8 Surprising Benefits of Cowpeas

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Cowpeas are not only versatile and delicious but also important for human health, offering a number of benefits. They may help improve digestion, aid in sleep disorders, manage diabetes, and protect the heart. They also detoxify the body, promote healthy skin, aid in weight loss, and improve blood circulation.

What are Cowpeas?

Cowpeas 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. For more than 4,000 years, cowpeas have likely been cultivated in these regions of the world. Given the high nutrient density of the beans, they have demonstrated a number of health benefits. [1]

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. [2]

Cowpeas spread on a table

Cowpeas Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Cowpeas, common (blackeyes, crowder, southern), mature seeds, raw
Serving Size :
Water [g]11.95
Energy 336
Energy [kJ]1406
Protein [g]23.52
Total lipid (fat) [g]1.26
Ash [g]3.24
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]60.03
Fiber, total dietary [g]10.6
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]6.9
Calcium, Ca [mg]110
Iron, Fe [mg]8.27
Magnesium, Mg [mg]184
Phosphorus, P [mg]424
Potassium, K [mg]1112
Sodium, Na [mg]16
Zinc, Zn [mg]3.37
Copper, Cu [mg]0.85
Manganese, Mn [mg]1.53
Selenium, Se [µg]9
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]1.5
Thiamin [mg]0.85
Riboflavin [mg]0.23
Niacin [mg]2.08
Pantothenic acid [mg]1.5
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.36
Folate, total [µg]633
Folate, food [µg]633
Folate, DFE [µg]633
Choline, total [mg]94.7
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]3
Carotene, beta [µg]30
Vitamin A, IU [IU]50
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.39
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]5
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.33
12:0 [g]0
14:0 [g]0
16:0 [g]0.25
18:0 [g]0.05
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.11
16:1 [g]0
18:1 [g]0.09
20:1 [g]0
22:1 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.54
18:2 [g]0.34
18:3 [g]0.2
Tryptophan [g]0.29
Threonine [g]0.9
Isoleucine [g]0.96
Leucine [g]1.8
Lysine [g]1.59
Methionine [g]0.34
Cystine [g]0.26
Phenylalanine [g]1.37
Tyrosine [g]0.76
Valine [g]1.12
Arginine [g]1.63
Histidine [g]0.73
Alanine [g]1.07
Aspartic acid [g]2.84
Glutamic acid [g]4.45
Glycine [g]0.97
Proline [g]1.06
Serine [g]1.18
Sources include : USDA [3]

Health Benefits of Cowpeas

Let’s take a closer look at the many impressive health benefits of cowpeas.

May Improve Digestive Health

Cowpeas are a possibly rich source of fiber. 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 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. [4]

May Help in Heart Protection

Cowpeas, possibly rich in vitamin B1 (thiamine), play a great role in protecting heart health. Furthermore, various flavonoids, found in cowpeas, can reduce inflammation and promote 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. [5]

May Aid in Detoxification

The antioxidant effects of cowpeas are of particular interest to the natural health community because cowpeas are being increasingly linked to different kinds of chronic illnesses. The antioxidants that may be found in these legumes seek out and neutralize free radicals within the body, which cause chronic illness and cellular mutation. Vitamin C and A found in cowpeas are enough to give a boost to the immune system. [6]

Possibly Remedy for Sleep Problems

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 are suffering from insomnia or restlessness at night, consider adding a spoonful of cowpea bean salad before you go to bed so you can wake up feeling refreshed! [7]

May Aid in Diabetes Management

In recent times, cowpeas have gained more popularity amongst consumers and researchers worldwide as a result of their beneficial anti-diabetic properties. A 2018 study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture shows that a meal comprising of cowpea has a reduced calorific value, which helps in improving glucose regulation in people with diabetes. [8]

May Improve Circulatory Health

Cowpeas have long been used as a treatment for anemia, an iron deficiency in the body 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. [9]

Might Aid in Weight Loss

Cowpeas are possibly low in calories and cholesterol, which is always a benefit to weight loss and the dietary fiber in them also helps in 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 quicker. [10]

Might Aid in Skin Care

The impressive levels of antioxidants found in cowpeas, as well as vitamin C, vitamin A, and protein, make 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. Protein in these beans helps stimulate cellular repair and the growth of new tissues. Believe it or not, these little legumes can help you look younger and feel your best. [11]

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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