What is small, tastes sweet and provides us with plenty of antioxidants?
Since as early as 8,000 B.C. The small legumes were cultivated in the Near East and Central Asia. 3,000 years later, the peas also find their way to us in Germany – luckily for us.
Because they not only contain many healthy vitamins, but can also optimize our protein supply. And if that's not enough, they are also easy to prepare and can be stored for a long time.
Somebody say “the bigger, the better”, right?
What are peas anyway?
"Now they saw that it was a real princess because she had felt the pea through the 20 mattresses and through the 20 egg-down beds."
The pea not only plays a role as a protagonist in Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales - but also in vegan nutrition. Botanically, peas also belong to the legumes. So they score with numerous healthy dietary fibers, fill you up for a long time and are one of THE protein sources for vegans.
The difference to lentils, chickpeas and Co.: Peas are harvested unripe, according to the German Society for Nutrition (DGE) are not quite as rich in protein as dried legumes and are also usually used like vegetables.
You can find out here which legumes there are, what they can do and why we are huge legume fans .
Peas are annual legumes that consist of leaves, a few flowers and the actual legumes: each pod contains around four to ten seeds. It is these seeds that are mostly sold to us as “peas” in the supermarket.
There are 250 (!) pea varieties worldwide, which can be divided into 4 groups:
- Field peas: can only be used as grain feed or fertilizer
- Wild Peas: They can only be eaten fresh and not dried. That is why this group is usually found in the freezer.
- Sugar peas: Unlike other peas, you can eat the pod with them! This way, you'll get even more fiber and antioxidants than if you eat them without the pods.
- Shell peas: They are mainly sold as dried peas. These contain more phytochemicals than fresh peas.
By the way: peas are the basis of what is probably the oldest German ready meal. The pea sausage originally consisted of pea flour, beef fat, salt, onions and spices. It was developed in 1867 by a Berlin canning manufacturer and finally sold to the Prussian army: enriched with cold water, a protein-rich and filling pea soup could be made. In addition, the pea sausage was cheap and had an extremely long shelf life - which made it a practical meal for the soldiers during the Franco-Prussian War from 1870 onwards. So you knew beforehand what the little power balls are capable of...
What can the pea do?
Even if the fairytale world may lead us to believe otherwise: no, peas are not there to sleep on. ;)
Rather, they have some advantages that you can also take advantage of: They are very suitable as part of a diet because they consist of 70% water and 100 g have only 70 calories. They are also very useful for low carb diets with only 11 g of carbohydrates per 100 g.
The rest of the nutritional values are just as impressive: As is usual for legumes, peas have a lot of dietary fiber. These indigestible and long-chain carbohydrates improve digestion and also ensure a long-lasting feeling of satiety. By the way: Regular consumption of legumes can prevent some gastrointestinal diseases. The numerous dietary fibers prevent the multiplication of unhealthy bacteria in the intestine and at the same time promote the good bacteria.
Although peas can't match the protein leader among legumes (cooked soybeans: 15 g / 100 g), they still don't have to hide their protein content: 6 g protein per 100 g. If that's not an argument for using peas as a side dish at your next post-workout meal, is it?
And the peas don't just have proteins to offer - the large amount of vitamins also makes them real power balls! Peas contain about 0.063 mg of the antioxidant vitamin E (per 100 g). This combats harmful free radicals that are caused by UV radiation or harmful environmental influences and can have a cell-damaging effect.
Just as useful: the 0.63 mg of beta-carotene per 100 g contained in the power balls. This is a precursor of vitamin A, which ultimately also acts as an antioxidant in the body and captures free radicals. Depending on the amount consumed, beta-carotene can also double or even triple our iron absorption (vegan cliché goodbye, p. 164), supports cell structure and is important for our eyesight.
Probably the most interesting property of the pea: unlike other legumes, it does not contain any toxic lectins that first have to be destroyed by cooking.
Lectins are proteins that protect plants from predators, but can be dangerous if we don't prepare dried legumes correctly. So if we choose the pea, we can prevent risks such as stomach inflammation or hyperinsulinemia that can accompany lectin consumption - and without having to prepare them laboriously!
And while we're at it...
How to prepare peas
As already mentioned: Preparing peas is not really difficult. I'm sure we've all taken the bag of peas out of the freezer, put some peas in the stir-fry, waited a bit and voilà - they came out warm and edible.
This is exactly how you handle fresh peas: If you buy them without pods, you can simply cook them in a pot of vegetable broth or normal water for 3-5 minutes. If the pods are still there, it's time to pick them up! It is best to calculate with approx. ⅔ waste. Finally, if you add a pinch of sugar to the water while cooking, you underline the taste on the one hand and ensure that they remain nice and green on the other. We recommend preparing fresh peas directly. If you wait too long, they quickly become floury and bitter.
If you decide to use dried shelled peas, you should wash them first. After that you can cook them for about 45-60 minutes. If the shell is still there, it is best to soak the dried peas overnight before cooking them for a maximum of 2 hours.
However, all these steps are omitted with one type of pea: the sweet pea! It can be eaten raw or with the skin on, making it the perfect source of fiber.
Peas vs. other legumes
Unlike other legumes, peas do not contain toxic lectins and can be eaten raw. They're also easier to digest, which means they contain less of the healthy fiber than beans or chickpeas, for example.
If you have problems with your digestion and are prone to flatulence, it is best to try peas first and see how you tolerate them. It's all ok? Then you can try the other legumes with a clear conscience. The more often you eat legumes, the sooner your digestion gets used to them and the intestinal wind is a thing of the past. :)
And believe us: It's worth it! Because lentils, (soy) beans and chickpeas have more fiber and more than twice as much protein as peas. With 6 g of protein per 100 g, these are also a good source of protein - but they cannot match the other legumes.
Nonetheless, peas still have an ace up their sleeve. They have a certain essential amino acid in large quantities: lysine. While chickpeas only have 609 mg lysine per 100 g, peas have 947 mg (vegan cliché goodbye, p. 42).
Of course, optimal protein supply is not just about this one essential amino acid. Rather, it is the interaction between the eight essential amino acids and the combination of different protein sources that cover your protein needs in the long term. You can find out more here .
If you would like to add variety to your kitchen (and the protein supply), you can easily combine our chickpea curry with sugar peas as a side dish, for example. Particularly easy because our curry is prepared in 3 minutes and the mangetout are ready to eat...
Or you add a few peas to our Italian bean stew ? Hello, protein bomb! As you can see, the possibilities are endless. The bigger, the better? Not with the pea!