A cross between snow peas and regular green peas, sugar snap peas have a lot going for them. One, the entire pea is edible, including the pod. Two, they’re a fantastic source of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that promote good health. And three, they’re low in calories (only 40 per one-cup raw), deliciously crunchy and a terrific vehicle for hummus and vegetable dip.
One of the most notable health benefits of sugar snaps is their high vitamin C content: one cup boasts nearly 100 percent of our daily needs. This workhorse vitamin speeds wound healing, boosts immunity and aids in the production of collagen. A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C also helps to neutralize free radicals — unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness, aging and premature wrinkling.
During the summer, vitamin C is especially important for heat regulation. According to research, vitamin C helps to prevent serious problems caused by excessive heat — such as heat stroke and heat rashes — by keeping sweat glands in good working condition.
Sugar snaps are surprisingly good for bones, as they boast decent levels of four important nutrients that contribute to normal bone growth and overall bone health: vitamins A and K and the minerals manganese and iron. Beset by osteopenia now, I’m always on the lookout for foods that will fortify my bones and prevent osteoporosis later.
Hearts benefit from this tasty pea, too. From its low fat content to its cholesterol-clearing fiber to its folate (a B vitamin that may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by nearly 20 percent), sugar snaps may keep our tickers tocking longer.
Are sugar snaps full of sugar and bad for diabetics and others watching their sugar intake? No! According to the American Diabetic Association, we should snap up this non-starchy vegetable with its complex carbs, low glycemic index and relatively low amount of sugar. Non-starchy vegetables like sugar snaps keep blood sugar in check and can actually aid in the prevention of diabetes.
Sugar Snap Peas and Noodles with Ginger-Sesame Sauce
Adapted from Cookie and Kate
8 ounces soba noodles or spaghetti noodles of choice
3 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut diagonally in half
2 cups frozen edamame
3 large carrots, peeled and julienned
1 medium red pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons minced shallots (optional)
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small lime, juiced
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons honey or agave nectar
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon Sriracha or pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Bring a big pot of water to boiling. Add the soba noodles and cook for five minutes. In the last 20 seconds of cooking, add the sugar snap peas. Drain and rinse the noodle-pea mixture in cool water. Drain again.
Prepare edamame according to package directions. Drain.
Place the noodles and peas in a large bowl. Add the carrots, pepper, edamame, and shallots.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients and add to the noodle mixture. Top the salad with cilantro and serve.
Look for pods that are bright green and crisp (when broken in half, they should make a snapping sound). They can be refrigerated for two to three days, but will be sweetest if cooked or eaten raw as soon as possible after purchase. Do not wash until ready to use.
Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle columnist, food guru, and seasoned cook, who has perfected the art of preparing nutritious, calorie-conscious dishes. She is hungry for your questions and comments about SmartBites, so be in touch with Anne at firstname.lastname@example.org.