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Get lucky with black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day

Published by Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD on Dec 26, 2018

Looking for a great way to get your New Year off to a healthy (and lucky) start?  Try a dose of black-eyed peas. Black-eyed peas, also known as black-eyed beans, are one of the most nutrient-packed legumes around. Best known for bringing good luck, when you look at a black-eyed pea, it’s very apparent how their name came about.  The majority of their outer appearance is cream colored but it’s the black spec resembling an eye that catches your attention and is what distinguishes them from other food sources like them.

Anyone from the southeastern region of the United States knows it is a must to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day.  The saying goes if you have black-eyed peas just after midnight or as your first food on the first day of the New Year, good luck and prosperity will follow you until the end of the year.  This tradition dates back to the Civil War when General Sherman’s troops were either destroying or stealing other crops while ignoring the fields of black-eyed peas leaving them unharmed.  Because of this, black-eyed peas became an important food source for the surviving confederates who otherwise would have had little to eat.

Today, many households continue the tradition by having black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day remembering the past while looking forward to the future.

However, to only have black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is a shame to limit their consumption to only one day of the year.  Black-eyed peas have too many health benefits to waste not to eat them frequently year-round.

Health benefits of black-eyed peas

The term “black-eyed pea” is a misnomer as they are not a pea at all. They come from a variety of bean related to the cowpea and are categorized as a legume, meaning they have both edible seeds and pods.  Maybe black-eyed peas are rarely a part of your family meal, but this humble legume deserves a second look at being a regular staple food throughout the year and not just on New Year’s Day.  Here’s why:

  • They’re a phenomenal source of fiber. A ½ cup contains 5.6 grams of this essential nutrient.  Fiber helps regulate your digestive system which can reduce constipation and symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome.  Is your cholesterol running higher than it should?  Have some black-eyed peas.  Their natural fiber can help lower cholesterol levels by preventing it from being absorbed into your bloodstream preventing arteries from being clogged that can lead to heart disease.  All that fiber will make you feel full possibly preventing weight gain since it is digested very slowly keeping you from overeating.
  • Potassium is another important nutrient this legume contains. A ½ cup serving provides 239 milligrams of the mineral which is known for keeping blood pressure levels in check and assists in nerve functioning and muscle contraction.
  • You can be guaranteed eating a bowl of black-eyed peas means you are eating a food low in fat and calories making them a healthy addition for anyone watching their weight. That same ½ cup serving size has approximately 100 calories and no fat.
  • Want an easy plant-source of protein? Black-eyed peas fit the bill.  For every ½ cup, they contain 6.7 grams of protein, necessary for supporting muscles, skin, hair and nails.  Protein also has a role in the body of helping cells to grow and for repairing in addition to providing energy.
  • If you have ever been iron-deficient or want to prevent it, fix yourself some black-eyed peas. This legume has 1.2 milligrams of iron in a ½ cup serving.  The mineral iron prevents anemia, which produces fatigue and weakness.  Iron helps carry oxygen throughout the body to all organs, cells and muscles helping us feel more energized.

Cooking black-eyed peas

If you’ve never had black-eyed peas, most everyone will enjoy their earthy, nutty and almost buttery flavor.  Hoppin’ John and Black-eyed salad are some of the more traditional and popular recipes of serving up this simple side dish.

Black-eyed peas can be cooked from the dry state or can also be bought canned.   Always rinse the bean well under cold running water before cooking.

This New Year, why not take advantage of black-eyed peas nutritional perks but also its perks of good luck and prosperity as well.

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Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City; an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, KS where she teaches Basic Nutrition; and is a freelance writer and blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi, Urologic Oncologist Expert and World Renowned Robotic Surgeon in New York City. Cheryl is also the author of The Nourished Brain, The Latest Science on Food’s Power for Protecting the Brain from Alzheimers and Dementia and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook, both available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.

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