Spring Surprise: Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar Snap PeasSpring has brought us such a nice surprise. These often-overlooked edible pods are easy to prepare, and most importantly, they’re healthy and delicious.

Twenty sugar snap peas contain only 28 calories, and yet are packed full of nutrients. One cup of the chopped pods offers 3 grams each of fiber and protein, a full daily dose of vitamin C, and one-third of our daily vitamin K and vitamin A requirements. Sugar snap peas are rich in folate, vitamin B6, iron, and manganese. In addition, they contain many other essential B-complex vitamins such as pantothenic acid, niacin, thiamine, and pyridoxine, as well as important minerals like calcium, copper, zinc, selenium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Sugar snap pea pods also supply phytonutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for eye health. Touted by the Linus Pauling Institute as one of the best sources of alpha-carotene, snap peas also contain beta-carotene. These carotenoids, in combination with sugar snap peas’ high vitamin C level, function as powerful antioxidants to boost the immune system.Roasted Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar snap peas, not to be confused with their flat cousins the snow peas, are often eaten raw. Yet these kid-friendly vegetables are sweeter when cooked and make some easy, delicious meals. Just heat a little oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, fresh ginger, soy sauce, and/or sesame oil (or none of those ingredients) along with the sugar snap peas. Sauté, tossing occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes until they are crisp but tender. Finish with a little salt and pepper to taste. Also try roasting these delicious pods instead of sautéing them for another option.  Roasted Sugar Snap Peas make a super easy vegetable that tastes great to the non vegetable lovers and pairs well with quinoa.

Watch this video with Sarah Carey and make this Beef, Snap Pea, and Asparagus Stir-Fry. I replaced some of the asparagus with sliced baby portabella mushrooms and red bell pepper strips, and added 1 tsp of hot chile sauce (Sriracha) to her recipe for extra color and taste. Serve it over quinoa instead of rice. How about an easy  Snap Pea Pasta Salad with marinated artichokes to take to your spring barbecues? Even when you are cooking pasta, you can add sugar snap peas for the last three minutes and make it a one-pot meal. Sugar snap peas are aSnap Pea Pasta Salad fun food that that enhances many recipes.

Sugar Snap Peas provide lots of nutrients and flavor bang for the calories. I call that nutrient-dense and nutrient-smart.  Spring really has brought a nice surprise! Take the May (2013) Healthy Challenge and eat lots of these delicious sugar snap peas. So simple, yet so good!