Pigeon peas are legumes that are highly beneficial to the body. They are nutrient-dense and boost energy levels without causing weight gain or fat development. The health benefits of pigeon peas are vast and they are an ideal food to be added to one’s diet.
Pigeon peas are botanically known as Cajanus Cajun, and belong to the Fabaceae family. In Nigeria, they are called Fio-Fio in Igbo, Waken masar in Hausa, and Otili in Yoruba.
Pigeon peas are one of the top ten legumes grown all over the world, alongside beans, lentils, peas, and broad beans.
Different parts of the pigeon peas plant have been used in traditional medicines to treat gonorrhea, diarrhea, sore throat, anemia, painful gums, toothache, epilepsy, intestinal worms, and dizziness.
Pigeon peas’ color ranges from white, red, brown, cream, purple to black grains.
It contains about 203 calories per cup. Other names for pigeon peas include Congo-Pea, Angola Pea, Gungo Pea, Pigeon-Pea, No Eye Pea, Yellow Dhal, Puerto Rico Pea, and Red Gram. The pigeon peas function as grains in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
The plant of pigeon peas grows easily and quickly and can be stored for long periods of time, which makes them more advantageous in dry regions.
Pigeon peas are good sources of protein, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals like magnesium, thiamine, phosphorus, copper, manganese, and potassium. They have low-fat content. They also contain antioxidants that protect the body against free radicals.
One cup (168 grams) of cooked pigeon peas contain
- Energy: 850 kilojoules (203 calories)
- Protein: 11 grams (g)
- Fat: 0.6 g
- Carbs: 39 g
- Fiber: 11 g
- Potassium: 645 milligrams (mg)
- Calcium: 7% of Daily Value (DV)
- Magnesium: 22% of DV
- Iron: 22% of DV
- Zinc: 14% of DV
- Phosphorus: 28% of DV
- Manganese: 34% of DV
- Selenium: 8% of DV
- Copper: 50% of DV
- Folate: 46% of DV
- Riboflavin: 6% of DV
- Thiamin: 22% of DV
Pigeon peas also contain important amino acids like lysine, tryptophan, and methionine.
Health benefits of pigeon peas
Most people do not realize the health benefits of pigeon peas as food. In this article, we shall discuss some of the health benefits of pigeon peas to the body.
Pigeon peas have a low glycemic index, hence it is an ideal food for diabetics. Research shows that consuming pigeon peas extract reduces the fasting blood glucose levels of diabetic rats.
Diabetes is a disease whereby the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or the insulin is not used properly by the body. When the body is working perfectly, insulin helps to carry sugar from the blood to the cells where it is used to produce energy.
For someone with diabetes, the body cells do not receive enough sugar, so the sugar stays in the blood. Excess sugar in the blood can cause problems in vision, the heart, blood vessels, and the kidney. A meal of pigeon peas regularly helps regulate and reduce blood sugar.
2. Lowers Blood Pressure
Pigeon peas contain potassium, which helps to relax the blood vessels and lower blood pressure. It is a vasodilator, which helps to reduce the vasoconstriction of blood vessels.
Potassium helps to lower the effect of sodium which increases blood pressure. People with hypertension need to add pigeon peas to their diet to regulate their blood pressure.
One cup of cooked pigeon peas contains 11 grams of protein. Protein helps with the growth and development of the body. Protein forms cells, tissues, bones, and muscles.
It allows metabolic functions to happen, and also maintains other bodily functions. It also maintains proper pH and fluid balance. Eating Pigeon peas regularly provide all these health benefits to the body.
One of the health benefits of pigeon peas is that it prevents anemia. Anemia is a condition whereby the blood does not have healthy red blood cells. Pigeon peas contain iron that helps the body produce hemoglobin and healthy red blood cells.
Pigeon peas also contain folate that helps in the production of healthy red blood cells. Folate also prevents birth defects in babies still in their mother’s womb.
5. Weight loss
Just like Fonio, Pigeon peas also assist in weight loss. They contain fibers that make you full quickly and suppress appetite. Pigeon peas also contain low fat, low cholesterol, and increased metabolism.
6. Anti-inflammatory Properties
Pigeon peas also have anti-inflammatory properties in the body. There are some organic compounds in Pigeon peas that help to reduce swelling and inflammation in the body. A paste made from mashed pigeon peas has also been used in traditional medicines to treat hemorrhoids.
Pigeon peas boast a mild flavor which makes it easy for them to be combined with other dishes. The Igbos use Pigeon peas to prepare Ayaraya Oka (Pigeon Peas and corn), Agbugbu (Pigeon peas and yam), and Achicha (Pigeon peas and dried cocoyam).
The dried seeds of pigeon peas can also be used in sauces to accompany foods like yam, rice, and cassava. The immature seeds and pods of Pigeon pea are also used as vegetables in sauces and soups. The ripe seeds are first soaked before frying or boiling into porridge.
In India, pigeon peas are made into dhal. In Asia, they are used to make tofu or tempeh. The fresh pods, young shoots, and seeds of pigeon peas are used as vegetables in sayor, spicy soups, and other side dishes in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
In Central America, the seeds are canned and frozen. Its combination with rice is seen as the main traditional food in Puerto Rico. The leaves and pods are added to dishes in Ethiopia and Indonesia.
The seeds can also be roasted. Pigeon peas can also be added to foods like noodles, pasta and biscuit, and sausages as a new, special ingredient because of their high fiber, and gluten-free status.
- It eases bowel movement
- It reduces constipation
- Its leaves are used to clean teeth
- Its leaves are used to treat hepatitis
- Also used to treat urinary tract infections
- Also used to treat yellow fever
- Leaves possess antimalarial properties
- It is a worm expeller
- Has anticancer properties
- Protects against gastric ulcer
- Beneficial for people with sickle cell anaemia
- Prevents malnutrition
- Reduces cramping.
Pigeon peas can cause bloating and discomfort in some people due to them containing carbohydrates that cannot be digested, known as Oligosaccharides.
These effects can be reduced by soaking the Pigeon peas before cooking, and throwing away the water after it has been cooked.
The health benefits of pigeon peas are vast, hence, it is important to incorporate them into one’s diet, just like other foods like Pearl millet. Continue to eat varieties of beneficial foods in your diet and watch how healthy you will be.