugars or chemicals to worry about.
Next page: more benefits:
6. Heart disease prevention:
The many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in peas support healthy blood vessels. The formation of plaque along our blood vessel walls starts with chronic, excessive oxidative stress and inflammation.
The generous amounts of vitamin B1 and folate, B2, B3, and B6 reduce homocysteine levels, which are a risk factor for heart disease.
7. Healthy for the environment:
- Peas work with bacteria in the soil to ‘fix’ nitrogen from the air and deposit it in the soil. This reduces the need for artificial fertilizers since one of their main ingredients is nitrogen.
- After peas have been harvested, the remaining plant easily breaks down to create more organic fertilizer for the soil.
- Peas are also able to grow on minimal moisture, so they are a perfect crop in many areas due to not needing irrigation or using up valuable water supplies.
8. Prevent constipation:
The high fiber content in peas improves bowel health and peristalsis.
9. Healthy bones
Just one cup of peas contains 44% of your Vitamin K, which helps to anchor calcium inside the bones. Its B vitamins also help to prevent osteoporosis.
10. Reduces bad cholesterol:
The niacin in peas helps reduce the production of triglycerides and VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein), which results in in less bad cholesterol, increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and lowered triglycerides.
Next page: Interesting facts, plus how to best choose and use peas
Interesting Facts and History:
- Although considered a vegetable, green peas really are a fruit since they contain seeds developed from a flower.
- Green peas are the immature seed of dried peas, often called field peas.
- Dried peas have been eaten for over 5000 years and were a staple during the Middle Ages. Field peas were easy to grow and saved many from starving.
- Fresh green peas did not become popular till the 16th century.
- Peas have such high-quality protein that many commercial protein powders are starting to use it. This avoids the possible side effects of soy or dairy products. (See Is Your Protein Powder Toxic?)
- Canada is the largest producer of peas in the world!
“We lived very simply – but with all the essentials of life well understood and provided for – hot baths, cold champagne, new peas and old brandy.” —Winston Churchill
How to Buy and Cook:
- Frozen peas retain their color and texture and nutritional content better than canned peas, but of course fresh is even better, and from your garden is the best.
- Dry peas (with 16 grams of protein per cup) have almost twice the protein content of green peas and six times the protein content of snap peas.
- Both canned and frozen peas have a significant amount of sodium (from 300 to 600 milligrams per cup) due to processing methods. Therefore, make sure you rinse well before using, or better yet… grow your own!
- When buying frozen peas, usually the “petite” brands will be less starchy and more flavorful. I personally always choose these.
- When buying or using fresh peas, the fresher the better, as the sugar content transforms into starch. Refrigerate until use to slow down this process.
Next page: Who should use caution with peas, plus 4 tasty recipes.
Peas contain a compound called purines. People who have problems like kidney disorder or gout should not have green peas. (This is NOT a problem for anyone else.)
Delicious Pea Recipes:
Easy Creamy Peas: Yum!
Chinese Vegetables: Diana’s version of an already healthy dish with sugar snap peas.
Fresh Quick Pea Soup: The name says it all. It’s only missing the word delicious.
Peas As A Side Dish: How a side is dish is supposed to taste!
Steamed Vegetables: Good way to use snap peas.