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Green peas

Nature packages green peas in several different forms all of which have a vibrantly delicious flavor, wonderful texture and a wealth of health promoting nutrients. Garden peas are generally available from spring through the beginning of winter.

Legumes are plants that bear fruit in the form of pods enclosing the fleshy seeds we know as beans. Peas are one of the few members of the legume family that are sold and cooked as fresh vegetables. However, only about 5% of the peas grown are sold fresh; the rest are either frozen or canned. Frozen peas are preferable to canned peas as they retain their flavor and have lower sodium content.

 


Health Benefits

Green peas are bursting with nutrients. They provide good to very good amounts of 8 vitamins, 7 minerals, dietary fiber and protein. Green peas' supercharged nutritional profile can supercharge your health.

Helping You Bone Up

Green peas provide nutrients that are important for maintaining bone health. They are a very good source of vitamin K1, which activates osteocalcin, the major non-collagen protein in bone. Osteocalcin anchors calcium molecules inside of the bone. Therefore, without enough vitamin K1, osteocalcin levels are inadequate and bone mineralization is impaired.

Green peas also serve as a very good source of folic acid and a good source of vitamin B6. These two nutrients help to reduce the buildup of a metabolic byproduct called homocysteine, a dangerous molecule can obstruct collagen cross-linking, resulting in poor bone matrix and osteoporosis. One study showed that postmenopausal women who were not considered deficient in folic acid lowered their homocysteine levels simply by supplementing with folic acid by itself.

Help Your Heart by Passing the Peas, Please

In addition to affecting bone health, homocysteine contributes to atherosclerosis through its ability to damage the blood vessels, keeping them in a constant state of injury. Therefore the folic acid and vitamin B6 in green peas are supportive of cardiovascular health as well. In fact, folic acid is so important for cardiovascular function that a major 1995 study concluded that 400 micrograms per day of folic acid could prevent 28,000 cardiovascular deaths per year in the United States.

The contributions of green peas to heart health do not stop there. The vitamin K featured in green peas is instrumental to the body’s healthy blood clotting ability.

Contributions to Energy and Overall Wellness

Green peas are one of the important foods to include in your diet if you oftentimes feel fatigued and sluggish. That is because they provide nutrients that help support the energy-producing cells and systems of the body.

Green peas a very good source of thiamin-vitamin B1 and a good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin-vitamin B2 and niacin-vitamin B3, all of which are nutrients that are necessary for carbohydrate, protein and lipid metabolism. Green peas are also a good source of iron, a mineral necessary for normal blood cell formation and function, whose deficiency results in anemia, fatigue, decreased immune function, and learning problems. In addition, green peas are a very good source of vitamin C, which protects many energy-producing cells and systems in the body from free radical damage. Body tissues with particularly high vitamin C requirements include the adrenal glands, ocular lens, liver, immune system, connective tissues, and fats circulating in the blood.

Peas Help Prevent Cancer

Green peas provide nutrients, including vitamin C, which are instrumental in helping to prevent the development of cancer. A high intake of vitamin C has been shown to reduce the risks for virtually all forms of cancer, including leukemia, lymphoma, and lung, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers as well as sex hormone-related cancers like breast, prostate, cervix, and ovarian cancers. Vitamin C is your body’s first and most effective line of antioxidant protection. Vitamin C protects cell structures like DNA from damage; it helps the body deal with environmental pollution and toxic chemicals; it enhances immune function, and it inhibits the formation of cancer-causing compounds in the body (such as the nitrosamines, chemicals produced when the body digests processed meats containing nitrates).

Description

When most people think of peas, they remember them as the food that they loved to hate when they were children, yet one that was extremely fun to play with on their plates. Yet, many of these same people, since they have become adults, have a renewed appreciation for this vibrant and delicious legume due to its wonderful taste and texture. There are generally three types of peas that are commonly eaten: garden or green peas, snow peas and snap peas.

Garden peas have rounded pods that are usually slightly curved in shape with a smooth texture and vibrant green color. Inside of them are green rounded pea seeds that are sweet and starchy in taste. Snow peas are flatter than garden peas, and since they are not fully opaque, you can usually see the shadows of the flat peas seeds within. Snap peas, a cross between the garden and snow pea, have plump pods with a crisp, snappy texture. The pods of both snow peas and snap peas are edible, and both feature a slightly sweeter and cooler taste than the garden pea. Garden peas are scientifically known as Pisum sativum.

History

The modern-day garden pea is thought to have originated from the field pea that was native to central Asia and Europe and has been consumed by man for thousands and thousands of years. In fact, peas are mentioned in the Bible and were prized by the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome.

Yet, it was not until the 16th century, when cultivation techniques created more tender varieties, that people began to consume peas in their fresh state as opposed to just eating dried peas. It seems that the Chinese, a culture which 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.

