When your mom told you to eat your peas, she knew what she was talking about. Peas flaunt twice the protein of most vegetables, so they're the ideal substitute for fattier protein fare, providing an excellent strategy for controlling your fat intake and keeping that waistline in check.
Green peas, like dried peas, are legumes, except they're eaten before they mature. As with all legumes, they're chock-full of nutrients and low in calories.
Their fiber, mostly insoluble, aids intestinal motility and may help lower cholesterol. Of the myriad nutrients peas provide, iron is particularly important since it's hard to find nonanimal foods with much of this blood-building nutrient.
Snow peas and other edible-podded peas don't contain the same amount of protein or nutrients green peas do. But they are rich in iron and vitamin C, which help maintain your immune system. Peas have lutein, the carotenoid with a proven record of helping to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Selection and Storage
Fresh green peas are only available in April and May. Choose firm, plump, bright-green pods.
Fresh snow peas, also known as Chinese pea pods, are increasingly available year-round. Look for small, shiny, flat pods; they're the sweetest and most tender. Avoid cracked, overly large, or limp pods.
Sugar snap peas are edible pods like snow peas, but sweet like green peas. Select plump, bright-green pods. Fresh peas don't keep long. Because their sugar quickly turns to starch, the sooner you eat them the more flavorful they'll be. When you can't get fresh peas, try frozen.
Preparation and Serving Tips
Wash peas just before shelling and cooking. To shell, pinch off the ends, pull down the string on the inside, and pop out the peas. Steam for a very short time: six to eight minutes. They'll retain their flavor and more vitamin C if they retain their bright green color.
Snow peas just need washing and trimming before cooking or eating raw. Sugar snap peas need the string removed from both sides. Snow peas are perfect in stir-fries; cook briefly, a minute or two. Try adding peas to pasta sauce or tuna casserole, or serving raw with a low-fat dip.
With their high protein content, peas are an excellent weight-loss substitute for fatty meat dishes, not to mention being sweet to the taste.
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