The World's Healthiest Foods
Dried peas

When fresh peas are not available or when you want to enjoy a starchier, hardier flavored legume, dried peas are the perfect choice and they are available any time of the year.

Although they belong to the same family as beans and lentils, they are usually distinguished as a separate group because of their common usage. The different types of peas are all spherical, a feature that also sets them apart from beans and lentils. Dried peas are produced by harvesting the peapods only when they are fully mature and then drying them. Once they are dried and the skins removed, they split naturally.

 


Health Benefits

Dried peas, a small but nutritionally mighty member of the legume family, are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Not only can dried peas help lower cholesterol, they are also of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal.

Fiber is far from all dried peas have to offer. Dried peas also provide good to excellent amounts of four important minerals, two B-vitamins, and protein--all with virtually no fat. As if this weren’t enough, dried peas also feature isoflavones (notably daidzein). Isoflavones are phytochemicals that can act like weak estrogens in the body and whose dietary consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of certain health conditions, including breast and prostate cancer.

Dried Peas are Packed with Fiber

Check a chart of the fiber content in foods; you’ll see legumes leading the pack. Dried peas, like other legumes, are rich in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract that binds bile (which contains cholesterol) and carries it out of the body. Research studies have shown that insoluble fiber not only helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. A single cup of cooked dried peas provides 65.1% of the daily value for fiber.

Dried Peas Provide Energy to Burn While Stabilizing Blood Sugar

In addition to its beneficial effects on the digestive system and the heart, soluble fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels. If you have insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes, legumes like dried peas can really help you balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy. Studies of high fiber diets and blood sugar levels have shown the dramatic benefits provided by these high fiber foods. Researchers compared two groups of people with Type II diabetes who were fed different amounts of high fiber foods. One group ate the standard American Diabetic diet, which contains 24 grams of fiber/day, while the other group ate a diet containing 50 grams of fiber/day. Those who ate the diet higher in fiber had lower levels of both plasma glucose (blood sugar) and insulin (the hormone that helps blood sugar get into cells). The high fiber group also reduced their total cholesterol by nearly 7%, their triglyceride levels by 10.2% and their VLDL (Very Low Density Lipoprotein--the most dangerous form of cholesterol) by 12.5%.

Take Dried Peas to Heart

In a study that examined food intake patterns and risk of death from coronary heart disease, researchers followed more than 16,000 middle-aged men in the U.S., Finland, The Netherlands, Italy, former Yugoslavia, Greece and Japan for 25 years. Typical food patterns were: higher consumption of dairy products in Northern Europe; higher consumption of meat in the U.S.; higher consumption of vegetables, legumes, fish, and wine in Southern Europe; and higher consumption of cereals, soy products, and fish in Japan. When researchers analyzed this data in relation to the risk of death from heart disease, they found that legumes were associated with an 82% reduction in risk!

In addition to their stellar fiber content, dried peas also feature other heart healthy nutrients. They are a good source of potassium, which may decrease the growth and development of vessel plaques and is also good for lowering high blood pressure. A cup of cooked peas will supply you with 20.3% of your daily need for potassium.

Sensitive to Sulfites? Dried Peas May Help

Dried peas are an excellent source of the trace mineral, molybdenum, an integral component of the enzyme sulfite oxidase, which is responsible for detoxifying sulfites. Sulfites are a type of preservative commonly added to prepared foods like delicatessen salads and salad bars. Persons who are sensitive to sulfites in these foods may experience rapid heartbeat, headache or disorientation if sulfites are unwittingly consumed. If you have ever reacted to sulfites, it may be because your molybdenum stores are insufficient to detoxify them. A cup of cooked dried peas provides 196.0% of the daily value for molybdenum.

Description

When fresh peas are not available or when you want to enjoy a starchier, hardier flavored legume, dried peas are perfect. They are available either whole or split, the latter being appropriately called “split peas”. While we generally associate dried peas with a deep green color, they are also available in a yellow color, which offers a more delicate flavor and is the type generally preferred in northern European countries. Dried peas are produced by harvesting the peapods only when they are fully mature and then drying them. Peas are known scientifically as Pisum sativum.

