What Are the Benefits of Eating Peas?

pea pod
An opened pod of peas (Image: Mallivan/iStock/Getty Images)

Archeologists and historians believe the garden pea originated in either Egypt or China, and it has been a part of the diet for 5,000 years. A starchy vegetable, peas are a good source of energy, fiber, protein and essential vitamins. Including peas as one of your vegetable choices adds a number of benefits.

High in Fiber

Like most vegetables, eating peas can help you meet your daily fiber needs. A 1/2-cup serving contains 4.4 grams of fiber, more than 1 cup of oatmeal with 4 grams of fiber and a 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli with 2.6 grams of fiber. The fiber in peas can help you better manage your weight by keeping you feeling full longer. Fiber also lowers blood cholesterol levels. Your daily fiber needs vary depending on your age, sex and calorie needs. In general, women need 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day, and men 30 to 38 grams a day.

Heart-Healthy

Eating peas can also keep improve heart health. In addition to the fiber, peas are also high in lutein, with 1,920 IU per 1/2-cup serving. Lutein is a nonprovitamin A carotenoid, like lycopene. It primarily acts as an antioxidant, protecting your cells from oxidation. The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Society reports that people who have higher intakes of lutein have lower rates of atherosclerosis. Both the fiber and lutein in peas improve heart health by lowering cholesterol and preventing the buildup of plaque along your artery walls.

Good for Your Eyes

The lutein and vitamin A in peas also protects your eyes. Lutein, a natural plant pigment, is concentrated in the eye, and its antioxidant activity can protect you from both cataracts and macular degeneration by preventing oxidation. Vitamin A helps keep the surface of your eyes healthy. A 1/2-cup serving of peas contains 1,610 IU of vitamin A, meeting 32 percent of your daily value for vitamin A. Daily recommendations for lutein have not been established.

Good Source of Iron

Peas can also help you meet your iron needs. A 1/2-cup serving contains 1.2 milligrams of iron. Most of the iron you consume can be found in hemoglobin, the protein responsible for carrying oxygen throughout your body. Inadequate intakes of iron decreases oxygen delivery making you feel tired, decreasing your ability to concentrate and increasing your risk of infection. Iron needs vary depending on age and sex. Men and women over the age of 51 need 8 mg of iron a day, and women 19 to 50 need 18 milligrams a day. Women of childbearing age have higher needs than men and older women because of menstruation.

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