Cowpeas are not only versatile and delicious, but also important for human health, offering a number of benefits, such as their ability to improve digestion, aid sleep disorders, manage diabetes, protect the heart, detoxify the body, promote healthy skin, aid in weight loss, and strengthen circulation.
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What are Cowpeas?
Don’t let the name confuse you; cowpeas have nothing to do with cows, except for their unusual coloration of black and white. However, they are a very important legume crop in many parts of Asia, Africa, and other arid parts of the world. These versatile and hardy peas from the Vigna genus are able to grow in harsh, unforgiving climates, providing people in those areas with a dense form of nutrients that can be cultivated successfully. For more than 4,000 years, cowpeas have likely been cultivated in these regions of the world, but there is far more to the story than that. Given the high nutrient density of the beans, they have demonstrated a number of health benefits.
While the beans are the primary focus of the cowpea plant, the leaves, pea pods, and green peas are also edible and can deliver a powerful burst of nutrients and minerals to the human body. In culinary traditions, cowpeas were important complementary dietary items to traditional grain-based meals, as they are packed with protein. From bean salads and soups to cakes and stand-alone vegetarian dishes, cowpeas are easy to prepare and provide far more nutrition than many other legume species. Furthermore, their nitrogen-fixing ability helps them improve the usefulness and versatility of farmland, thus helping other crops and agricultural practices.
Health Benefits of Cowpeas
Let’s take a closer look at the many impressive health benefits of cowpeas.
When you’re facing digestive issues, such as constipation or diarrhea, it can be an uncomfortable and embarrassing problem. Dietary fiber is one of the best solutions for a wide range of stomach issues, as it can help to absorb water and loosen up the stool, bulking up your bowel movements and stimulating peristaltic motion. It can also improve the efficiency of your digestion. Most importantly, cowpeas are a rich source of fiber in anyone’s daily diet.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) has recently gotten some great attention for its role in protecting heart health. It can actively prevent heart failure and largely control the ventricles of the heart. Furthermore, various flavonoids are found within cowpeas that can reduce inflammation and promote more normal heart function. Dietary fiber also plays a particular role in the balance of cholesterol in the body, which can prevent heart attacks and strokes, as well as the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
The antioxidant effects of cowpeas are of particular interest to the natural health community because cowpeas are being increasingly linked to lower levels of chronic illnesses like cancer. The antioxidants found in these legumes seek out and neutralize free radicals within the body, which cause chronic illness and cellular mutation. The Vitamin C and A alone that is found in cowpeas is enough to give the body a major detoxifying boost to protect the immune system.
Most people don’t think about tryptophan unless they’re eating Thanksgiving dinner, but there are significant levels of tryptophan in cowpeas, which can help the body relax and ease into better sleep patterns. If you suffer from restlessness at night or insomnia, consider adding a spoonful of cowpea bean salad before you go to bed so you can wake up feeling refreshed!
Magnesium is a very important mineral that is often overlooked. However, magnesium plays a key role in the metabolism of carbohydrates and can help the body maintain balanced levels of blood sugar, regardless of what food you’re eating. Magnesium can be found in high levels within cowpeas, and also contributes to better bone health and sleep patterns.
Cowpeas have long been used as a treatment for anemia, an iron deficiency in the body that results in weakness, cognitive confusion, stomach aches, fatigue, and poor overall metabolic function. The high levels of iron found in cowpeas are an excellent way to counter the effects of anemia, while also promoting good circulation. Iron is necessary for the production of red blood cells, so an iron surplus will provide more oxygenated blood to the organs, thus promoting better function, faster healing, and higher energy levels.
These beans are very low in calories and cholesterol, which is always a benefit to weight loss, but the dietary fiber also helps in more important ways. It not only optimizes digestion to make sure that you are absorbing nutrients, rather than storing fat or waste in your body, but it also makes you feel full for longer. One of the biggest problems with weight loss programs is overeating on “cheat days” or snacking between meals. With a high-fiber diet in place, you can achieve your weight loss goals much more quickly.
The impressive levels of antioxidant compounds found in cowpeas, as well as vitamin C, A, and protein, makes it excellent for improving the appearance and health of your skin. The antioxidants eliminate signs of aging, soothe irritation, heal scars and protect the skin against the effects of UV radiation, while protein helps stimulate cellular repair and the growth of new tissues. Believe it or not, these little legumes can help you look and feel your best.