Today I am going to speak to you about a phenomenal vegetable we can all easily acquire both in the marketplace or at the supermarket: peas. Believe it or not, peas are an incredibly nutritious vegetable, rich in vitamins, minerals and, very important, full of phytochemicals, natural substances with amazing health benefits. Green peas are the most common variety, although purple or yellow ones exist as well. Peas belong to the Fabaceae family and are scientifically known as Pisum sativum. They are believed to have originated in the sub-Himalayan regions of north-west India and have now come to be extensively cultivated and commercialized throughout the world.
Peas are annual plants which thrive in a temperate to sub-tropical climates. These ‘climber’ vegetables love cool, rainy weather and require a well-drained soil in order to flourish. They are rather low in calories: approximately 100 g of raw peas provide us with only 81 calories. More important, they have absolutely no cholesterol and are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. For instance, 100 g of peas can provide us with 16% of the recommended daily allowance of folate, or vitamin B9.
Folate is a naturally occurring B-group vitamin, essential for DNA synthesis. Folic acid is the name for the synthetic form of vitamin B9. According to numerous scientific studies, an adequate intake of vitamin B9 can efficiently prevent neural tube defects in newborns. Medical professionals recommend that women take vitamin B9 supplements before conceiving and during pregnancy. This can be done both by consuming foods rich in folate, such as peas, and by taking folic acid supplements. Nonetheless, vitamin or mineral supplementation, especially during pregnancy, should be done under the careful supervision of a medical professional.
In addition to this, fresh peas are a great source of vitamin C, a potent natural anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. Vitamin C helps the immune system develop resistance against a vast number of infectious agents as well as boasts amazing antioxidant effects. Besides protecting us from the damaging action of free radicals, it increases collagen production, helping us look young and beautiful. With 67% of the recommended daily allowance, peas are a very generous source of the nutrient.
Moreover, peas contain phytosterols, natural compounds similar to cholesterol in structure, also found in legumes and nuts. According to scientific research, phytosterols prevent the absorption of cholesterol by the intestines, thus actively contributing to lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the blood. Many other studies focused on phytosterols suggest a diet rich in foods with high phytosterols levels can lower the risk of developing prostate and breast cancer.
However, the health benefits brought to us by the common pea do not end here. Peas are believed to promote strong, healthy bones, support normal blood coagulation and reduce bruising and nosebleeds due to their high vitamin K content as well as appear to help play an essential role in limiting neuronal damage in individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, also thanks to vitamin K.
Peas are a great source of vitamin A, thus promoting healthy mucous membranes and skin and good vision. In addition to this, the tiny vivid green vegetables contain good amounts of flavonoids, carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, all potent antioxidants with incredible health benefits. A diet consisting of foods rich in flavonoids is believed to offer protection against lung and mouth cancers.
Peas are also rich in dietary minerals such as copper, iron, magnesium, manganese and zinc. While iron prevents anemia, magnesium supports muscle activity (heart included). Manganese acts as an antioxidant, whilst zinc supports the immune system. Last but not least, thiamine, niacin, pyridoxine and riboflavin, other B-group vitamins generously found in peas, ensure proper energy distribution throughout the body.
Peas are indeed a nutritious addition to our diet. Whether you are a fan of fresh, farmers’ market varieties or prefer to get a frozen bag from the local supermarket, you can never go wrong with them. You can puree them, add them to salads, make soup out of them or even more complex dishes. As long as you don’t overcook peas, you will certainly enjoy all their wonderful properties and health benefits.