Green peas are a fat-free, low-calorie source of carbohydrates, fibre and vitamin C. One half-cup (125 ml) of cooked peas contains 6 grams of carbohydrates, 2.4 grams of fibre, and 40 milligrams of vitamin C (half a day's worth of vitamin C!) - all for just 36 calories.
Eating high-fibre legumes - like peas - can help maintain a healthy body weight and decrease the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. When it comes to fibre, green peas are a good source of soluble fibre, the type that keeps you feeling full longer after eating and helps lower "bad" LDL cholesterol.
Green peas also contain folate, a B vitamin that helps make and repair DNA in our cells.
Canada's Food Guide recommends that adults eat 7 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits combined every day. Here's the nutrition information for one Food Guide serving (125 ml or ½ cup) of green peas:
|Vitamin C||40 milligrams|
(Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007b)
Green peas, botanically known as Pisum sativum, have three main varieties: the garden pea, the snow pea and the snap pea.
Garden peas have round pods that are slightly curved with a smooth texture and vibrant green color. Inside, the round green pea seeds are starchy and sweet to taste.
Snow peas are flatter than garden peas and, since they're not fully opaque, you can see the shadows of the flat pea seeds inside.
Snap peas are a cross between the garden pea and snow pea. They have plump pods with a crisp, crunchy texture. The pods of snow peas and snap peas are edible and both are slightly sweeter than garden pea pods.
In Canada, garden peas and snow peas are available from spring through to the beginning of winter. Snap peas are more limited in their availability; they're available late spring through early summer.
Peas are sold as fresh, frozen or canned. When buying fresh unshelled peas, look for pods that are firm and smooth with a bright green color.
The pods should be sufficiently filled with pea seeds, leaving very little empty space. By gently shaking the pod, you can tell if there are enough seeds in it.
If you can't buy fresh peas, choose frozen peas or no salt added canned peas.
Place fresh peas in a sealed bag or container and refrigerate to preserve taste and texture. Refrigeration will keep the natural sugars in the peas from turning to starch. Peas can be stored in this way for several days.
Frozen peas can be stored in a sealed bag the freezer for nine months to one year.
Rinse fresh peas under running water before preparing them. To remove garden pea seeds from their pod, snap off the top and bottom, then gently pull off the "thread" that runs along the seam of the pod. If the pod doesn't have a visible "thread", slit open the pod with a small paring knife, taking care not to cut the pea seeds.
All peas can be steamed using a small amount of water. To steam, place the shelled garden peas, whole snow peas, or snap peas in a vegetable steamer and add one to two tablespoons (15 to 30 ml) of water. Cover and let boil for 4 to 5 minutes, or until tender.
Snow peas and snap peas can be eaten raw after they're washed, however, sautéing will make them sweeter. To sauté, heat a teaspoon (5 ml) of oil in a pan and toss one half-cup (125 ml) of snow peas or snap peas for 3 to 5 minutes.
Peas are versatile legumes and can be added to casseroles, soups, stir-fries and pasta dishes.
Healthy Ways to Enjoy
- Add variety to scrambled eggs by adding one quarter-cup (50 ml) of fresh shelled garden peas.
- Try nut-free golden pea butter (found in major grocery stores) as a spread on toast instead of peanut butter.
- Toss fresh chopped snow peas into a leafy green salad.
- Sauté snap peas and sliced red bell peppers for a side dish hign in vitamin C.
- Mix one half-cup (125 ml) of fresh garden peas with chicken, diced onions and almonds for a delicious, high fibre chicken salad.
- Add snow peas to vegetable stir-fries.
- Stir frozen peas into a whole-wheat macaroni and cheese dish.
- Boil one cup (250 ml) of frozen peas with one green onion in two cups (500 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth; season with tarragon or mint and blend until smooth for a quick green pea soup.
- Stir frozen peas into steamed wild rice for a colorful side dish.
- Steam shelled garden peas and diced carrots. Toss with a teaspoon (5 ml) of olive oil chopped fresh dill or mint.
- Stir-fry shrimp with snow peas or snap peas and a teaspoon (5 ml) of chopped grated ginger. Serve with brown rice.
- Add frozen peas to your favourite tuna casserole recipe.
Snacks and Desserts
- Munch on a handful of sweet snap peas for an afternoon snack.
- Enjoy a cup of green pea soup to fill the gap between lunch and dinner.
- Snack on wasabi peas, dried peas coated with the spicy green Japanese condiment.
- Make minty green pea ice cream for a refreshing, naturally sweet dessert.
World's Healthiest Foods - Green Peas
Did you know?
- Pioneers used to cook a large pot of boiled peas - and whatever else was available - over an open fire, re-warming and serving it for days on end. Hence, the old nurseries rhyme "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in pot nine days old!"
- Some forms of etiquette require that shelled green peas be eaten only with a fork, not pushed onto the fork with a knife.