Quite funny to think that I’m writing this article on peas. As a child I used to hate them and have memories of my mother trying to coax me to eat them. I must admit I started eating them in my 30’s and much prefer them raw than cooked !
Most people may think of peas as plate filler, a bit of ‘green’, which accompanies your main meal.
In reality let’s give peas more credit, they are small powerhouses of nutrition that are wonderful for your health. Green peas are one of the most nutritious leguminous vegetables rich in health benefiting phyto-nutrients, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants.
Fresh, tender peas are relatively low in calories in comparison to beans, and cowpeas. Fresh pea pods are an excellent source of folic acid. In addition to folates, peas are also good in many other essential B-complex vitamins and are a rich source of many minerals such as calcium, iron, copper, zinc, and manganese.
Here’s some of the benefits of eating peas:
1. Weight Management:
Peas are very low in fat, making them an excellent crunchy, snack. When snacking, they are best eaten raw. A cup of raw peas has 117 calories but lots of protein, fiber, micronutrients and no cholesterol.
2. Folic Acid
Fresh pea pods are excellent sources of folic acid. Folates are one of the B-complex vitamins required for DNA synthesis inside the cell. Studies suggest that adequate folate rich foods when given to expectant mothers would help prevent neural tube defects in their newborn babies.
3. Vitamin C
Eaten raw, green peas are a great source of Vitamin C, which is an antioxidant ranging in many benefits from the formation and maintenance of collagen, helping wounds to heal, a free radical scavenger, detoxifier and strengthening immune system.
4. Stomach cancer prevention:
Peas contain high amounts of a health-protective polyphenol called coumestrol. A study in Mexico City determined you only need 2 milligrams per day of this phytonutrient to prevent stomach cancer. A cup of peas has at least 10 milligrams.
5. Healthy Eyes and Skin:
Fresh green peas also carry adequate amounts of anti-oxidants flavonoids such as carotenes, lutein and zea-xanthin as well as vitamin-A (provide 765 IU or 25.5% of RDA per 100 g). Vitamin A is an essential nutrient required for maintaining healthy membranes, skin and eye-sight. Additionally, consumption of natural fruits/vegetables rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
6. Blood sugar regulation:
Blood sugar regulation has been an area of special interest with respect to green peas and its fellow legumes. What we now know is that green peas and other pulses can help us lower our fasting blood sugar as well as our fasting insulin levels. Our long-term control of blood sugar (as measured by lab testing of glycosylated hemoblobin and fructosamine) is also improved by intake of green peas. When combined with an overall high-fiber diet, these benefits are increased. They are also increased when green peas are consumed as part of an overall diet that is low in glycemic index. Peas are both high in fibre and protein which both slow down how fast sugars are digested.
7. Heart disease prevention:
The many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds support healthy blood vessels. The formation of plaque along our blood vessel walls starts with chronic, excessive oxidative stress and inflammation. Peas provide us with anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. They are a reliable source of omega-3 in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA.
Peas also contain generous amounts of cardio protective choline, vitamin B1 and folate, B2, B3, and B6 which reduce homocysteine levels which is a risk factor for heart disease. All in all peas get the thumbs up for cardiovascular health.
8. Prevent constipation:
The high fiber content in peas improves bowel health and peristalsis.
9. Healthy bones
Just one cup of peas contains 40% of your daily needs of Vitamin K, which has been found to play an important role in building bone mass, hence helping to prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin K has established a role in the cure of Alzheimer's disease patients by limiting neuronal damage inside the brain.
10. Reduces bad cholesterol:
The niacin (Vitamin B3) in peas helps reduce, the production of triglycerides and VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein, which results in less bad cholesterol, increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and lowered triglycerides. Peas also contain phytosterols, especially ß-sitosterol. Studies suggest that vegetables like legumes, fruits and cereals rich in plant sterols help lower cholesterol levels inside the human body.
11. Healthy for the environment:
“We lived very simply – but with all the essentials of life well understood and provided for hot baths, cold champagne, new peas and old brandy.” ~ Winston Churchill
Researchers from the University of Liverpool and colleagues from Action on Sugar have assessed the sugar content of over 200 fruit drinks marketed at children and have found them to be "unacceptably high."
Almost half the products assessed contained 19g or the equivalent to five teaspoons of sugar which is a child’s entire daily recommended maximum sugar intake. To be honest, even the maximum recommended amount seems to be too much.
The researches assessed the sugar content of 200ml UK branded and supermarket own label beverages labeled as - fruit juice drinks, 100% natural juices, and smoothies marketed specifically to children.
Maximum sugar intake in one drink
'Free' sugars were measured using the labels on the packaging. The sugars taken into account were the likes of glucose, fructose, sucrose, and table sugar, which are added by the manufacturer, and naturally occurring sugars in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates, but not the naturally occurring sugars found in whole fruits and vegetables, which the body metabolises differently and which act to curb energy intake.
The results highlighted wide variations in the amount of free sugars between different types of drink and within the same type of product.
Almost half the products assessed contained at least a child's entire daily recommended maximum sugar intake of 19g or five teaspoons, show the findings.
These come ahead of the publication of the UK government's childhood obesity strategy.
Smoothies are worst offenders…
With an increase in public awareness regarding the detrimental effects of sugar sweetened drinks on children’s teeth and waistlines has encouraged many parents to opt for seemingly healthier fruit juice and smoothie alternatives.
Unfortunately, according to the research, these parents have been mislead !
The content of sugar in fruit drinks, including natural fruit juices and smoothies tested, is unacceptably high. Surprisingly smoothies are amongst the worst offenders.
The product labels contained a reference of the intake which is line with European law, BUT this figure applies to an active average sized grown woman ! So it is absolutely inappropriate for children.
Unnecessary amounts of sugar
As a result of the findings, the researchers make several recommendations:
Professor Capewell from the researcher’s team stated that: "Manufacturers should stop adding unnecessary amounts of sugars, and therefore calories, to their fruit drink/juice/smoothie products. Our kids are being harmed for the sake of industry profits. If companies can't slash sugar voluntarily, the government should step in with statutory regulations."
Barbara is a qualified nutritionist offering Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Counseling. She gives Healthy weight loss advice and promotes the Mediterranean diet. She is the author of the Med Life Diet - creating healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !