Peas, more specifically the yellow or green cotyledon varieties known as dry, smooth or field peas, are the naturally dried seeds of Pisum sativum L. and are grown around the world for human and animal consumption.
World production of peas in 2009 was more than ten million tonnes, the major producers being Canada, the Russian Federation, China, the USA and India.
Peas have long been recognized as an inexpensive, readily available source of protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
Table 1. Compositional data for peas (Pisum sativum L.)
Constituent Concentration (%)*
Protein (% N x 6·25) 21·2 – 32·9
Starch 36·9 – 49·0
Resistant starch 2·1 – 6·3
Amylose 20·7 – 33·7
Total dietary fibre 14 – 26
Insoluble fibre 10 – 15
Soluble fibre 2 – 9
Soluble sugars 5·3 – 8·7
Total lipid 1·2 – 2·4
Ash 2·3 – 3·4
* Values are expressed on a moisture-free basis except for amylose, which is expressed on a starch basis.
The high nutrient density of peas makes them a valuable food commodity, capable of meeting the dietary needs of the estimated 800 – 900 million undernourished individuals worldwide
.The US Department of Agriculture My Plate Guidelines recommend consuming at least three cups of dry beans and peas per week
SPECIFIC HEALTH BENEFITS OF PEAS
- Peas are rich in starch, protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals .
- Fibre from the seed coat and the cell walls of the cotyledon contributes to gastrointestinal function and health, and reduces the digestibility of starch in peas. Therefore peas has a favourable effect on the glycemic response as in it delays the release of sugars and thereby prevents spikes in blood sugars
- The relatively higher amylose content of pea starch also contributes to its lower glycaemic index and reduced starch digestibility.
- Pea protein, when hydrolysed, may yield peptides with bioactivities, including angiotensin I-converting enzyme inhibitor activity and antioxidant activity.
- The vitamin and mineral contents of peas may play important roles in the prevention of deficiency-related diseases, specifically those related to deficiencies of Selenium or folate.
- Peas contain a variety of phytochemicals once thought of only as antinutritive factors. These include –
- Polyphenolics, in coloured seed coat types in particular, which may have antioxidant and anticarcinogenic activity,
- Saponins which may exhibit hypocholesterolaemic and anticarcinogenic activity, and
- Galactose oligosaccharides which may exert beneficial prebiotic effects in the large intestine.
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