Nutrition, benefits, types and more

There are many types of peas, each with their own nutritional value, but generally speaking, peas are an excellent source of plant-based protein.

Peas have been a key ingredient in cooking and food preparation for thousands of years. They are nutritious, versatile and healthy. Common types include green peas, snow peas, and black-eyed peas.

In addition to being a good source of protein, peas can benefit heart and gut health, and they are a good blood sugar stabilizer.

Keep reading to learn more about the health benefits and nutritional details of different types of peas, as well as cooking ideas.

The following nutritional data assumes 1 cup of ripe peas rather than one immature pea pod. The nutritional data of immature peas in pods may differ. Mature peas are simply those that have grown the longest, although exactly when an immature pea becomes mature depends on the variety.

Peas (peas)

According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, 1 cup (160 grams) of cooked green peas contains:

  • Calories: 134 calories (kcal)
  • Protein: 8.6 grams (g)
  • Carbohydrates: 25g
  • Dietary fibre: 8.8g
  • Sugars: 9.5g
  • Fat: 0.4g

Green peas are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt. They are a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin B6, folate and magnesium.

They are also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, thiamin, and manganese.

Snow peas (sweet peas)

the USDA provides the following nutritional information for 1 cup (160 g) of snap peas or snow peas:

  • Calories: 67 calories
  • Protein: 5.2g
  • Carbohydrates: 11.3g
  • Dietary fibre: 4.5g
  • Sugars: 6.4g
  • Fat: 0.4g

Sugar snap peas are also low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt and are a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium and potassium. They are also a very good source of vitamins A, C, K, thiamin and iron.

Black-eyed peas (cowpea)

the USDA provides the following nutritional data for 1 cup (185 g) of frozen black-eyed peas, also known as cowpeas:

  • Calories: 278 calories
  • Protein: 15.2g
  • Carbohydrates: 42.6g
  • Dietary fibre: 11.5g
  • Sugars: 8g
  • Fat: 5.88g

Ripe black-eyed peas are low in salt, fat and cholesterol and are a good source of protein, thiamin, iron and magnesium. They are also a quality source of fiber, folate and manganese.

Pigeon peas (red gram peas)

the USDA provides the following nutritional data for 1 cup (168 g) cooked ripe pigeon peas or red chickpeas:

  • Calories: 203 calories
  • Protein: 11.4g
  • Carbohydrates: 39g
  • Dietary fibre: 11.3g
  • Fat: 0.6g

In addition to being low in saturated fat, carbohydrates, salt, and natural sugars, pigeon peas are a good source of protein and copper, and a high-quality source of fiber, folate, and manganese.

Chickpeas

According to USDA given, 1 cup of cooked chickpeas (164 g) has the following nutritional content:

  • Calories: 269 calories
  • Protein: 14.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 45g
  • Dietary fibre: 12.5g
  • Sugars: 7.9g
  • Fat: 4.3g

Chickpeas are very low in cholesterol and low in saturated fat and salt. They are a good source of fiber, protein and copper and a very good source of folate and manganese.

Fresh, frozen, canned or dried peas contain many nutritional benefits. Most varieties are low in calories, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, making them a good option as a side dish or star ingredient in the main meal.

Provides a good protein alternative

Peas are a good source of protein, making it an ideal alternative to animal protein in a plant-based diet or an alternative to soy protein.

Provides a good alternative to iron

Peas are also rich in non-heme iron, which is commonly found in animal flesh. This means that peas can be a great alternative source of iron, helping the body produce red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body.

Stabilizes blood sugar levels

Peas have a low glycemic index (GI), which means that they do not cause a rapid increase in blood sugar after eating. Diets rich in low GI foods stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of obesity in people at risk for diabetes and people who already have the disease.

Improved gut health

All types of peas are high in dietary fiber, which can improve gut health by making stools softer and easier to pass. The USDA recommends a daily intake of approximately 25 g of dietary fiber for women and 38 g of fiber for men. Currently, Americans consume on average only about half of this daily intake.

A study 2020 on the health benefits of peas on iron and gut health found that subjects who included peas in their diet had significant improvements in “good” gut bacteria.

Reduces the risk of cancer

Peas are a rich source antioxidants, which can help protect the body against cancer. A study 2017 in green peas found that high levels of phytochemicals in peas, including isoflavones, lectins and saponins, helped prevent and inhibit cancer.

Protects against heart disease

People who eat lots of vegetables, including peas, are at lower risk for cardiovascular problems. Peas are good sources of dietary fibre, vegetable protein and potassium, all of which contribute to lower blood pressure, especially in middle-aged people.

The low-calorie, low-fat nutritional profile of peas also makes them a promising food to help reduce obesity, further reducing the risk of heart disease.

Steaming peas or eating them raw may be the best way to retain their nutritional benefits. People can eat garden peas raw straight from the pod or lightly steam or boil them before eating.

Other varieties, such as black-eyed peas, cannot be eaten raw. Typically, a person would buy black-eyed peas dried, frozen, or canned and pre-cooked.

Sugar snap peas are also delicious raw, and people can eat the whole thing, including the pod.

Canned peas are usually ready to eat once drained and rinsed, but people can also add them to stews and soups, ideally near the end of the cooking process, so they don’t overcook them.

Below are some simple recipes for people to enjoy more peas in their daily diet:

Easy Hummus

  1. Drain a can of chickpeas and blend them in a food processor with 1 tbsp tahini, 2 tbsp olive oil, 4 tbsp water and a few cloves of garlic.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon ground paprika or cumin for flavor. A little lemon juice is also a great way to improve the taste. Serve with raw snow peas as crudités.

pea salad

  1. Lightly steam a few handfuls of peas.
  2. Toss with a small handful of fresh mint leaves or basil and chunks of feta cheese or cooked halloumi.
  3. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice before serving.

Pea based dhal

  1. Prepare a basic dhal by frying onion, garlic, fresh ginger and chillies with spices like cumin or turmeric.
  2. Drain and rinse a few canned black-eyed peas and add them to the pot, along with 1-2 cups of water.
  3. Simmer until the peas are hot and all the vegetables are soft. Serve with brown rice or wholemeal pita bread.

Peas have a range of nutritional benefits, including protecting heart and gut health and reducing cancer risk. They are also a good alternative source of protein and iron, especially on a plant-based diet.

There are several types of peas that people can easily incorporate into their diet. People can eat peas raw or cooked in soups, stews or salads, depending on the variety.

About Alma Ackerman

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