the humble pea has a lot going for it!
One of the most important aspects of successful fat loss is good blood sugar management. Healthy blood sugar levels are sustained through a combination of eating a balanced, unprocessed diet, getting regular exercise and managing the body’s most important hormones in other ways (eg: getting enough sleep and reducing stress).
Blood sugar is raised by glucose, which is the sugar we get from eating foods that contain carbohydrates. The glucose is then ferried off to body cells by insulin which is secreted by the pancreas, to generate energy and blood sugar levels return to normal. When we haven’t eaten for a while, levels drop and messages are sent to the brain to tell us to eat something and the process begins again. Insulin levels rise and fall in accordance with when and what we eat so it is vitally important we get it right. A diet overloaded with sugar and starchy carbohydrates and light on fibre, protein and fats prompts all-too-regular blood sugar highs and lows and increasing demands on the pancreas to produce insulin and over time the system breaks down and we can become insulin resistant which greatly increases our risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease and weight gain is almost certain.
The most efficient and effective way of managing blood sugar levels, hunger and sugar cravings is to ensure that every meal (and snack if required) includes a source of protein, fibre and fat as these slow down the absorption of the carbohydrate sugars into the bloodstream, help manage appetite and are important for a healthy metabolic rate and good digestion.
Beans and lentils have long been hailed as top notch blood sugar managers and rightly so but the common pea is often neglected and simply regarded as a vegetable which with luck, will count towards our 5 a day. But, when it comes to fat loss, these little round balls of sweet delight have a lot going for them! Not only are they rich in health-protective vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals but they are also a good source of protein, fibre and healthy fat, making them an excellent addition to a diet focused on satisfying our appetite and avoiding blood sugar peaks and troughs which prompt fatigue, lack of concentration, irritability and more often than not, the need for a sugar hit!
Here are a few of my recipes that offer not only the exceptional combination of blood sugar balancing nutrients in peas but a good dose of deliciousness too!
pea, mint and lettuce soup (makes 4 bowls or 6 mugs)
- 600ml frozen peas
- 600ml chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 old-fashioned round lettuce, cleaned and shredded
- A generous bunch fresh mint, chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 0% fat Greek yoghurt
- Put a couple of handfuls of the peas in a bowl, pour over some boiling water and leave to plump up while you make the soup.
- Put the stock in a soup pot and bring to the boil.
- Reduce the heat, add the rest of the peas and simmer gently until tender.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the lettuce and mint.
- Whizz in a blender until smooth (or the texture you prefer) then return to a clean pot and reheat gently.
- Season to taste.
- Ladle into bowls/mugs, top with a couple of teaspoons of yoghurt and quickly swirl with a skewer, drain the peas which have been soaking in the boiling water and scatter over before serving.
mediterranean chickpea salad bowl (makes 1 serving)
- 2 tablespoons chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 tablespoon red pepper, de-seeded and chopped
- 1 tablespoon yellow pepper, de-seeded and chopped
- A generous handful of fresh or defrosted peas or finely-sliced sugar snaps or mange touts
- 1 tablespoon red onion, peeled and very finely sliced
- 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 teaspoons pitted black olives, halved
- 1 tablespoon diced cucumber
- 1 tablespoon feta cheese, crumbled
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Italian Dressing (see below)
- To make the dressing: in a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon top quality or homemade mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon crème fraîche, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar, ½ tablespoon grated fresh Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon fresh milk, ½ peeled and crushed garlic clove, 1 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh parsley, a pinch of sea salt and a few twists of black pepper.
- You won’t need all the dressing but it keeps well in a lidded jam jar in the fridge for a couple of days.
- Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl, mix well, check the seasoning, add a couple of tablespoons of the dressing and mix through.
- NB: you can also add bacon bits, steamed green beans, broad beans, asparagus and diced or sliced fresh peach or pear gives this salad a lovely fruity edge.
singapore-style noodles (makes 1 serving)
- Frozen mixed vegetables
- Frozen peas and corn
- Egg noodles
- 5 spice powder and mild curry powder
- Soy sauce or mirin
- Sweet chilli sauce
- Cook a good handful of egg noodles according to the packet instructions.
- Cook at least 4 handfuls of frozen vegetables according to packet instructions.
- Put the whole lot in a wide shallow pan over a medium heat, add a good pinch of 5 spice powder, a good pinch of curry powder, a good splash of soy sauce or mirin and a small teaspoon of sweet chilli sauce and stir everything vigorously until nicely mixed then add a handful of beansprouts just at the end and give it another good stir before serving.
I recommend 2 large or 3 small/medium free range eggs for a one-person frittata and enough filling to ensure that when ‘the mix’ goes into the pan, it is just visible above the egg rather than floating below the surface.
- Heat the oven to 160C/320F/Gas Mark 2–3.
- In a bowl, beat the eggs with a fork until lightly foamy and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Prepare your fillings.
- Heat a little light olive, avocado or coconut oil in a small, heavy-bottomed, oven-proof frying pan over a medium heat and cook your fillings gently until cooked through (some like onions and peppers will require longer than those that are ready-cooked).
- Once your filling is cooked through and looking tempting, pour the egg mixture into the pan and cook over a low heat for 3–4 minutes then transfer the pan to the middle shelf of the oven and cook for 6–8 minutes until the egg is set and golden on the surface.
- Ham, Courgette and Gruyere
- Smoked Salmon, Peas and Peppers
- Chicken, Spinach, Feta and Basil
- Bacon, Mushrooms, Cherry Tomatoes and Sugar Snap Peas or Mange Touts
- Sautéed Onion, Fresh Chopped Herbs and Parmesan
- Smoked Trout, Crème Fraîche and Dill
- Spinach, Blue Cheese and Chives