Joanne Smith and Kylie JamesA highly nutritious food we rarely hear about anymore is the green pea, but this wasn’t always the case. About 10,000 years ago, the green pea (a legume, not a vegetable) was one of the first cultivated crops by agricultural societies. Five thousand years later our Egyptian ancestors worshipped this valuable food source so much that they buried peas with pharaohs so they could take them into the afterlife. Rome’s first cookbook celebrates these green gems with nine elaborate recipes. The English children’s rhyme — Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old — is a tribute to peas, as they helped sustain the masses during the 16th century famine. And for almost 200 years, a single pea has been the focus of one of the most famous children stories of all time — Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea.

With such a rich history and so much nutritional value, it surprises me that we don’t hear more about the powerful pea. It has a lot of essential nutrients and health benefits for people with SCI. Peas are …

• a healthy source of protein to help maintain skin integrity,
• complex carbohydrates that help sustain blood sugar levels for energy,
• low in fats and cholesterol to help maintain healthy lipid levels,
• low in calories to help maintain ideal weight,
• high in fiber to help support bowel function/routines,
• high vitamin C content to help boost immune system,
• rich in calcium and magnesium that help support bone health,
• less likely to cause gas than other legumes,
• inexpensive compared to other nutrient-dense foods.

The culinary potential of the pea is endless. They can liven up any of your favorite stew, soup, casserole, salad or curry dishes. And their versatility goes beyond consumption — you can put a bag of frozen peas on sore or injured limbs to help reduce inflammation.
So please, give peas a chance.