Split peas, whether green or yellow, are highly beneficial for your health. These dried, peeled and split seeds of Pisum sativum are high in fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals but low in fats.
Split peas offer significant levels of protein, iron, zinc, and phosphorus. A diet rich in split peas and other legumes may help reduce cholesterol, hypertension, and the risk of pre-diabetes.
Split peas are high in phytates. One of the most important beneficial functions of phytates is their ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. You do need them but phytates are called “anti-nutrients”. Reduce the phytic acid by soaking them overnight and rinsing before cooking. This “anti-nutrient” effect occurs when large amounts of phytates are consumed (before soaking and rinsing) with a diet that is poor in nutrition.
Recent studies have shown that phytates protect against osteoporosis. Studies concluded that women with the highest phytate levels had the lowest levels of bone loss in the spine and hips, similar to the outcomes of anti-osteoporosis drugs, but without the drugs’ side effects.
The safest form of iron (“non-heme iron”) is found in split peas. The magnesium in split peas will positively affect some metabolic and inflammatory disorders, including diabetes and heart disease.
Split peas are a good source of soluble fiber. Eating a cup of split peas in your daily diet can provide approximately 65% of the daily recommended value of fiber in your diet. Fiber is useful in reducing your blood cholesterol levels (total as well as Very Low Density Lipoprotein cholesterol). The fiber from split peas forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract which binds the cholesterol-containing bile and carries it out of the body.
Apart from lowering cholesterol levels, the high fiber content of split peas helps regulate blood sugar levels. The soluble fiber present in this low glycemic food slows down the absorption of sugars and helps release glucose slowly and steadily, thereby preventing a spike in blood sugar. Yet, it provides a sufficient and steady supply of energy. This makes it a good food for people suffering from diabetes.
Split peas contain isoflavones (particularly Daidzein) that decrease the risk of developing certain types of cancers, especially breast cancer and prostate cancer. Isoflavones are a type of plant estrogens, so they mimic the hormones in the body.
Studies have shown that Daidzein-rich isoflavones are also good for reducing hot flashes in menopausal women. Peas and split peas also contain high amounts of coumestrol. A Swedish study has shown that this compound may be associated with a lower risk of receptor negative tumors.
Split peas are packed with trace mineral called molybdenum which helps in the detoxification of sulfites. A cup of cooked split peas can provide almost twice the daily recommended value of this mineral in your diet. Sulfite sensitivity can be experienced as symptoms like rapid heartbeat, headache, diarrhea, and nausea. Usually, sulfites are added as preservatives in processed foods such as baked goods, jams, potato chips, syrups, starches, vinegar, etc. Individuals suffering from asthma are more prone to sulfite sensitivity.
Split peas also contain potassium which helps lower blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension contributes to heart disease.
Split peas contain an amino acid called tryptophan that helps your body produce serotonin which in turn regulates sleep and improves your mood.
Being rich in fiber and protein, split pea can help you deal in your weight loss efforts. Even a small portion of this food is filling and it makes you feel fuller for longer. Split peas are helpful in dealing with digestive disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and diverticulosis because of their high soluble fiber content. Individuals suffering from IBS are often advised to have a diet with more soluble rather than insoluble fiber as it works as a bulking agent and at the same time, allows for easily passable stools.
Split pease are rich in vitamins B1, B5, K, and folate, iron, magnesium, zinc, and are fat-free. It is particularly a good source of protein for vegans and vegetarians.
How to Buy
Buy split dried peas packaged or in bulk at your local co-op. Split peas should not be confused with split yellow gram (chickpeas) and split pigeon peas (Indian toor dal), though they belong to the family of beans and legumes. Split pea is a variety of field peas that naturally split in half when they are dried.
How to Store
Store dried beans in an airtight container, away from light. I prefer to keep my beans in glass jars. While beans can last for some time, I try to make sure I don’t have any beans older than a year in my pantry.
How to Cook
To reduce phytic acid, soak the peas overnight before rinsing and adding them to recipes.
Split peas can be cooked in a pressure cooker. Heat oil in pressure cooker and sauté onion, celery, garlic, and carrots for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add vegetable broth, split peas, thyme, chile pepper, salt, and pepper. Cover, securing the lid tightly according to manufacturers’ directions, and bring up to pressure. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes.