No, this article is not a joke. Those little tiny green peas that you see in the freezer section of grocery stores are nutrient powerhouses. They are rich in protein, lots of fiber, and exhibit impressive antioxidant activity. They also offer lots of micronutrients, including vitamins C and K and manganese. Besides their impressive nutritional profile, green peas are very versatile and deserve to be a staple food in your diet.
What Are Green Peas?
Green peas are technically the seeds of the pod fruit and considered a fruit, not a vegetable. The reason for this is because they have seeds and develop from the ovary of the pea flower. These pods contain several small peas, either yellow or green in color, and (despite their fruit classification) are popularly used as vegetables in culinary applications. Different pea varieties offer different flavor profiles and can be enjoyed raw, cooked, or added to soups, stir-fries, and even desserts.
Peas have a rich history of culinary use, being a staple food in Chinese, Indian, Mediterranean, and British cuisines. In fact, archaeologists found evidence of wild pea consumption dating all the way back to 9750 B.C. Different civilizations consumed peas throughout the course of history, but were they aware of their nutritional benefits? Even if they weren’t, you can be by reading about the following health benefits of green peas.
Rich In Protein
Protein makes up the foundation of your skin, muscles, bones, and hair, but it plays a role in overall health. The body uses protein to build and repair tissues as well as synthesize enzymes and hormones. A protein deficiency can impair immune function, stunt growth, and decrease energy levels. Green peas are naturally rich in pea protein, with a cup of peas providing 8.6 grams. That makes green peas on par with other plant-based proteins, including quinoa, hemp seeds, and nutritional yeast.
Support Healthy Digestion
In addition to the impressive protein content, green peas boast 8.8 grams of fiber per cup, which fulfills 35% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of fiber. Studies suggest that incorporating more fiber-rich foods into your diet benefits several aspects of your health, especially digestion. Fiber passes through the digestive tract undigested, which adds bulk to stool to increase stool frequency. Some research indicates that fiber may benefit digestive conditions, including stomach ulcers, diverticulitis, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
May Protect Against Cancer
Green peas contain a lot of antioxidant compounds, which work to fight free radicals. They also help to relieve inflammation and reduce oxidative damage to cells. In some in vitro studies, some antioxidants in green peas have exhibited anti-cancer properties. Saponins are a type of antioxidant compound found in green peas, and they may inhibit tumor growth. According to a 2009 review from Canada, saponins in green peas and other legumes may have therapeutic effects against some types of cancer. Another review of in vitro studies found that saponins were able to prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells. That said, more research is necessary to confirm the promising anti-cancer activity of green peas.
Support Blood Sugar Control
The fiber and protein in green peas may help regulate blood sugar levels. In turn, these efforts may prevent symptoms like fatigue, increased headaches, and frequent urination (more common among diabetics). Fiber slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which helps maintain steady blood sugar levels. Increasing protein intake has also been associated with lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Not only that, but green peas have a low glycemic index. One review found that eating lots of foods with a low glycemic index, such as peas, can help lower the risk of diabetes.