History

The modern-day garden pea, from which dried peas are made, is thought to have originated from the field pea that was native to central Asia and Europe. Dried peas have been consumed by man since prehistoric times with fossilized remains being found at archeological sites in Swiss lake villages. Peas are mentioned in the Bible and were prized by the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome.

For millennia, dried peas were the main way that people consumed this legume. It was not until the 16th century when cultivation techniques created more tender varieties of garden peas that people began to consume peas in their fresh state as opposed to just eating dried peas. It seems that the Chinese, a culture that had consumed this legume as far back as 2,000 BC, were the first ones to consume both the seeds and the pods as a vegetable. Peas were introduced into United States soon after the colonists first settled in this country.

In the 19th century during the early developments of the study of genetics, peas played an important role. The monk and botanist, Gregor Mendel used peas in his plant breeding experiments.

Today the largest commercial producers of dried peas are Russia, France, China and Denmark.

How to Select and Store

Dried peas are generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins. They are available as whole peas or split peas. Regardless of packaging, check the peas as best as possible to ensure that they are not cracked and that they are free of debris. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the dried peas are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure its maximal freshness.

Dried peas will keep for several months if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place. If you need to store them for longer, you can keep them in the refrigerator.

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Tips for Preparing Dried Peas:

Before preparing dried peas, whether whole or split, inspect and remove any debris or dirt. Whole peas need to be soaked in cold water for at least eight hours before cooking, while split peas do not need this extra preparation. To prepare peas, place the legumes in a saucepan using four to five cups of fresh water for each cup of peas. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover. They generally take about an hour to become tender.

Since the process of cooking dried peas produces a lot of foam, especially the split pea variety, it is a good idea to cook them in a pressure cooker. If you do not have a pressure cooker, you can eliminate much of the foam by pre-soaking the split peas for several hours, then draining and rinsing them thoroughly under running water. Some foam will still form during the first fifteen minutes or so when the split peas are cooking, which you can simply skim off.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Use split peas to make dahl, the classic Indian dish.

Split pea soup, whether homemade or from a container, is a delicious way to enjoy this nutritious legume.

Purée cooked peas with your favorite herbs and spices and serve as a side dish.

Add whole peas to vegetable soups.

Safety

Dried peas contain naturally-occurring substances called purines. Purines are commonly found in plants, animals, and humans. In some individuals who are susceptible to purine-related problems, excessive intake of these substances can cause health problems. Since purines can be broken down to form uric acid, excess accumulation of purines in the body can lead to excess accumulation of uric acid. The health condition called “gout” and the formation of kidney stones from uric acid are two examples of uric acid-related problems that can be related to excessive intake of purine-containing foods. For this reason, individuals with kidney problems or gout may want to limit or avoid intake of purine-containing foods such as dried peas.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. For more detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System, please click here.

 

Split Peas, Boiled
1.00 cup
231.28 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
molybdenum 147.00 mcg 196.0 15.3 excellent
dietary fiber 16.27 g 65.1 5.1 very good
tryptophan 0.18 g 56.3 4.4 very good
manganese 0.78 mg 39.0 3.0 good
protein 16.35 g 32.7 2.5 good
folate 127.20 mcg 31.8 2.5 good
vitamin B1 (thiamin) 0.37 mg 24.7 1.9 good
potassium 709.52 mg 20.3 1.6 good
phosphorus 194.04 mg 19.4 1.5 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

References

  • Ensminger AH, Ensminger, ME, Kondale JE, Robson JRK. Foods & Nutriton Encyclopedia. Pegus Press, Clovis, California.
  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York.
  • Touyz RM. Role of magnesium in the pathogenesis of hypertension. Mol Aspects Med 2003 Feb 6;24(1-3):107-36.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

This page was updated on: 2004-11-19 17:49:57
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation