Fri | Jan 27, 2023

Cheap and nutritious peas and beans

Published:Wednesday | February 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM


Legumes include peas, beans, lentils and peanuts. Legumes, seeds and foliage are higher in protein than non-legume plants. An important characteristic of legumes is their ability to trap nitrogen in their root system because of the bacteria called rhizobia. This ability of the root system may be responsible for legumes' high protein content.

Although high in protein, the content of the essential amino acid, methionine, is inadequate in legumes. When legumes are, however, combined with cereals, they make a perfect complete protein dish. This combination is also good for cereals which have inadequate amounts of the essential amino acid, lysine, which is complemented by legumes which have adequate amounts of this nutrient.

Legumes make an economical protein dish and are the staple of many cultures. In Jamaica, we consume the popular red beans (red peas), gungo peas, cow peas, rice peas and broad beans. Few persons however prepare them as main dishes; they are usually combined with an animal protein such as oxtail and beans, stewed red peas with salt beef and pig's tail, tripe and beans and so on.

Eating more legumes can reduce the food bill and add good quality protein, low in saturated fat and high in fibre to the diet. Many people who have increased legume consumption complain of monotony but there are many legumes which are tasty and can be prepared in a variety of ways.

Lentils and split peas

Lentils and split peas are economical and can be prepared in a variety of ways, using Jamaican spices, herbs and condiments. The brown lentil is popular on our supermarket shelves, but there are green and yellow varieties. They differ from split peas in appearance as the split peas looks like a pea split in two halves and lentil are more like lens.

The yellow lentil and split peas can be used to make the dhal curry which many Jamaicans would be familiar with. Split peas also make delicious soups and can be added to rice dishes and salads. You can be creative with these legumes. I often combine the yellow and brown lentils for variation in colour and flavour. I, sometimes add curry, coconut, or annatto to the lentils for variety.

Rosalee M. Brown is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who operates Integrated Nutrition and Health Services; email:

Amounts compared to recommended dietary allowance for healthy adults

Nutrition facts

3.5 ounce dry Lentils Split peas
Energy 353 calories 341 calories
carbohydrate 60g 60g
sugar 2g 8g
Dietary fibre 31g 26g
fat 1g 1g
Protein 26g 25g
iron 7.5 mg (60%) 4(32%)
Thiamine(vitamin B1) 0.87 mg 0.7(54%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 1.7 (34%)
Folate(B9) 274g (69%)