Green Peas: Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts, And Possible Side Effects

by Annie Jangam

Green peas (Pisum sativum) are nutrient-dense, green legume seeds found in hard pods. They have a slightly sweet taste due to their starch content.

They contain high concentrations of starch, dietary fiber, protein, vitamins and phytochemicals that are associated with many health benefits.

Green peas are especially a good option for vegans and vegetarians due to their high protein content. However, they lack a few amino acids that should be complemented with other protein-rich foods.

This article discusses the nutrient content, health benefits, and potential side effects of green peas. Scroll down to know more.

Green Peas Nutrition Facts

  • A serving of peas (100 g) has 79 calories, 13 g of carbohydrates, and 4.5 grams each of protein and fiber. Green peas are a rich source of the B vitamins – they contain 65 µg of folate, 2.090 mg of niacin, and 0.266 mg of thiamin. They also contain vitamin B6 in adequate quantities (1).
  • Peas are an excellent source of vitamin A (765 IU), vitamin C (40 mg), vitamin E (0.13), and vitamin K (24.8 µg) (1).
  • They are rich in minerals, like selenium (1.8 µg) and zinc (1.24 mg), and phytonutrients, like ß-carotene (449 µg) and lutein-zeaxanthin (2477 µg) (1).
  • Flavanols, such as catechin and epicatechin, phenolic acids (caffeic and ferulic acid), and saponins are a few of the phytonutrients present in peas (1).

In the following section, we will explore the major health benefits of green peas.

Health Benefits Of Green Peas

1. May Help Manage Blood Sugar And Diabetes

Green peas contain complex carbohydrates that are good for managing blood sugar levels (2). They have a low glycemic index as they are rich in starch and fiber.

Foods with a low glycemic index help release the sugar into the blood slowly. This helps regulate blood sugar levels. Low GI foods are beneficial in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes (2).

In mice studies, raw pea extracts could inhibit the activity of a particular enzyme (pancreatic amylase) involved in carbohydrate metabolism. This could explain the hypoglycemic effect of pea extracts in mice (3). More studies are needed to understand the anti-diabetic effects of green peas.

2. May Improve Digestion

Peas contain prebiotic sugars and fiber that may be beneficial in the digestive process. The galactose oligosaccharides in peas were found to help with the digestion in the large intestine (5).

Prebiotic sugars become fodder for the probiotic bacteria during digestion. This helps the good bacteria to use these sugars and convert them to products that are beneficial to our body.

The dietary fiber present in peas helps in improving the digestive function (5). Fiber helps in the movement of food through the digestive tract. This is essential for proper digestion and elimination of toxic substances.

Peas also have antimicrobial effects. The phenolic extracts of sprouted peas inhibited the growth of Helicobacter pylori, the ulcer-causing bacteria (6). Including green peas in the diet can improve the overall gastrointestinal function.

3. May Help Protect Against Some Chronic Diseases

Green peas have high a fiber content. Propionate, a product of fiber fermentation, was found to lower blood cholesterol levels in rats (7). Managing cholesterol levels can help prevent cardiovascular diseases.

The excess of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is harmful to the body. It clogs the arteries and may lead to heart disease. In studies on pigs on a high cholesterol diet, peas could reduce plasma levels of total and LDL cholesterol (8). The soluble fiber in green peas may also lower the risk of cardiac disease.

Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress can lead to cancer. The powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of green peas can fight oxidative damage and reduce cancer risk (9). These antioxidants bind to free radicals and reduce their ill effects on the body.

Extracts of peas exhibited anti-inflammatory activity in animal studies (10). Green peas contain certain inhibitors that have shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer (11).

Several other compounds in green peas, such as lectins and saponins, have exhibited anticancer activity (12), (13).

These are the major health benefits of green peas. They are easy to be added to one’s diet. Hence, availing their advantages is not a challenge. However, it is possible that green peas may cause certain side effects.

Side Effects Of Green Peas

Green peas may lead to side effects in certain individuals. Always consult a doctor before making any changes to your diet.

Green peas contain anti-nutrients like phytic acid and lectins that may interfere with nutrient absorption. These anti-nutrients may also cause digestive problems (14), (15).

The phytic acid in peas may hamper the absorption of minerals like iron and zinc (16). This can eventually lead to nutritional deficiencies.

Lectins present in fresh peas can disturb the delicate balance of the immune system and bacterial population in the gut (15).

However, soaking, fermenting or cooking peas can potentially reduce these antinutrients (17). Also, reducing the portion size of peas can help decrease the risk of side effects.

Conclusion

Green peas are cost-effective and rich in nutrients. They can be added to soups, stews, salads, and various other dishes. They are rich in phytonutrients that can help manage blood sugar and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disorders, and diabetes.

However, be wary of their antinutrients. These can be reduced by soaking, fermenting, or cooking them. Prepare them properly and you will be able to enjoy the benefits of the peas to the maximum.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Are peas good for weight loss?

Peas are high in protein and low in fat and may aid weight loss. Their fiber content promotes satiety.

Can green peas make you gain weight?

There is insufficient information available in this regard. Although some argue that the high starch content in peas may lead to weight gain, there is no research to support this statement. Consult your doctor before including green peas in your weight loss/weight gain regime.

How long do green peas take to cook?

It takes 2- 3 minutes to cook green peas. You can add the peas to water and bring them to a boil.

How do you cook green peas fast?

You can use a microwave to cook green peas fast.

Are green peas a complete protein?

Green peas are not a complete protein as they lack a few vital amino acids.

Are green peas good for skin?

Green peas are a good source of vitamin C and antioxidants. These help with collagen production and promote skin health. Vitamin C may also help reduce dark spots on the skin and promote an even complexion, although research is limited in this regard.

How to eat peas?

Peas can be eaten fresh or cooked. They go well with rice dishes, pastas, curries, and patties. Frozen green peas or canned green peas can also be incorporated into recipes instead of fresh green peas. Mashed peas are popular as baby food.

17 sources

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Annie Jangam

Annie Jangam is a Molecular Biologist with 7 years of research experience in Rice Functional Genomics and Nutrient Signalling with International Publications in Abiotic stress, Nitrogen, and G-protein signaling. She specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has been an avid reader since childhood and is passionate about stories that help decipher life and its meaning. She believes in Human Rights for all and that one should "love others like we love ourselves."
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