For years, green peas have not been fully appreciated. You had steamed carrots and peas that were bland and uninspiring on your cafeteria lunch tray. Your mom snuck peas into your mac and cheese. Your grandma served buttered peas alongside your mashed potatoes. Let’s be honest: They were probably the thing on your plate that six-year-old you went to great lengths to avoid.
But green peas are making a comeback. You might even say they’re having a “moment.” There are three main types (garden peas, sugar snap peas, and snow peas), but the most common is definitely garden peas (also called English peas).
If you think peas are just starch and nothing else, think again: Green peas offer a host of health benefits that have gone unappreciated for too long.
1. Green peas are high in protein.
Probably the main reason green peas are making such a comeback is because of their protein content. That’s because peas are technically a legume (like chickpeas), not a vegetable. However, most people use them like veggies.
Some new pea-based products are leading the way on the green pea revival. You can now buy pea protein powder, pea milk (e.g. Ripple), and pea-based meatless burgers (e.g., Beyond Burgers). In fact, pea milk has 8 grams of protein per cup—more than any other plant-based milk (including soy milk).
2. Green peas are plump with fiber.
Like other legumes, green peas are a great source of fiber. A serving of green peas (⅔ cup) contains 4 grams. (Here are the health benefits of eating more fiber.)
The result? Despite having a reputation of being “starchy,” green peas actually have a low-glycemic index. This means the high-fiber content balances out the carbohydrates, so it’s easier on blood sugar levels. (By comparison, sugar is all carbs and no fiber, so it has a high-glycemic index.)
3. Green peas are a good source of vitamins.
Here’s more proof that green peas aren’t just a starchy filler to add to mac and cheese: These little peas offer numerous vitamins and minerals. For example, peas are a great source of vitamins A and C, and that’s just the beginning.
4. Green peas are a good source of plant-based iron.
Iron is an important mineral that’s often only associated with red meat, but you can get iron elsewhere. Like many legumes, green peas are a good source, providing about 10 percent of your daily recommended intake. (Here are other food sources of iron.)
Beyond the health benefits, green peas are incredibly affordable—and they freeze well, so you can buy them from the frozen food aisle and not miss out on flavor or quality. A great kitchen trick is to always keep a bag of frozen peas in your freezer so you can easily add a boost of nutrition and color to pasta and stir fry—in a “snap.” (Get it?)