Now that Easter is over, don’t throw out that ham bone — make a pot of split pea soup. Split peas come in two varieties, green and yellow, and can be used interchangeably in recipes.
Split peas are a great source of soluble fiber, which helps bind cholesterol and remove it from the body. Foods high in fiber can help balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slower-burning energy. This is beneficial for those with insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes. One cup of cooked split peas provides 65 percent of the recommended daily fiber intake and contains 16 grams of protein.
Split peas are a source of thiamine, potassium, phosphorus and folate. Folate is a B vitamin that is essential in the formation of new cells. Potassium, which is believed to decrease the growth and development of blood vessel plaques, is also good for lowering blood pressure. Peas also contain isoflavones, which are phytonutrients that can act like weak estrogen in the body. The consumption of isoflavones has been linked to a reduced risk of certain health conditions, including breast and prostate cancer. Legumes have been associated with an 82 percent reduction in risk of death from coronary heart disease in research that followed 16,000 middle-age men for 25 years in the U.S., Finland, Netherlands, Italy, former Yugoslavia, Greece and Japan.
Whole peas need to be soaked in cold water for at least eight hours before cooking, but split peas do not need extra preparation. To prepare peas, place in a saucepan using three cups of fresh water per cup of peas. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Split peas take about 30 minutes to cook.
Split Pea and Ham Soup
Makes 4 servings
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound dried split peas
2 cups chopped carrots
1 ham bone
1 pinch each salt and pepper to taste
Leftover pieces of ham, if desired
In a medium pot, saute the onions in the oil. Add the split peas, ham bone and enough water to cover the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until there are no peas remaining, just a green liquid. This will take about 2 hours. While it is cooking, check to see if water has evaporated. You may need to add more water as the soup continues to cook. Add chopped carrots. Once the soup is a green liquid remove from heat and let stand so it will thicken. When thickened you may want to heat again before serving.
Nutrition information per serving: 425 calories, 2.5 grams total fat, 120 milligrams sodium, 70 g total carbohydrates (30 of which is dietary fiber) and 28 g of protein.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian and adjunct nutrition instructor at Eastern Maine Community College who lives in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.