Peas Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Peas, annotated
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Green peas are almost as American as apple pie. Green garden peas (or English peas) are not to be confused with sugar snap peas, which are eaten as whole peapods.

If you've been wondering whether frozen, fresh, or even canned peas are good for you, you'll be happy to learn of their many nutritional benefits. Beyond peas and carrots or pea soup, peas can be integrated into a variety of healthy and creative dishes.

Pea Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1/2 cup (85g) of frozen peas cooked without added salt or fat.

  • Calories: 70
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 60mg
  • Carbohydrates: 12g
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Sugars: 4g
  • Protein: 4g

Carbs

One serving of peas has 12 grams of carbohydrates with 5 grams coming from fiber and 4 grams from natural sugars.

The glycemic index of green peas is 51. Per 80-gram serving, the glycemic load is 4.

Fats

Peas are essentially fat-free unless prepared with added fats.

Protein

Peas provide about 4 grams of protein per serving. Compared to most other vegetables, peas are relatively high in protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

Peas have potassium, iron, magnesium, manganese, folate, and B-vitamins. Although peas are very nutritious, some of their vitamin and mineral content is poorly absorbed due to their natural phytate content. Nonetheless, there are several benefits to gain from consuming peas.

Health Benefits

The health benefits of peas are largely attributed to their natural antioxidant content, bioactive proteins, and oligosaccharides. Here are some reasons to put peas on your grocery list.

Support Heart Health

Peas are naturally high in potassium, folate, and fiber, all of which provide well-established cardiovascular benefits. A study on women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), showed a pulse-based diet to be more effective than the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet in improving heart-health markers. The high-quality protein, low sodium levels, and vitamins in minerals in peas, contribute to heart-healthy eating.

Prevent Cancer

The phenolic content of peas exhibits antioxidant activity, while pea proteins and peptides show anticancer effects. Several types of cancer are believed to be prevented by plant-based eating, and peas are a great source of protein for vegetarian meals. Substituting peas for a portion of your processed snackfood or meat intake may provide protection from cancer development.

Promote a Healthy Gut

Pea proteins have been shown to increase the population of healthy gut bacteria, specifically Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. Additionally, the oligosaccharides in peas are also attributed to the proliferation of beneficial gut microbes. A healthy gut is responsible for a range of health effects, such as a strong immune system and a functional digestive tract. Eating peas helps you cultivate a microbiome that will work for you.

Reduce Risk of Diabetes

Chronically high blood sugar levels are typically caused by an insensitivity to the hormone, insulin. If left untreated, poor insulin sensitivity leads to type 2 diabetes. A pulse-based diet (versus a traditional hospital diet) was shown to be effective in the prevention of insulin resistance during the 4-days of bed rest. Although short-term, this study supports other research that suggests peas and beans are beneficial for diabetes prevention and management.

Aids Weight Management

The fiber and protein in peas makes them a filling and nutritious food choice. Green peas and other legumes are recommended by the CDC for weight control because of their low-calorie density. Peas can help you feel satisfied despite eating less overall, making it easier to follow a meal plan for weight loss.

Allergies

Pea allergies are well documented. Also, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, if you are allergic to peanuts you might also experience a reaction to peas. Furthermore, if you are allergic to peanuts or peas, you should also avoid split peas.

If you suspect a pea or peanut allergy, speak to a qualified health care provider for a full evaluation.

Adverse Effects

If you aren't used to eating a lot of fiber, you should increase your intake of peas and other legumes gradually to avoid digestive discomfort. Green peas are considered a moderate FODMAP food, meaning they may cause some digestive trouble for people with irritable bowel syndrome. Speak to a dietitian for individualized digestive health advice.

Varieties

Peas are generally characterized into two varieties, garden peas, also known as English peas, and sugar peas, including snap peas and snow peas. Garden peas either have smooth or wrinkled seeds, with wrinkled seed varieties being sweeter and lower in starch.

Frozen peas and canned peas are also available for purchase. Be sure to rinse canned peas before use to eliminate some of the sodium. If possible, purchase frozen peas over canned as they contain no sodium and taste fresher.

Wasabi peas are roasted and flavored with horseradish and other spices. They contain around 130 calories per ounce (or 30-gram serving or 1/2 cup serving). Although wasabi peas retain many of the health benefits of fresh or frozen peas, they have more calories due to added starch (carbohydrates) and oil used for roasting.

Split peas can be green or yellow. Green split peas are shelled peas that have been processed. To make a split pea, the green pea is split and dried. These types of green peas are grown specifically for drying. Split peas have a fasting cooking time and do not need to be pre-soaked.

You can also find various pea products, like pea protein powder. This can be a good option for vegetarians looking to increase their protein intake.

When It's Best

If you find fresh shelling peas available for purchase, definitely give them a try. Peak season is April and May, but canned and frozen peas are available all year long. Choose small, fresh pea pods that are evenly green. They should be plump and moist and not appear yellow.

Cook and serve them as soon as you can—the fresher they are, the better they will taste. If you can't use them right away, store them in their pods in the refrigerator. Wait to shell them until you cook them.

Storage and Food Safety

Keep fresh, unwashed peas in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator for 2–3 days. The sooner you eat them, the sweeter they will taste, since sugar quickly converts to starch once peas are picked. Wash peas under running water before shelling.

You can also freeze fresh peas by blanching them in boiling water for 2 minutes, transferring to an ice bath, draining, and placing in freezer bags. Fresh peas will keep for up to 1 year in the freezer.

Frozen and canned peas stay fresh until their best-by date. Frozen and canned peas do not need to be cooked. Simply add to dishes while cooking, warm up them up, and enjoy.

How to Prepare

Fresh peas are best when steamed until tender. Be careful not to overcook them as they will turn mushy.

Peas can also be pureed to make dips or used in soups and stews. They make a great addition to whole grain side dishes, offering an added nutritional boost.

Get creative with your peas and puree them to top your toast, or simply toss them in at the last minute to compliment your meal.

Recipes

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Article Sources
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Additional Reading