Peas or Pisum sativum are not just some cheap garnishing vegetables you often see in restaurants. They are little nutritional powerhouses that can be used to boost the body’s overall health. They are especially very beneficial to pregnant and lactating women, due to their richness in folates and other essential vitamins. They are also used in regulating blood sugar level, and preventing heart diseases.
Botanical name: Pisum sativum
Other names: Green peas, Garden peas, Chickling vetches.
Peas are the seeds of the garden pea plant, Pisum sativum, a herbaceous vine of the botanical family Leguminosae. The seeds are green in color and enclosed in a green pod which is about 10 cm in length. A pod contains about 8 to 9 seeds. Peas are known to be an ideal food for those suffering from coronary heart disease. They are usually combined together with grains during consumption. If you are linked to any form of coronary heart disease, then its consumption might be found very beneficial.
Quick overview of main constituents per 100 grams of raw peas (USDA)
- Raw peas contain 14.45 g carbohydrates, which mainly constitutes starch and a few amounts of saccharose.
- It also boosts of up to 5.1 g dietary fiber
- Peas contain proteins in about 5.4% of its total content. The proteins in peas are virtually complete, as they lack an essential amino acid known as methionine and contains excess of another known as lysine. In order to make its proteins complete, it is recommended that you consume peas together with grains since they are quite rich in methionine and poor in lysine, thus, providing the body with all the essential amino acids.
- Peas are significantly rich in minerals. It contains potassium, iron, magnesium, zinc, manganese, and phosphorus in signficant amounts.
- They are also noted for their high vitamin content. They contain vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, folates, and niacin in significant amounts. Most of these vitamins are necessary for the proper functioning of the heart. Others also present in reasonable amounts are vitamin E and beta-carotene (provitamin A).
10 Health benefits and medicinal uses of peas
- Prevents heart diseases
- Regulates blood sugar level
- Fights nervous system disorders
- Prevents neural tube defects
- Improves digestion
- Boosts immunity
- Prevents cancer
- Good for the skin
- Aids weight loss
- Improves hair health
Peas are very rich in B complex vitamins which are necessary for the proper functioning of the heart. Additionally, they contain no sodium and fat, two substances which are dangerous to the heart if consumed in high amounts. Thus, the consumption of peas is ideal and highly recommended in the diet of those suffering from coronary heart disease or any of the following cardiac disorders:
► Heart failure
► Degeneration of the heart muscle (myocardiopathy)
► Heart valve lesion
Most of these B-group vitamins present in peas have been linked with reduced levels of homocysteine, which is a risk factor for heart diseases. Also, pea is a great antioxidant food which helps support a healthy blood vessel system.
Peas also help lower blood cholesterol levels. A research published in Irish Journal of Food Science and Technology, found peas consumption to decrease the level of LDL or bad cholesterol, and improve the level of HDL or good cholesterol. Excess cholesterol in the body is very harmful to cardiovascular health. It can clump in our arteries and subsequently block the flow of blood to vital organs such as the heart and the brain, which can lead to conditions such as heart attack or stroke.
In general, peas consumption has a lot of benefits to overall cardiovascular health. Adding some to your diet not only adds flavor and taste to your dishes, but also benefits your entire body.
Even though peas contain starch in quite significant amounts, it is still well tolerated by the diabetics. This is because, the starch found in peas is slowly transformed into glucose. This slow rate of transformation from starch to glucose makes sugar level in the blood to remain fairly stable, without causing any spike.
Worthy of mention here is the high fiber content of peas, which also helps in regulating blood sugar levels. Fiber does this by trapping glucose molecules and releasing them slowly into the blood stream. Apart from preventing spike in blood sugar levels, many have attributed the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect of peas to be helpful in reversing type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance.
Nervous system disorders
The presence of B group vitamins in pea coupled with other essential minerals ensure the proper functioning of the nervous system. Its consumption might be beneficial in cases of insomnia, depression, debilitated nervous system, irritability, neurasthenia and other nervous system disorders.
Pregnancy and lactation
Writing about the health benefits of peas is never complete without mentioning its effect on pregnant women. The richness of peas in folates makes them recommended for pregnant women. This is because folates or folic acid help prevent fetal nervous system malformations or neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
Neural tube defects usually happen in first month of pregnancy, sometimes even before knowing you are pregnant. This is the reason why it is highly recommended for expectant mothers to have enough folates in their body. And one way to do that, is by adding some green peas to your diet.
Additionally, it is also recommended for lactating mothers due to its richness in proteins, minerals and vitamins, which are all required for the proper well-being of a child.
When you talk about aiding digestion, then fiber should be number one on your list. Fiber helps improve digestion through stimulating the production of digestive juices, and improving peristaltic action, which helps move stool down the colon; an important action that prevents constipation. Peas supply great amounts of dietary fiber, up to 5.1 g per 100 grams.
At 40 mg per 100 grams, the vitamin C content of pea becomes worthy of praise. Even popular vitamin C-rich fruit orange, contains just 53.2 mg per 100 grams. Vitamin C is a great antioxidant which helps boost the body’s immune system through stimulating the production of white blood cells or leukocytes. These white blood cells help protect the body by attacking invading microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and all sort of germs that can harm us.
Eating peas for as little as 100 grams can provide close to 50% of the daily requirement for this vitamin.
Peas contain a significant amount of antioxidant compounds. These antioxidants help prevent the formation of cancer by fighting the activities of free radicals, whose interactions within the body can damage its cells or cause cancerous growth.
There are numerous studies that have evaluated the anti-cancer potential of green peas. In an effort to collate most study results into a single place, a research was published in 2017, titled “Pisum sativum, and its anticancer activity” (1). The research described peas as a great food with anti-bacterial, anti-diabetic, anti-fungal, anti-hypercholesterolemic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer properties. The study attributed its anti-cancer properties to some compounds it contains, such as phenolic compounds, isoflavones, lectins, and saponins.
Peas are a great food that aids skin appearance and its well-being. Of course the type of food you eat determine the health of your skin to some extent. Pea contains some essential vitamins and minerals that are important for the skin. Vitamin C in green peas can help aid the production of collagen in the body. Collagen helps keep our skin firm. Also, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which can fight skin ageing. As a great anti-inflammatory, pea can help prevent the formation of wrinkles, and counter inflammation-activities in the skin.
Other benefits of peas for the skin includes improving skin glow, and in some cases soothing burns and relieving chilblains. However, these uses are herbal home remedies with little to no scientific research to back them up. Nevertheless, scientific explanations of its richness in vitamins and minerals, as well as some phytonutrients might give you some reason to believe this.
Aids weight loss
Peas are very low in fat. They are rich in fiber. They provide just 81 calories per 100 grams. What more do you need? They have almost every characteristic for a perfect weight loss food. Of course when you need to lose weight, you don’t need fat. Its high fiber content makes you feel full easily by eating less amount of food. And its calorie content is just enough to keep you going.
Peas are a good source of nutrients for healthy hair growth. Just like the rest of the body, your hair needs constant supply of nutrients to grow just the way you want. Some B-group vitamins in peas have been associated with the production of erythrocytes, which carry oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles. Also, vitamin C is involved in collagen formation, which is also required by the hair follicles.
Overall, the consumption of green peas can help fight hair loss through the prevention of dry and brittle hair. It also improves hair growth, as it supplies some vitamins which are directly involved in hair formation.