What Are Green Peas Good For?

The Appeal of green peas
Botanical name: Pisum

Green Peas Nutrition Facts

Green peas belong to the legume plant family, Fabaceae, the same as peanuts and beans. Originating from the Himalayan plains of northwest India,1 this variety is said to be related to the field pea native to Southwest Asia and the Middle East.2 Because its cultivation dates back thousands of years, green peas are recognized as one of the first cultivated food crops.3

Some scientists say this legume may have been dried for centuries before cultivation techniques changed in Europe, right around the 16th century, and it was discovered that they could be consumed fresh.4

Green peas are now grown throughout the world in nearly every climate and time zone,5 and can be purchased either fresh or dried.6 Currently the largest world producer and green pea exporter,7 Canada, grows an average of 3 million tons every year (its production in 2018 was 3.8 million tons),8 with France, China, Russia and India also acting as large producers.9

Grown in temperate, subtropical and tropical regions,10 green peas are considered an early spring crop in the U.S. that can withstand light frost and can be planted early.11 They grow on long, curling vines12 that require poles or fences for support.13 For the best flavor and texture, the 2- to 3-inch-long crescent-shaped green pods these vines produce should be harvested before the little round peas inside become too large and lumpy.14

Snow peas and sweet peas are similar to green peas in description and popularity, having the scientific designation Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon and are probably native to Eurasia.15 Unlike the rounded green pea pods, snow peas are flat.16

How to Select and Store Green Peas

When shopping or harvesting green peas, it’s better to choose the smaller ones, as they tend to be sweeter.17 You can eat the pods all by themselves as a nutritious snack or as a lovely addition to green salads and gently heated stir-fries. The small round peas inside by themselves make great soup, such as split pea or a smooth green pea puree.

If you can’t have fresh green peas, go for the frozen variety, which retains their color, texture and flavor better than canned options18 even after one to three months, according to the George Mateljan Foundation. However, neither frozen nor canned peas have an unlimited shelf life. Research has shown that the nutrient content of frozen peas begins to diminish during storage, so they should be eaten within six to 12 months.19

Of course, fresh green peas will always provide far better nutrition. If you won’t be using fresh green peas on the day of purchase, they should be refrigerated as quickly as possible to preserve their sugar content and prevent them from being converted into starch. Unwashed and unshelled peas placed inside an unsealed container or bag will keep for several days when stored in the fridge. An alternative storage technique is to blanch them (dipped in boiling water for one or two minutes) before freezing them.20

Health Benefits of Green Peas

Green peas are low in calories in comparison with beans, another legume. They contain healthy amounts of fiber, which helps clean the digestive system. They’re also rich in B-vitamins,21 including folate, which is required for DNA synthesis in the cell,22 and plays an important part in the prevention of neural tube defects in newborns.23

Meanwhile, vitamin C, a water-soluble, free radical-neutralizing antioxidant, is found in peas (40 milligrams per 100-gram serving) and is well-known for fighting infection, protecting against colds and flu, and building up resistance to disease.24

Green peas are a rich source of many minerals such as calcium, iron, copper, zinc and manganese.25 They have 36 micrograms of vitamin K, important for blood coagulation.26 The phytosterol ß-sitosterol content27 has the ability to help lower cholesterol levels.28

In the flavonoid category, green peas provide the carotenoids and the antioxidants catechin and epicatechin.29 Also present are phenolic acids, such as ferulic and caffeic acid, and polyphenols like coumestrol. Pisumsaponins I and II and pisomosides A and B (hence the scientific name pisum) are anti-inflammatory phytonutrients found almost exclusively in peas, helpful against Type 2 diabetes and regulating blood sugar levels.30

One drawback of eating green peas is that, just like other legumes, they contain plant proteins called lectins, which can be damaging to your health in large amounts. Most lectins are pro-inflammatory, meaning they trigger inflammation and create advanced glycation end products in your body. If you experience symptoms like digestive distress when eating green peas and other legumes, you may want to minimize or avoid these foods, or to make sure they’re cooked properly. Check out some tips on how to reduce the lectins in these foods.

Green Peas Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
  Amt. Per
% Daily
Calories 81  
Calories from Fat 3  
Total Fat 0 g  
Saturated Fat 0.071 g  
Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 0 mg  
Sodium 5 mg  
Total Carbohydrates 14.4 g  
Dietary Fiber 5.7 g  
Sugar 5.67 g  
Protein 5.42 g  
Vitamin A 38 ug Vitamin C 40 mg
Calcium 25 mg Iron 1.47 mg

Studies on Green Peas

A 2012 review published in The British Journal of Nutrition highlighted green peas’ potential benefits, particularly against selenium or iron deficiency-related diseases. The research noted that the polyphenolics in this food “may have antioxidant and anticarcinogenic activity, saponins which may exhibit hypocholesterolaemic and anticarcinogenic activity, and galactose oligosaccharides which may exert beneficial prebiotic effects in the large intestine.”31

One of the phytonutrients in peas, a polyphenol called coumestrol, has been recognized for its ability to protect from stomach cancer. A Mexico City-based study indicated that daily consumption of green peas along with other legumes lowers your risk of stomach cancer, especially when 2 or more milligrams of coumestrol are ingested. (A one-cup serving of peas contains around 10 milligrams.)32

Green Peas Healthy Recipes:
Green Peas With Onion

Green Peas Healthy Recipes


1 medium onion, sliced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons butter

1 package (16 ounces) frozen peas

3 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper



  1. In a large skillet, sauté onion and garlic in butter until tender. Add peas and water. Bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat, then cover and simmer for four to five minutes or until peas are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

(Recipe from Taste of Home33)

Green Peas Fun Facts

The oldest pea ever discovered was found on the border of Thailand and Burma. It was believed to be nearly 3,000 years old!34


The humble green pea is one of the most ancient vegetables in the garden, and its deceptively ordinary-looking pod packs a snappy punch in the way of vitamins and minerals, such as antioxidants and flavonoids, particularly vitamin C and the minerals calcium, iron, copper, zinc, and manganese.35 These and other ingredients may help lower cholesterol levels.36 Ferulic and caffeic acid and flavanols like catechin and epicatechin may help lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes.37

It's important to eat your green peas gently cooked to retain the nutrients, and to freeze them for storage whenever possible, rather than canning them (or purchasing this variety of preparation).