Green peas pack more punch than their unassuming size would suggest. They are a delightful addition to almost every meal and are incredibly diverse, fitting in both sweet and savory dishes. And now that spring is here, peas should be a staple in your healthy diet.
One cup of peas contains 118 calories and only 0.6 grams of total fat. But while they may be low in fat and calories, green peas are high in everything else, including protein, fiber and micronutrients. One cup of green peas contains 345 milligrams of potassium, 7 grams of dietary fiber, 22% of the RDA of vitamin A, 96% of the RDA of vitamin C, 44% of the RDA of vitamin K, 11% of the RDA of iron, 10% of the RDA of vitamin B6 and 12% of the RDA of magnesium. Peas are also equipped with powerful antioxidants, including flavonoids, carotenoids, phenolic acids and polyphenols.
Peas make for a great source of vitamin C (if uncooked), which is essential for proper immune function. Meanwhile, peas’ high fiber content means they are essential in preventing many diseases, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Fiber also lowers blood pressure, enhances weight loss and promotes efficient digestion. Niacin, a key component in peas, helps to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol.
Peas are harnessed with a high amount of a polyphenol called coumestrol, of which one study determined that a mere 2 milligrams can prevent stomach cancer (and one cup of green peas has at least 10 milligrams!). Such antioxidants also play a key role in healthy aging and disease prevention.
The K and B vitamins in peas also work to support healthy bones. Vitamin K has proven its ability to improve bone health by increasing bone mineral density and reducing fracture rates in rats. There is also evidence that vitamin K positively affects calcium balance.
Aside from health benefits, peas are very good for the environment. While growing, they work with bacteria in the soil to “fix” nitrogen from the air and deposit it back into the soil. This reduces the need for artificial fertilizers, of which nitrogen is a main ingredient. Peas are also able to grow with little moisture, so they are the perfect crop to avoid over-burdening water supplies.
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Photo Credit: Mike Licht