Peas: High Quality Protein and Sustainable Green

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Did you know peas are actually a legume (not a vegetable)? Even more intereting is that legumes are actually seeds (they’re seeds that grow in a pod)!

Peas are the lowest protein legume (that I know of), and yet surprisingly they are one of the most common protein sources used commercially in prepared foods like vegan burgers and vegan chicken nuggets. One of my personal favorite vegan burgers is one of the Dr. Praeger’s All American Veggie Burgers which has 22g of pea protein it in, and yet is the size of a normal ¼ lb burger (rather than 3 cups of whole peas we’d need to eat to get that same protein level). Whatever it is that makes pea protein so versatile, I’m grateful for it.

The protein powder that I eat regularly is a pea and quinoa protein blend. Pea protein is low in the amino acid methionine, which is one of the essential amino acids that determines whether a protein source is considered a “complete protein”. Many other vegan foods are high in methionine and can easily be combine with peas in a day of eating to get a complete protein diet overall, particularly grains such as quinoa, rice or wheat (pasta is my favorite combo for peas).

For eating the peas themselves, it’s easy to toss half a cup into just about any other recipe for an extra 4g of protein. Peas can also be a valuable ingredient for making other recipes; last week I made a Pea Pesto Sauce that I had with pasta and it was incredible (recipe here).

I keep a bag of peas in my freezer and toss them into recipes as desired, though a whole can is an option as well for bigger recipes. A half-cup sounds like a lot but it’s really just a small handful (and I have small hands already), so just tossing in a handful of peas here and there an easy way to pack in extra protein.

Peas are also very nutritious and have a nice flavor as well (in my opinion). Here are some stats on peas:

The complete nutrition information for peas can be seen in the USDA Nutrient Database here.

Another reason to love pea protein is that they are a sustainable crop; they’re extremely beneficial for the soil where they grow as they leave behind some nitrogen (a common fertalizer ingredient) in the soil after they are harvested and the unused portions of the plant can add more precious nitrogen to the compost. This article is quick and explains this process extremely well if you’re interested in learning more or think you ever might have a garden.

Tips for Buying Peas:

  • Most of us are used to finding peas in the canned vegetable aisle or fresh pea pods in the produce section. However, they can also be found bagged in the frozen section, and more recently, pea protein powder can be found in the baking aisle of some major supermarkets (Walmart) or online.
  • As always, aim to get the products with the least additives. For example, my pea protein powder is nothing more pea protein and quinoa protein.

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