Typically, when someone mentions black-eyed peas, the first thought is that it’s a southern type of food. However, that could not be further from the truth. While they are synonymous with southern cuisine, over the years, the health benefits of black eyed peas have become very well-known worldwide. In addition to being a health benefit, when cooked with the right seasoning, they can be very tasty.
Origin of Black-eyed Peas
Black-eyed peas have been around since the 17th century. They are actually a legume and a subspecies of the cowpea and predominantly grown on the continent of Africa. In fact, 66 percent of cowpeas are grown in Nigeria and Niger. On average, there are about 200 million people worldwide who consume them on a daily basis. The awareness of the health benefits of black eyed peas has increased significantly due to the major production now coming from Asia, Central America and South America. Brazil is the second-leading producer.
Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Black Eyed Peas
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), foods like black-eyed peas that include vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium, contribute to a healthy and balanced diet. The FDA further states that these types of foods may also contribute to reducing the risk of certain diseases, such as cancer or type 2 diabetes. Black-eyed peas are rich in fiber and very low in fat. Adding to their health benefits is the fact that black-eyed peas are also a good source of thiamine, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, which provide a multitude of health benefits, including nerve and muscle function. Although they do not contain essential amino acids, black-eyed peas are a nutrient-rich source of protein.
Canned or Fresh
There are certainly differing opinions about the best way to consume black-eyed peas. While the freshest way to consume black-eyed peas is to cook them yourself, there are plenty of canned products that are healthy and delicious. When cooking the peas, it’s essential that they’re not over-cooked because you risk losing many of the nutrients as well as the texture. It’s also important to use flavoring that is not high in sodium. Black-eyed peas already have a sufficient amount of sodium; therefore, it is advantageous to your health to avoid additives such as seasoned salt or meat flavoring that may contain high amounts of sodium.
A can of black-eyed peas may contain as much as 703 milligrams of sodium; however, if cooked fresh, they typically have 6.6 milligrams when low-sodium additives are used. According to the American Heart Association, limiting your intake of sodium to 1,500 milligrams a day lowers your risk of having high blood pressure, a heart attack or a stroke. There are plenty of low-sodium canned products, which may contain only about 240 milligrams of sodium.
The health benefits of black eyed peas may not just apply to your physical body. Staying healthy is also about having a healthy mindset and a positive outlook on life. While it’s not a full-proof benefit, many people believe that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Eve brings them luck in the coming year. At the stroke of midnight, black-eyed peas are served as a symbolism of good fortune for those who choose to partake. Although there are plenty of versions for how the yearly tradition began, it is a fun and harmless way of setting an attitude of hope and optimism for the year ahead.