The Tiny Food With Big Bone-Building Benefits
Here in the U.S., “eat your peas” is an expression that’s often used by politicians or educators when they want us to do some unappetizing but necessary task. And every time I hear “eat your peas” used in this manner, I’m astonished that such a delicious legume is used to symbolize everything unpleasant but “good for you.” With their clean fresh sweetness, green peas are one of my favorite veggies, and after reading this and trying my recipe, it may become one of your favorites too!
So here’s my plea to all who would malign the humble green pea – please stop and take another look at the wonders of this amazing little morsel. Peas are indeed “good for you,” but they’re far from unappetizing.
Full of Foundation Supplements
How do peas stack up in the bone health department? They are alkalizing and contain a healthy helping of the following vitamins and minerals, all of which are Foundation Supplements listed in the Save Our Bones Program:
Vitamin K. Just one cup of peas gives you 36 mcg of vitamin K1 and thus, a good chunk of the Recommended Daily Allowance. You can read more about this powerhouse nutrient in ‘Vitamin K: Your Osteoporosis Knight in Shining Armor’.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that’s crucial for the production of collagen, and one cup of peas provides almost 20 mg.
B Complex. The B vitamin family has a broad scope of action involving energy, mental functions, and proper nerve functioning, and studies have shown that Vitamins B6, B12, and folate (the naturally occurring form of synthetic folic acid or B9) are involved in the chemical reactions that convert homocysteine into other amino acids. A single cup of peas gives you 22% of your folate requirement, 15% of your B6 requirement. It also provides 24% of your daily B1 requirement, 12% for B2, and 14% for B3.
Manganese is an important trace mineral necessary for the synthesis of connective tissue in cartilage and bone. One cup of peas provides 36% of your daily requirement.
Magnesium is a crucial mineral involved in over 300 essential body reactions, including protein synthesis, and it’s closely linked to calcium absorption and bone health. One cup of peas provides almost 54 mg of this often forgotten but very important mineral.
Copper and Zinc. Because it is active in an enzyme that produces connective tissue proteins, collagen and elastin, copper plays an important role in the development and maintenance of blood vessels, skin, bone, and joints. Along with zinc, copper is part of an antioxidant known as superoxide dismutase, preventing free radical damage to cells. One cup of peas gives you 12% of your copper requirement and 11% for zinc.
Fat-free Source of Omega-3s
In the Save Our Bones Program, I talk about the importance of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to support bone and joint health, benefit the eyes and skin, maintain fluidity of cell membranes, improve the body’s ability to respond to insulin, reduce triglycerides and increase blood flow.
Most foods that contain omega-3s are high fat foods such as fish oil and flax seeds. It’s “good fat” to be sure, but isn’t it nice to know that green peas, which are almost entirely fat-free, are a good source of omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) One cup of green peas contains approximately 30 milligrams of ALA.
Phytonutrients are potent antioxidant compounds in plants that promote health. In the Save Our Bones Program I discuss a few that have been scientifically shown to help increase bone density. Peas contain several beneficial phytonutrients:
Coumestral, a polyphenol that has been studied for its reputed ability to protect the stomach lining from damage. One cup of peas contains more than 10 mg of coumestral, well over the amount needed to provide this protective benefit.
Saponins, a class of compounds which, in combination with other phytonutrients in peas, are associated with a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Phenolic acids, including caffeic and ferulic acids, both of which are effective free-radical scavengers.
Carotenoids, the two vitamin A precursors alpha- and beta-carotene.
Buying and Serving Peas
If you can find fresh green peas (sometimes called English peas), that’s great! But they’re hard to find and not available in many locations, so your best bet is frozen peas, and if possible organic. Don’t worry about nutrient loss – peas are frozen very shortly after they’re picked. For the sweetest peas, look for “petite” or “petits pois,” which are the youngest, most tender peas.
Preparation couldn’t be simpler – just heat and serve. I love to toss peas in salads and stir-fried dishes. I also add them to soups, or just serve them as a side dish with a sprig of fresh mint.
Don’t confuse garden or green peas with sugar/snap peas or snow peas (flatter peas with edible pods), both of which are delicious in their own way but are not as nutrient rich as the humble green pea.
So, “eat your peas”… and enjoy them! And here’s one of my favorite ways to enjoy peas:
The A-Pea-Ling Salad
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
6 ounces of sliced water chestnuts
1 cucumber, chopped
½ cup plain, unsweetened yogurt
2 tsp. dry mustard
¾ tsp. dill (fresh or dried)
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. sea salt
Combine peas, water chestnuts, and cucumber in a bowl.
Mix the yogurt, mustard, dill, salt, and pepper in a bowl or jar.
Add the yogurt dressing to the pea salad mixture and toss.
Chill and enjoy!