How peas power a healthy body and mind

Eating just half a cup of peas (or other legumes) daily is enough to reap their mighty health benefits, which range from digestive wellbeing that boosts gut health and the immune system to mental health and controlling blood sugar levels.

Whether you eat canned fresh garden peas as a side dish or add it into a hearty stew or a fresh summer salad – the versatile fresh garden pea packs a powerful punch when it comes to its nutritional benefits and positive impact on digestive and mental health, advises Arthur Ramoroka, KOO’s Nutritionist and one of the judges on the Colour Your Plate with KOO reality tv show. 

Best of all, KOO peas come in so many offerings – fresh garden or petit pois – which makes them such an easily accessible addition to any meal and recipe.

Here are four health benefits of peas, as well as exciting ways to include more peas in your home cooking:

High-fibre foods, like peas, are essential for your gut health

The humble fresh garden pea doesn’t get enough credit as a low-fat source of dietary fibre and antioxidants. Peas, along with other legumes and vegetables, are the best go-to for a healthy gut microbiome. The fibre they contain promotes the growth of ‘good’ bacteria in the gut microbiome to improve digestive wellness, which is essential for the body’s optimal functioning. Peas also help to reduce the likelihood of inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and colon cancer. A 2009 studyfound that eating legumes, such as peas, daily lowered the risk of stomach cancer and other cancers by up to 50 per cent.

The immune- and health-boosting qualities of peas 

Incorporating vegetables and legumes into our daily meals have the potential to protect us against various illnesses. Due to their high levels of magnesium, potassium, calcium and folate, garden peas are good for heart health, for example. Folate is a type of Vitamin B that aids the body in producing blood cells, DNA and RNA. A healthy gut also positively impacts our immune system and metabolic function. Research shows that around 70 per cent of our immune system function is housed in our gut.

Peas promote positive mental health  

Our eating behaviours are closely linked to our mental health and emotional wellbeing. A diverse gut microbiome from eating a healthy and balanced fibre-rich diet positively affects brain behaviour and function and may help improve mental wellness, according to findings by the Eat Well Live Well State of Nutrition in South Africa report. Being aware of which foods impact your moods, and how they do so, may be one of the many ways in which you can help to manage the symptoms of very mild depression, according to research by Very Well Mind – that’s not to say that you shouldn’t consult a medical doctor.

Legumes, such as peas, regulate blood sugar levels 

Peas are low-calorie, fibre- and protein-rich complex carbohydrates that have a low glycaemic index and hence help to regulate blood sugar levels by preventing sugar spikes and dips, which may, in turn, impact your moods. Overall, this also lowers bad cholesterol.

Colour your plate like a rainbow 

It’s important to eat a colourful plate daily that includes a selection of at least two fruit and three vegetables of various colours, as each of these contain different vitamins and minerals that have a positive impact on your health. 

Mzansi’s newest cooking reality tv show, Colour Your Plate with KOO, helps the nation reimagine the ingredients in their fridges and pantries to make wholesome, homemade recipes that use a selection of fruit and vegetables.

Spring Buddha bowl with KOO Fresh Garden Peas daltjies and green emulsion recipe 

Serves 6

You’ll needFor the KOO fresh garden peas in brine daltjies – 180g Chickpea flour; 2 Tbsp cake flour; 1 tsp baking powder; 1 Tbsp cumin and coriander (ground); 1 ½ tbsp turmeric; 1 Tbsp chilli flakes (optional); 2 Tbsp sesame seeds, plus extra for sprinkling; 1 cup KOO Peas in Brine; 5 spring onions, thinly sliced; 1 large handful coriander, roughly chopped; 1 cup spinach, finely chopped; salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste; 1 XL egg, lightly whisked; 1 cup water; canola oil for frying. 

For the pickled radish – 1 cup white wine vinegar; ½ cup water; 3 Tbsp granulated sugar; 1 Tbsp whole peppercorns; 5g thyme; 50g radish, thinly sliced.

For the green emulsion – ½ cup olive oil; juice and zest of one lemon; 1 ½ tbsp Dijon mustard; 1 Tbsp honey; ½ cup each, basil and flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped.

To assemble – 1 cup sugar snaps, finely sliced; 1 large cucumber, deseeded and roughly chopped; 2 avocados’, roughly chopped; 2 cups butternut, roughly chopped and roasted with olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper; 300g goat’s cheese or feta, broken into chunks; pea shoots, fresh basil leaves and thinly sliced spring onion, to serve.

How to: 

Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the KOO Peas, spring onion, herbs and spinach, season well with salt and pepper and mix well. Stir in the egg and enough water to form a soft cake-like batter.  

Heat about 5cm canola oil in a large frying pan, wok or small pot. Use a tablespoon to drop small amounts of the batter into the hot oil (a test that the oil is hot enough by placing a nail-sized amount in the oil; if it sizzles, the oil is ready).

Fry on each side for roughly 3 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel and season again with salt and some more sesame seeds. Keep warm. 

Combine all the ingredients for the pickled radish, except for the vegetable, in a small pot. Bring to the boil and add the radish. Remove from the heat and set aside. 

Make the emulsion, by placing all the ingredients in a jug blender and pulsing until smooth – alternatively place them in a jug and blend with a stick blender (you are welcome to add more lemon juice or a little water if the mixture struggles to blend). Season well.

Divide the rest of the ingredients and pickled radish among 6 bowls to assemble. Top with 2-3 warm KOO peas daltjies and some green emulsion.  

Colour Your Plate with KOO broadcasts every Wednesday at 7:30pm on SABC 2, with repeats every Tuesday at 10am on SABC 2. 

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