Peas, beans and nuts are all a part of God’s original diet for mankind and scientists have proven that these natural produce are healthy and help to prevent or reduce the development of chronic diseases. In the Caribbean, peas, beans and nuts are classified as Legumes in the Food Groups. Examples of peas and beans include: red peas (small and large), chick peas (garbanzo beans), lentils, broad beans, split peas (yellow or green), gungo (pigeon peas), broad beans and Jerusalem (rice peas) and nuts such as almonds, peanuts, cashews and pistachios.
Peas and beans are low in fat and contain no cholesterol - because plants do not have a liver. They are an excellent source of protein and a great meat alternative. Protein aids in human growth and development, making of antibodies, enzymes and hormones. Peas and beans are a good source of folic acid, potassium, iron, magnesium and fibre. Folic acid is an important nutrient for women in childbearing age, to aid in the development of the spinal cord of the unborn foetus in the first six weeks of pregnancy. Potassium is important for heartbeat regulation and iron to prevent anaemia.
Peas and beans are a good source of soluble and insoluble fibre. The outer coat has insoluble fibre and the inner part or flesh has soluble fibre. Insoluble fibre helps to increase the bulk in the faeces and attracts water to prevent constipation and cleans the intestines of fat and unwanted substances. Insoluble fibre also slows stomach emptying, extends the feeling of fullness so it reduces the risk of obesity. Soluble fibre slows the absorption of glucose and fat and is important in controlling blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels.
So why eat peas and beans? They reduce the risk of developing heart disease and stroke because they are low in fat, cholesterol free and the fibre present traps fat and harmful substances to remove them from the large intestines in the faeces. Blood sugar is reduced because fibre slows the rate of glucose absorption from the intestines to the cells. Peas and beans help to prevent certain types of cancer such as colon cancer.
Eat more peas and beans and less animal foods such as chicken, beef, goat meat and fish every day. Two (2) ounces or ¼ cup of peas or beans is equal in protein and lower in calories than 1 ounce of meat, chicken and fish. Increase the amount of peas and beans in the diet slowly to prevent diarrhoea or abdominal discomfort.
Peas and Beans to your Health!
Article by Marsha N. Woolery, MPH, RD. Freelance Registered Dietitian/ Nutritionist (NutriFit Consultancy) and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University