Wednesday, April 13, 2011

FUEL Better: Yellow Peas

Yellow Peas belong to the same family as lentils and beans.  Dried peas date back some 10,000 years.  Peas originated from the Middle East and spread through the Mediterranean region on into India and China.  Split Peas are the most common form and were domesticated before 6000 B.C. Peas became important to civilization. They are easy to grow and harvest.  Dried peas are convenient for storage. Not to mention peas are a rich source of macro and micronutrients. Greek and Romans relied heavily on dried peas. Europeans used peas to ward off a famine in 1555.
Yellow Peas are unique in the way they are prepared and shaped. Once yellow peas are harvested and dried their skins are removed allowing them to split on their own.  Legumes in general are known for packing a multi-faceted nutrition punch and yellow peas are no different.  
A ½ cup serving of cooked yellow peas provides a variety of macro and micronutrients and is rich in dietary fiber.  Researchers from the University of Manitoba show that adding just 1.8 oz. of yellow pea flour to a diet can reduce insulin levels, insulin resistance, and dangerous abdominal fat.
A ½ cup cooked serving yields:  144 calories, 10 g protein, less than 1 g fat, 26 g carbohydrates, 10 g dietary fiber, 2 mg sodium and 0 mg cholesterol.
Macronutrients
Yellow peas are rich in two (2) macronutrients; protein and carbohydrates, both yield energy.  They are rich in the amino acid tryptophan and ½ cup serving meets 25% of your daily requirement. Tryptophan is needed to manufacture the brain chemical serotonin, which regulates mood, appetite, hunger and sleep. Certain proteins found in the yellow garden pea appear to help lower blood pressure and delay, control or even prevent the onset of chronic kidney disease, at least in rats, a Canadian study has found.
However, yellow peas are not considered complete proteins because they do not contain all of the essential amino acids.  Pair ¼ - ½ cup yellow peas with ¼ -½ cup brown rice to make a complete protein.
Vitamins
Yellow peas are also rich in vitamin B1 or thiamin and folate.  
Thiamin is needed for proper nervous system function and energy metabolism. Thiamin helps convert food into energy.  A serving yields 12% of the daily requirement.
Folate contributes to heart health, enhancing immune system function, prevents birth defects and forms red blood cells. A serving yields 16% of the daily requirement.
Minerals
Yellow peas are also mineral dense offering phosphorus and potassium. Phosphorus when consumed with adequate calcium aids in the development of strong, healthy bones. Potassium regulates the heartbeat and blood pressure.  Yellow peas are high in the trace minerals molybdenum and manganese, which are involved in metabolic reactions in the body.
Fiber Benefits
A serving of cooked yellow peas offers 10 grams of total fiber; 7 g insoluble fiber and 3 g soluble fiber.  Insoluble fiber promotes healthy digestion, softens stool and encourages regular bowel movements, while soluble fiber offers other benefits. According to Colorado State University Extension, soluble fiber aids in weight management by enhancing the feeling of "fullness," helps decrease blood cholesterol levels and stabilizes blood sugar levels.
Suggested Use:
Peas often break down while cooking and therefore they make an excellent choice for thick and hearty soups. Peas can also be used to make a mock cream soup for people avoiding dairy products.
Split Peas are most commonly used in thick soups and stews. The peas break apart when cooking, adding to the texture of the soup. Split Peas can also be used to make dips and spread or they can be included with other ingredients in baked casserole or stuffing's.

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