Monday, October 25, 2010

Vegetable of the Week: Peas

Green peas are actually a member of the legume family. They are a good low calorie source of protein. A 100-calorie serving of peas (about ¾ cup) contains more protein than a whole egg or a tablespoon of peanut butter and has less than one gram of fat and no cholesterol.

Fresh green peas should be refrigerated. Half of their sugar content will turn to starch within six hours if they are kept at room temperature. Low temperatures also preserve their texture and nutrient content. Look for pods that are firm, have glossy pods with a slightly velvety feel, filled to appear almost bursting, and peas should not rattle loosely in the pod. Pods should not be dull, yellowed, or heavily speckled.

It is best to serve all types of fresh peas the day they are purchased. If they must be stored, place them in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Do not wash them before they are stored. Shell green peas right before you cook them.

Rinse peas before shelling them. To shell peas, pinch the stem off with your fingernails and pull the string down the length of the pod. The pod will pop open and the peas can be pushed out of the pod with your thumb. When finished, wash all peas.

Health Benefits of Peas:
- They’re Heart Healthy: Peas are a natural when it comes to heart health. Not only are they fat-free, but a whole cup has four grams of heart-healthy fiber to help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Snap peas are also a good source of folate – a vitamin that’s important for heart health. Diets low in folate raise levels of homocysteine – an amino acid associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
- They’re Good for the Waistline: Peas are so low in calories you can munch on them without a second’s guilt and the fiber makes them quite filling and satisfying. It’s a healthier alternative to non-nutritional, high calorie snacks.
- Better Immune Health: Did you know that a cup of peas has almost as much vitamin C has a medium-sized orange? Vitamin C is important for keeping the immune system primed to fight off infection and plays an important role in wound healing. It also keeps skin and joints in great shape. Peas contain carotenoids such as beta-carotene which may help to protect against certain types of cancer. Vitamin C and the carotenoids found in sugar snap peas are a powerful antioxidant combination.
- Other Health Benefits: Peas are an excellent source of vitamin K to maintain strong bones and ensure that the blood clots properly when the body is injured. It’s also a good source of iron to build healthy, red blood cells.

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