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.
Nutritional benefits of peas
An 80g (cooked) serving contains:
- 5.4g protein
- 1.3g fat
- 8.0g carbohydrates
- 4.5g fibre
- 184mg potassium
- 104mg phosphorus
- 1.2mg iron
- 13mg vitamin C
Nutritionally, there is little difference between fresh and frozen peas, making frozen a useful and cost-effective alternative.
What are the 5 top health benefits of peas?
1. Good source of plant-based protein
Being rich in fibre and one of the best plant-based proteins makes peas a satisfying component of a meal. They are also a useful vegan source of iron, which is needed for making red blood cells and transporting oxygen around the body.
2. May improve blood sugar management
With a low glycaemic index (GI) and a high fibre content, peas are a useful inclusion if you need to monitor your blood sugar levels. Peas contain starch in the form of amylose, which slows our digestion and as a result, studies support that they may help improve our blood sugar balance. Peas also contain nutrients like magnesium, B vitamins and vitamin C, all of which help support blood sugar management.
3. May support digestive health
Peas are rich in fibre which both supports digestive health and fuels the beneficial gut microbes, which play a pivotal role in our health. Much of the fibre content is soluble, which may alleviate constipation. Eating more fibre is associated with a reduced risk of a number of conditions including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
4. May support heart health
Peas contain heart-friendly minerals including magnesium, potassium and calcium and are also rich in antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C, as well as phytonutrients including carotenoids and flavonols which are heart protective and support cardiovascular function. The soluble fibre peas contain helps us manage cholesterol levels, especially LDL cholesterol.
5. May be cancer protective
Regularly including legumes, like peas, in your diet may reduce the risk of cancer due to their high antioxidant levels. Peas also contain natural compounds called saponins, these compounds have been shown to help protect against some forms of cancer.
Are peas safe for everyone to eat?
Legumes are a common allergen, and peas are no exception. Special attention should be taken if you have been diagnosed with a legume allergy, this might include peanuts and soya. Read more from the NHS about food allergies and when to seek help.
If you are concerned about food allergies, please consult your GP or a registered dietitian for guidance.
This article was reviewed on 23 February 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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