Health benefits of black eyed beans, peas


Last week, I gave the Hausa name of guinea corn (Sorghum bicolor) as dawa/jero. A reader called my attention to it, so I would like to make some corrections. He said it is called “Jigari.” However, I am so certain that some northern states call it Dawa (it is called Dawa in Plateau State where I observed the one-year, mandatory National Youth Service Corps scheme). It was a regular thing then seeing them use it to make an alcoholic drink called “burukutu.” Panicum miliaceum, popularly known as millet, is what is known as “Gero” in Hausa.

Sometime in 2012, I was having palpitations of the heart and it refused to stop, so I visited the hospital. I was too shocked because of the weight of the doctor that attended to me and I kept telling myself that, “How can a medical doctor be this fat.” So, while he was talking to me, he said, “I also have palpitations of the heart.” Though I judged him, the truth is that he is human, irrespective of his profession. I must confess, it is not easy to stick to eating healthy meals. Like the American cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead, once said, “It is easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet.’’ As difficult as it is, we must forge on in our fight to stay healthy. The sacrifice is worth it and our bodies will thank us for it.

Beans are classified as legumes and are fruits/seeds of flowering plants in the Fabaceae family. They are rich sources of fiber and important vitamins and minerals. They are also great sources of vegetarian protein. Eating more of them may help reduce cholesterol, decrease blood sugar levels and increase healthy gut bacteria. So, when you talk about beans, you are referring to chickpeas, lentils, peas, kidney beans, black beans, soy beans, pinto beans, navy beans, lima beans, Fava beans, mung beans and lots more. Still on the seeds and grains series, I will discuss one of these beans known as black eyed beans/peas or cowpea.

It is botanically called Vigna unguiculata. Black-eyed peas get their name from their appearance. They are cream in colour with a little black speck that resembles an eye in the centre, outlining where they were once attached to pods. It is what you and I know as “white beans.” They are an excellent source of Calcium, iron, vitamin A, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, folate, vitamin K and thiamine. They are incredibly nutrient-dense, packing plenty of fiber and protein into each serving. The protein has appreciable amounts of essential amino acids except cysteine and methionine. It is often referred to as the poor man’s meat as it is a significant source of protein. It is high in polyphenols, which are compounds that act as antioxidants in the body to prevent cell damage and protect against disease.

Black eyed peas are a rich source of complex carbs which take longer to digest than simple carbs. It has a glycemic index score of 33, which is low and indicates you can eat them without worrying about a rapid rise in blood sugar. Still, it is an excellent source of plant-based protein.

It is famous for being an important ingredient in “Hoppin’ John,” a popular Southern American dish believed to bring good luck. People have been eating Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day for decades, though its origins are a subject of debate. The immature seeds are used as a vegetable, they can be steamed, boiled and stir-fried. Mature seeds are added to soups and stews, ground into a powder and used with cereal flour for making cakes, bread etc. The seeds can also be sprouted and then eaten raw or cooked in stir-fried. The roasted seed can be ground into a powder and used like coffee. The leaves can be cooked. The crushed leaves are used in a poultice to heal and bond broken bones. In Nigeria, a traditional dish known as “akara” and “ekuru” are made from the beans. A pudding called ‘moin-moin’ and a soup known as “gbegiri” are also made from it. It is also cooked and eaten alone or cooked with rice.


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Some of its benefits

Supports weight loss: Due to their content of protein and soluble fiber, adding black-eyed peas to your diet is a great way to boost weight loss. Protein, in particular, has been shown to reduce levels of ghrelin, a hormone that is responsible for stimulating feelings of hunger. Meanwhile, soluble fiber is a type of fiber that forms a gel-like consistency and moves through your digestive tract slowly to help keep you feeling full between meals. According to a study in 1,475 people, those who ate beans regularly had a 23 per cent lower risk of increased belly fat and a 22 per cent lower risk of obesity, compared with non-consumers. Another review of 21 studies concluded that including pulses, such as black-eyed peas in your diet could be an effective weight loss strategy and may help reduce body fat percentage.

Promotes digestive health: Black-eyed peas are a great source of soluble fiber which is a key nutrient when it comes to digestive health. In fact, studies show that increasing your intake of soluble fiber can help promote regularity and increase stool frequency in those with constipation. Other research indicates that fiber could help prevent digestive disorders, such as acid reflux, hemorrhoids, and stomach ulcers. The soluble fiber found in black-eyed peas and other plants can also act as a prebiotic, stimulating the growth of the beneficial bacteria in your gut to help foster a healthy microbiome.

Enhances heart health: Enjoying black-eyed peas as part of a balanced diet is an excellent way to help keep your heart healthy and strong as they may help reduce several risk factors for heart disease. In one review of 10 studies, regular intake of legumes was linked to lower levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, both of which can contribute to heart disease. Another study in 42 women showed that following a low calorie diet enriched with one cup of legumes per day for six weeks significantly reduced waist circumference and triglyceride and blood pressure levels, compared with a control group.

  • May help to lower cholesterol
  • Supports eye and skin health
  • Prevents anemia
  • Keeps your nervous system healthy
  • Helps maintain strong bones
  • High in folate.
  • Helps heal and repair muscle tissue
  • Supports the immune system

In a study titled, “Nutritional significance of cowpea leaves for human consumption,’’ by Enyiukwu et al, though the anti-nutrient factors were not conducted in this study, previous investigators have shown that cowpea leaves contain low amounts of anti-nutrient factors, hence, findings from this study therefore supports the adoption, utilisation and consumption of cowpea leaves as vegetables.

In a study titled, “Health benefits and industrial applications of functional cowpea seed proteins,’’ by Alexandre Carneiro da Silva, the conclusion is that functional cowpea proteins are widely used in the food industry.  Beans and all their by products are part of the laxatives nature has provided for me. How is it with you?


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