The French king Louis XIV popularized peas in the 17th century by making them an item of high regard on the menus of parties held at his palace. Snow peas are suggested to have been developed in Holland around this same time. 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.

It was only recently, in the 1970s, that sugar snap peas were developed, the result of a cross between garden peas and snow peas. Today, the largest commercial producers of fresh peas are the United States, Great Britain, China, Hungary and India.

How to Select and Store

When purchasing garden peas, look for ones whose pods are firm, velvety and smooth. Their color should be a lively medium green. Those whose green color is especially light or dark, or those that are yellow, whitish or are speckled with gray, should be avoided. Additionally, do not choose pods that are puffy, water soaked or have mildew residue. The pods should contain peas of sufficient number and size that there is not much empty room in the pod. You can tell this by gently shaking the pod and noticing whether there is a slight rattling sound. All varieties of fresh peas should be displayed in a refrigerated case since heat will hasten the conversion of their sugar content into starch.

Unlike the rounded pods of garden peas, the pods of snow peas are flat. You should be able to see the shape of the peas through the non-opaque shiny pod. Choose smaller ones as they tend to be sweeter.

To test the quality of snap peas, snap one open and see whether it is crisp. They should be bright green in color, firm and plump.

Garden peas are generally available from spring through the beginning of winter. Snow peas can usually be found throughout the year in Asian markets and from spring through the beginning of winter in supermarkets. Snap peas are more limited in their availability. They are generally available from late spring through early summer.

If you will not be using fresh peas on the day of purchase, which is the best way to enjoy them, you should refrigerate them as quickly as possible in order to preserve their sugar content, preventing it from turning into starch. Unwashed, unshelled peas stored in the refrigerator in a perforated bag or unsealed container will keep for several days. Fresh peas can also be blanched for one or two minutes and then frozen.

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Tips for Preparing Green Peas:

Before you remove the peas from the pod, rinse them briefly under running water. To easily shell them, snap off the top and bottom of the pod and then gently pull off the “thread” that lines the seam of most peapods. For those that do not have “threads,” carefully cut through the seam, making sure not to cut into the peas. Gently open the pods to remove the seeds, which do not need to be washed since they have been encased in the pod.

The classic way of cooking garden peas is to line a saucepan with several leaves of washed, Boston or Bibb lettuce and then place the peas on the lettuce. You can then add fresh herbs and spices if you desire. Cover the peas with more lettuce leaves, add one or two tablespoons of water, and cover the pan. Cook the peas for about 15 to 20 minutes, after which they should be tender and flavorful.

Snow peas and snap peas can be eaten raw, although the cooking process will cause them to become sweeter. Either way, they should be rinsed beforehand. One of the best ways to cook these types of peas is to lightly steam them.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Add some fresh peas to green salads.

Healthy sauté snap peas with shiitake mushrooms.

Mix green peas with chicken, diced onions and almonds to make a delicious and colorful chicken salad.

Mix snow peas in with your favorite vegetable healthy stir-fries.

Fresh pea pods are a great food to pack in a lunch box.

Safety

Green peas are not a commonly allergenic food, are not included in the list of 20 foods that most frequently contain pesticide residues, and are also not known to contain goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.

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 amount represents; the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Not all of our Daily Value standards are obtained from the FDA. In most instances, we used FDA Daily Values when available because they are widely recognized and apply to both men and women. However, when unavailable, we've used other science-based research to establish nutritional standards. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. Read more about our Food and Recipe Rating System.

 

Green Peas-Boiled
1.00 cup
134.40 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin K 36.80 mcg 46.0 6.2 very good
manganese 0.84 mg 42.0 5.6 very good
vitamin C 22.72 mg 37.9 5.1 very good
dietary fiber 8.80 g 35.2 4.7 very good
vitamin B1 (thiamin) 0.41 mg 27.3 3.7 very good
folate 101.28 mcg 25.3 3.4 very good
vitamin A 955.20 IU 19.1 2.6 good
tryptophan 0.06 g 18.8 2.5 good
phosphorus 187.20 mg 18.7 2.5 good
vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) 0.35 mg 17.5 2.3 good
protein 8.58 g 17.2 2.3 good
vitamin B3 (niacin) 3.23 mg 16.1 2.2 good
magnesium 62.40 mg 15.6 2.1 good
vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 0.24 mg 14.1 1.9 good
copper 0.28 mg 14.0 1.9 good
iron 2.46 mg 13.7 1.8 good
zinc 1.90 mg 12.7 1.7 good
potassium 433.60 mg 12.4 1.7 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%

In Depth Nutritional Profile for Green peas

References

  • Bazzano LA, He J, Odgen LG et al. Dietary intake of folate and risk of stroke in US men and women:NHANES I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study. Stroke 2002 May;33(5):1183-9.
  • 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.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

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