When fresh peas are not available or when you want to enjoy a starchier, hardier flavored legume, dried peas are the perfect choice; they are available any time of the year.
Although they belong to the same family as beans and lentils, they are usually distinguished as a separate group because of the ways in which they are prepared. The different types of peas are all spherical, a feature that also sets them apart from beans and lentils. Dried peas are produced by harvesting the peapods when they are fully mature and then drying them. Once they are dried and the skins removed, they split naturally.
Dried peas, a small but nutritionally mighty member of the legume family, are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Not only can dried peas help lower cholesterol, they are also of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal.
Fiber is far from all that dried peas have to offer. Dried peas also provide good to excellent amounts of five important minerals, three B-vitamins, and protein—all with virtually no fat. As if this weren't enough, dried peas also feature isoflavones (notably daidzein). Isoflavones are phytonutrients that can act like weak estrogens in the body and whose dietary consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of certain health conditions, including breast and prostate cancer.
Check a chart of the fiber content in foods and you'll see legumes leading the pack. Dried peas, like other legumes, are rich in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract that binds bile (which contains cholesterol) and carries it out of the body. Research studies have shown that insoluble fiber not only helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. According to our rating system, dried peas are a very good source of dietary fiber.
In addition to its beneficial effects on the digestive system and the heart, soluble fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels. If you have insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes, legumes like dried peas can really help you balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy. Studies of high fiber diets and blood sugar levels have shown the dramatic benefits provided by these high fiber foods. Researchers compared two groups of people with type 2 diabetes who were fed different amounts of high fiber foods. One group ate the standard American Diabetic diet, which contains 24 grams of fiber/day, while the other group ate a diet containing 50 grams of fiber/day. Those who ate the diet higher in fiber had lower levels of both plasma glucose (blood sugar) and insulin (the hormone that helps blood sugar get into cells). The high fiber group also reduced their total cholesterol by nearly 7%, their triglyceride levels by 10.2% and their VLDL (Very Low Density Lipoprotein--the most dangerous form of cholesterol) by 12.5%.
In a study that examined food intake patterns and risk of death from coronary heart disease, researchers followed more than 16,000 middle-aged men in the U.S., Finland, The Netherlands, Italy, former Yugoslavia, Greece and Japan for 25 years. Typical food patterns were: higher consumption of dairy products in Northern Europe; higher consumption of meat in the U.S.; higher consumption of vegetables, legumes, fish, and wine in Southern Europe; and higher consumption of cereals, soy products, and fish in Japan. When researchers analyzed this data in relation to the risk of death from heart disease, they found that legumes were associated with an 82% reduction in risk!
In addition to their stellar fiber content, dried peas also feature other heart healthy nutrients. They are a good source of potassium, which may decrease the growth and development of blood vessel plaques and is also good for lowering high blood pressure.
Dried peas are an excellent source of the trace mineral, molybdenum, an integral component of the enzyme sulfite oxidase, which is responsible for detoxifying sulfites. Sulfites are a type of preservative commonly added to prepared foods like delicatessen salads and salad bars. Persons who are sensitive to sulfites in these foods may experience rapid heartbeat, headache or disorientation if sulfites are unwittingly consumed. If you have ever reacted to sulfites, it may be because your molybdenum stores are insufficient to detoxify them. A cup of cooked dried peas provides 196.0% of the daily value for molybdenum.
When fresh peas are not available or when you want to enjoy a starchier, hardier flavored legume, dried peas are perfect. They are available either whole or split, the latter being appropriately called "split peas." While we generally associate dried peas with a deep green color, they are also available in a yellow color, which offers a more delicate flavor and is the type generally preferred in northern European countries. Dried peas are produced by harvesting the peapods when they are fully mature and then drying them. Peas are known scientifically as Pisum sativum.
The modern-day garden pea, from which dried peas are made, is thought to have originated from the field pea that was native to central Asia and Europe. Dried peas have been consumed since prehistoric times with fossilized remains being found at archeological sites in Swiss lake villages. Peas are mentioned in the Bible and were prized by the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome.
For millennia, dried peas were the main way that people consumed this legume. It was not until the 16th century when cultivation techniques created more tender varieties of garden peas that people began to consume peas in their fresh state as opposed to just eating dried peas. It seems that the Chinese, a culture that had consumed this legume as far back as 2,000 BC, were the first ones to consume both the seeds and the pods as a vegetable. Peas were introduced into United States soon after the colonists first settled in this country.
In the 19th century during the early developments of the study of genetics, peas played an important role. The monk and botanist, Gregor Mendel used peas in his plant breeding experiments.
Today the largest commercial producers of dried peas are Russia, France, China and Denmark.
Dried peas are generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins. They are available as whole peas or split peas. Regardless of packaging, check the peas as best as possible to ensure that they are not cracked and that they are free of debris. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the dried peas are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure its maximal freshness.
Dried peas will keep for several months if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place. If you need to store them for longer, you can keep them in the refrigerator.
For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.
Dried Peas, split, cooked
|fiber||16.27 g||58||4.5||very good|
|vitamin B1||0.37 mg||31||2.4||good|
|pantothenic acid||1.17 mg||23||1.8||good|
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%