They can be consumed raw or cooked and you can find them fresh, frozen, or tinned. Additionally, they are really versatile and very quick to prepare. But, aside from being amazing, what are peas, actually? Are peas a fruit? A vegetable? Something completely different?
Peas aren’t fruit. Technically, they belong to a group called “pulses,” which you might have seen in the drop-down menu while doing online grocery shopping. A pulse is an edible seed of a plant, just like peas, beans, and lentils.
The botanical differentiation between fruits, vegetables, pulses, and legumes depends largely on which part of a plant can be consumed. Fruits develop from the flower of a plant and bear seeds, pits, or stones. Fruits are also mostly eaten raw, and if they happen to be cooked or baked, they are, due to their sweet or sour taste, more often part of desserts than savory meals.
Vegetables are any other parts of a plant we eat, may that be the leaves, like spinach or lettuce, the stem, like celery, or the roots, like carrots. Even though a lot of vegetables can be eaten raw, they are mostly consumed cooked.
Pulses like peas are seeds of a plant – and, since it is the fruit that bears the seed, peas technically belong to fruit; in this case, it is the whole seed pod that is the fruit, not just the peas that we mostly eat. Sometimes, the term legume is used for pulses and beans, too, which is technically not correct since this word always refers to the whole plant and not just to the eaten part.
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Legumes are the plants of the Fabaceae family, to which peas belong, too. Therefore, if you want to be as specific as you can get: peas are the seeds (pulses) of a fruit (pea pod) of a legume (the whole pea plant).
It is important to keep in mind that the way we talk about fruits and vegetables colloquially has not necessarily much to do with the botanical definitions. Even though you would be justified to put chili peppers, corn, and rice in a fruit salad, not only are your guests doubtful to request the recipe.
It is also highly plausible that they will term you an annoying smartass and stay away from the dinner parties you host in the future! To keep your friendships intact and your fruit salad delicious, I recommend using the common definitions of fruits as the sweet and sour plants we eat and vegetables as savory edible plants in your daily life.
Are Peas Good For You?
Yes, these round little marbles are very healthy! Low in calories and high in nutrients, they are a valuable addition to every meal. They go with all sources of protein, whether you prefer fish, meat, or vegetarian sources of protein like tofu or lentils, and work well as side-dish, in a curry, or – in the British way – as pureed “mushy peas.”
Peas and other pulses are rich in fiber, which is very important for your digestive health. They also contain a significant amount of coumestrol, an organic compound that contributes to the protection against stomach cancer. Coumestrol also regulates the estrogen levels in your body, which can prevent heart disease and osteoporosis and mellow down menopausal symptoms.
Like carrots or broccoli, peas contain carotenoids, which are pigments that give some plants their vivid colors. The carotenoids in peas (lutein and zeaxanthin) are very good for your eye health. They help protect your eyes against chronic diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration by acting as a filter from harmful blue light.
Since they are full of vitamins and other antioxidants, peas are also perfect for your immune system. They contain vitamins A, B, C, and E and zinc, catechin, which is one of the reasons why green tea is so renowned for its health benefits and other antioxidants. Their anti-inflammatory properties lower the risk of conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.
It does not really make a nutritional difference whether you use frozen, tinned, or fresh peas, which makes them a perfect year-round healthy staple for your kitchen.
Alicia is the senior content editor and writer here at Food FAQ. She has extensive experience with acid reflux, heartburn, GERD, and various supplements. When not eating food for “research”, she’s watching “Friends” for the 100th time.