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Healthy Nutrition in Peas

Please Pass the Peas

When one thinks about exotic foods having loads of nutritional value, the simple pea doesn’t usually pop into mind – but it should because peas are a nutritional powerhouse.  Due in large measure to the sweet taste and starchy texture, we can surmise that green peas must have some sugar and starch and of course they do.  To offset the starch and natural sugar peas possess a rich and unique assortment of phytonutrients.  I could list some of those phytonutrients for you but let’s just let it suffice to expand on some benefits instead.-has recently come to the forefront of research with respect to stomach cancer protection.

A Mexico City-based study has shown that daily consumption of green peas along with other legumes lowers risk of stomach cancer (gastric cancer), especially when daily coumestrol intake from these legumes is approximately 2 milligrams or higher. Since one cup of green peas contains at least 10 milligrams of coumestrol, it’s not difficult for us to obtain this remarkable health benefit.

  • The unique phytonutrients in green peas also provide us with key antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Included in these phytonutrients are some recently-discovered green pea phytonutrients called saponins. Due to their almost exclusive appearance in peas, these phytonutrients actually contain the scientific word for peas (Pisum) in their names: pisumsaponins I and II, and pisomosides A and B. When coupled with other phytonutrients in green peas—including phenolic acids like ferulic and caffeic acid, and flavanols like catechin and epicatechin—the combined impact on our health may be far-reaching. For example, some researchers have now speculated that the association between green pea and legume intake and lowered risk of type 2 diabetes may be connected not only with the relatively low glycemic index of green peas (about 45-50) and their strong fiber and protein content, but also with this unusual combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.
  • Green peas stand out as an environmentally friendly food. Agricultural research has shown that pea crops can provide the soil with important benefits. First, peas belong to a category of crops called “nitrogen fixing” crops. With the help of bacteria in the soil, peas and other pulse crops are able to take nitrogen gas from the air and convert it into more complex and usable forms. This process increases nitrogen available in the soil without the need for added fertilizer. Peas also have a relatively shallow root system which can help prevent erosion of the soil, and once the peas have been picked, the plant remainders tend to break down relatively easily for soil replenishment. Finally, rotation of peas with other crops has been shown to lower the risk of pest problems. These environmentally friendly aspects of pea production add to their desirability as a regular part of our diet.
  • Even though green peas are an extremely low-fat food (with approximately one-third gram of total fat per cup) the type of fat and fat-soluble nutrients they contain is impressive. Recent research has shown that green peas are a reliable source of omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). In one cup of green peas, you can expect to find about 30 milligrams of ALA. About 130 milligrams of the essential omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid, can also be found in a cup of green peas. This very small but high-quality fat content of green peas helps provide us with important fat-soluble nutrients from this legume, including sizable amounts of beta-carotene and small but valuable amounts of vitamin E.

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