Ready to spruce up your salad and get some major health benefits at the same time? Toss some pea shoots into the mix! These nutritious greens are essentially baby pea plants, and they add a light pea flavor and wonderful, crunchy texture to your plate, while helping you reduce your risk of heart disease to boot!
Pea shoots are not to be confused with pea sprouts (even though they’re sometimes marketed as the same thing!). Shoots are leaves and young tendrils grown in the soil, while sprouts are sprouted peas grown in water. Want to know how to spot the difference? Sprouts have long, light-green stems and tiny leaves, while shoots have darker-green stems and bigger leaves.
Pea shoots are also a type of microgreen and are very easy to grow at home. Microgreens (young vegetable greens that are harvested at about 1-3 inches tall) have very few calories and contain higher concentrations of antioxidants and vitamins than many fully-grown vegetables. Consuming microgreens and other antioxidant-rich foods has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
The Science of Pea Shoots and Other Microgreens
According to a study published in The FASEB Journal, consumption of microgreens may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing the levels of bad fats (such as triglycerides and LDL cholesterol) in your blood.
Investigators used mice to demonstrate the link. Each mouse in the study was fed either: a low-fat diet, a high-fat diet, a low-fat diet with microgreens, or a high-fat diet with microgreens. Two additional groups of animals were fed low or high-fat foods with mature greens.
After eight weeks, scientists discovered that microgreens significantly lowered the LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in mice consuming high-fat foods. In other words, microgreens even had a positive effect on those eating a high-fat diet.
According to the researchers, the nutrients in the microgreens may have inhibited triglyceride and cholesterol enzymes in the blood. These enzymes turn fat molecules into plaque, which can build up on artery walls over time.
While more research is needed to confirm these findings, it’s important to know the potential (and known) benefits of adding potent microgreens like pea shoots to your diet.
Which antioxidants are in pea shoots?
Pea shoots are excellent microgreens to add to your plate because they house so many antioxidants. In 2 cups of raw pea shoots (which is just 10 calories!) you can expect to find:
- 132% of your daily vitamin K.
- 35% of your daily vitamin C.
- 15% vitamin A.
- 8.75% vitamin E.
- 10% folate.
- 7% riboflavin.
- 5.75% thiamin.
- 4.75% vitamin B-6.
In addition, pea shoots are incredibly rich in carotenes, which are powerful antioxidants that help protect cells in the body from damage. Beta-carotene, which gets converted into vitamin A in the body, is an all-important phytochemical in these plants that might in and of itself help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
Pea shoots may also contain other types of phytochemicals, including the flavonoid quercetin and the antioxidant caffeic acid. Quercetin is said to alleviate inflammation and fight allergies, while caffeic acid may reduce exercise-related fatigue and lower your risks for certain diseases, including heart disease. However, scientists do not yet know whether all varieties of pea shoots contain these important phytochemicals.
Whether you sprinkle them on your salad or add them as a garnish to your stir fry, pea shoots can pack a flavorful and nutritious punch. Consuming these fresh, crisp greens on a regular basis adds a great boost to your overall health!