The Nutritional and Health Benefits of Integrating Cowpeas into your Diet

Cowpeas, also known as black-eyed peas, are legumes that are cultivated in different regions of the world. Despite the name, cowpeas aren’t peas but rather beans with edible seeds and pods.

Cowpeas have an oval shape with a black spot that looks like an eye. They come in a variety of colors, ranging from creamy white to red, black, and brown.

Cowpeas have a strong, savory flavor that lends itself well to a variety of southern and Indian dishes. They also have great nutritional values, which are beneficial to the body. This article delves into the nutritional composition and health benefits of eating cowpeas.

Nutritional Composition of Cowpeas

Cowpeas are loaded with nutrients, containing plenty of fiber and protein. They’re also packed with various micronutrients such as folate, copper, thiamine, and iron.

According to the USDA, one cup of cooked cowpeas contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 194
  • Carbs: 35g
  • Fiber: 11g
  • Protein: 13g
  • Fat: 0.9g
  • 88% of the daily value for folate
  • 50% of the daily value for copper
  • 28% of the daily value for thiamine
  • 23% of the daily value for iron
  • 21% of the daily value for phosphorus
  • 21% of the daily value for magnesium
  • 20% of the daily value for zinc

In addition to the nutrients listed above, cowpeas are packed with polyphenols. Polyphenols are plant compounds that act as antioxidants in the body, preventing cell damage and providing disease protection.

Health Benefits of Cowpeas

Cowpeas have been associated with a range of health benefits, some of which include:

Improved Heart Health

Integrating black-eyed peas into your diet can help keep your heart healthy and strong by reducing the risk factors for heart disease.

Following a review of more than 10 studies, researchers concluded that eating legumes may help to lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, which are linked to heart disease.

Another study showed that consuming legumes daily reduced waist circumference, triglyceride levels, and blood pressure levels in women. Health experts have associated eating legumes with lowering markers of inflammation, which may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Promotes Digestive Health

Cowpeas may aid digestive health due to their high soluble fat content. According to research, increasing your intake of soluble fiber helps people with constipation increase their stool frequency.

Other studies indicate that eating fiber can help prevent a variety of digestive disorders, including acid reflux, hemorrhoids, and stomach ulcers. The soluble fiber in cowpeas and some other plants acts as a prebiotic. Prebiotics promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, resulting in a healthy microbiome.

Health experts have also found that prebiotics reduce inflammation, enhance immune function, and reduce cholesterol levels.

Improved Circulatory Health

Cowpeas have been used as a treatment for anemia. Anemia occurs when the body lacks sufficient healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen to the tissues. Anemia causes fatigue, weakness, cognitive confusion, stomach aches, and a decrease in metabolic function.

Cowpeas' high iron content allows them to combat anemia and promote better circulation. Iron is necessary for the production of red blood cells. A diet rich in iron promotes better function, faster healing, and high energy levels.

Supports Weight Loss

Cowpeas can support weight loss due to their soluble fiber and protein content. Researchers have revealed that protein can reduce the levels of ghrelin in the body. Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates the feeling of hunger. On the other hand, soluble fiber flows slowly through the digestive tract, ensuring that you stay full longer after meals.

One study found that people who eat cowpeas are at a lower risk of developing belly fat and being obese than non-consumers. Another study concluded that eating cowpeas and other pulses can help you lose weight and lower your body fat percentage.

Aids Skin Care

Cowpeas are high in vitamin C, vitamin A, protein, and antioxidant compounds, all of which are beneficial to the health of your skin. These nutrient and plant compounds improve your skin's appearance by reducing signs of aging and soothing irritation. They also heal scars and protect the skin from the effects of UV radiation.

Studies have shown that the protein in cowpeas can help stimulate cellular repair and the growth of new tissues. Protein also supplies the amino acids that the body needs to manufacture keratin, a major structural protein in our skin, hair, and nails.

How to Add Cowpeas to Your Diet

Cowpeas are highly delicious and easy to integrate into your diet. If you are using dry beans, try to soak them in water for about 6 hours to reduce their cooking time and make them easier to digest. Many people mix their cooked cowpea beans with meat, spices, and leafy greens, but you can also add them to soups and salads.

Bottom Line

Cowpeas are high in nutrients and have been linked to a variety of health benefits such as weight loss and improved digestive health. They’re highly versatile and easy to incorporate into various recipes. Cowpeas, however, contain raffinose, a type of fiber that causes digestive issues, so it's best to reduce the raffinose content by soaking them for a few hours before cooking.