Review of the health benefits of peas (Pisum sativum L.)

Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 1:S3-10. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512000852.


Pulses, including peas, have long been important components of the human diet due to their content of starch, protein and other nutrients. More recently, the health benefits other than nutrition associated with pulse consumption have attracted much interest. The focus of the present review paper is the demonstrated and potential health benefits associated with the consumption of peas, Pisum sativum L., specifically green and yellow cotyledon dry peas, also known as smooth peas or field peas. These health benefits derive mainly from the concentration and properties of starch, protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals in peas. Fibre from the seed coat and the cell walls of the cotyledon contributes to gastrointestinal function and health, and reduces the digestibility of starch in peas. The intermediate amylose content of pea starch also contributes to its lower glycaemic index and reduced starch digestibility. Pea protein, when hydrolysed, may yield peptides with bioactivities, including angiotensin I-converting enzyme inhibitor activity and antioxidant activity. The vitamin and mineral contents of peas may play important roles in the prevention of deficiency-related diseases, specifically those related to deficiencies of Se or folate. Peas contain a variety of phytochemicals once thought of only as antinutritive factors. These include polyphenolics, in coloured seed coat types in particular, which 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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amylose / analysis
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / analysis
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fiber / analysis
  • Dietary Proteins / analysis
  • Digestion
  • Glycemic Index
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Minerals / analysis
  • Nutritive Value*
  • Peas* / chemistry
  • Seeds* / chemistry
  • Starch / analysis
  • Starch / metabolism
  • Vitamins / analysis


  • Antioxidants
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins
  • Starch
  • Amylose