What's so special about yellow pea fiber?
What is yellow pea fiber?
Yellow pea fiber comes from yellow peas (botanical name: Pisum sativum L.), sometimes called dry, smooth, or field peas. This is a pulse plant, which the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN defines as pod plants grown for the dried, edible peas and beans inside the pods (vs. eaten as green vegetables). The difference is that the pod is not consumed, just the seeds inside. Chickpeas, dried beans, and lentils are other common examples—what most people think of as legumes. Humans have been eating these plants for thousands of years. Yellow peas are the second most farmed legume crop in the world, and have the added benefit, from a farming standpoint, that they also bring nitrogen back into the soil, making them also useful in crop rotation.
Our yellow pea fiber is sourced in North America —a world leader in pulse production. Both the inside of the pea, called the cotyledon, and the outside of the pea, the hull, are edible and have lots of uses as food additives. The hulls are milled or ground to preserve their nutritional qualities and can be ground to different particle sizes to meet various needs. They can be turned into protein supplements, starches, flours, and fibers, and have lots of uses in various foods. Pea products have been used to replace eggs in sweet baked goods and batters, to add texture to soups and crackers, and to emulsify sauces. In wheat breads, they can increase the protein content and enhance moisture; in snack foods like biscotti or staples like pasta, they lower the glycemic index.
As foods, these peas are a rich source of protein, being high in the essential amino acids leucine, lysine, phenylalanine, and valine, and the non-essential amino acids arginine, aspartic acid, glutamine, and serine. Like other pulses, when combined with grains like wheat or rice, they can provide a well-balanced protein profile. They also offer various key vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6) and minerals and trace minerals important to human health, such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and folate. Yellow peas have more iron and magnesium than green peas, but all peas are more digestible than soybeans or other pulse plants. When compared with maize starch for example, pea starches and flours more effectively controlled glucose levels than did whole wheat or maize flours.
Yellow peas are full of phytonutrients (phenolic acids, flavonoids, phytates, lectins, saponins, oxalates, and tannins), most concentrated in the hull, which have antioxidative and anticancer properties, such as anti-inflammatory effects.
Why is fiber so important?
As a fiber source, our yellow pea hulls contain 95.6 % total dietary fibre, of which 7.7% is soluble fibre - thus they have a high insoluble to soluble fiber ratio. Pulse flours overall have a markedly higher insoluble fiber content compared to wheat flours. It is this unique fiber profile that likely accounts for their low glycemic index, which is certainly useful to those people striving to maintain stable glucose levels, whether due to having diabetes or for other reasons.
In general, fiber matters for a ton of reasons:
- It has been correlated with reduced cardiovascular disease since greater consumption of dietary fibers lowers the risk of CVD and coronary heart disease
- Fiber lowers LDL cholesterol levels, which may be related to how some fibers can bind to bile salts or to dietary fat to carry these substances out of the body. In fact, one study showed that having just 130 g of a pulse food daily significantly lowered LDL cholesterol compared with the control group. Another study made clear that insoluble fiber was especially beneficial for lowering blood pressure, triglycerides, and total cholesterol.
- Fiber contributes to weight management through reduced appetite and increased satiety. Several factors account for this. Supplementing the diet with oligofructose, a soluble fiber, helps to suppress ghrelin (the hunger hormone) while also regulating glucose levels. Pulse consumption specifically has been shown to increase satiety by 2 to 4 hours, and studies show that including yellow peas also contributes to earlier satiety. This means that the person eats less overall and has lower blood glucose after a meal, even if the rest of that meal is high glycemic.
- Fiber means yellow peas are digested slowly, giving them a low glycemic index—that is, a reduced glucose response. One study showed that a half cup of yellow whole pea or pea hulls daily reduced insulin resistance in the study group.
- Fiber makes for happy bowel habits through its effect on motility and stool bulking (fiber helps to hold moisture in the stool).
- Fiber leads to positive changes in the gut microbiota through its function as a prebiotic.
Prebiotics are soluble and insoluble fibers that feed healthy or friendly bacteria that live in our guts. They are best understood as starches and fibers that resist digestion in the small bowel, which then travel to the large bowel where, through fermentation, they feed this helpful bacteria. Yellow pea contains oligosaccharides, resistant starches, and fermentable fiber that all act as prebiotics, which are correlated with many positive effects, such as producing short-chain fatty acids that contribute to various positive metabolic effects.
Clinical study on Benefits of Yellow Pea Fiber
A randomized, double-blinded, placebo controlled study was conducted to examine the effects of yellow pea fiber on the human body. The results of the study were significant, and have since been published in two peer-reviewed medical journals. For the purposes of this clinical study, yellow pea fiber cookies were made and served to participants. The participants that consumed 15 grams/day of yellow pea fiber in the form of cookies experienced the following:
- Significant weight loss, with no other intentional changes to their everyday diet.
- Fat loss, while maintaining muscle mass. This is often a challenge in the weight loss process, as people tend to lose lean muscle along with fat when on a diet.
- Improved insulin sensitivity, an important consideration since insulin resistance can contribute to weight gain.
- An increased presence of Lachnospira bacteria. This is significant as it drops markedly with weight gain, but its abundance is linked to weight loss.
- An increased presence of Short-chain Fatty Acid metabolites aligned with a healthy weight, such as acetate, serine, and glutamate.
- A decreased presence of fatty acids those aligned with weight gain, such as isovalerate.
- Elevated ketone bodies that help to suppress appetite, such as acetoacetate, 2-hydroxybutyrate, and 3-hydroxybutyrate.
- Lowered triglycerides and LDL cholesterol
Read about the effects of yellow pea fiber on reduction of energy intake and body fat in Journal of Clinical Nutrition - Lambert et al. 2017
Read about the effects of yellow pea fiber on gut microbiota in Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry - Mayengbam et al. 2019
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4016088/ https://www.redalyc.org/pdf/3092/309232644012.pdf https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/1/1/17/4591548
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1941406410383980 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095528631830682X?via%3Dihub https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Susan_Tosh/publication/223197424_Dietary_fibres_in_pulse_seeds_and_fractions_Characterization_functional_attributes_and_applications/links/5b04102faca2720ba0996c85/Dietary-fibres-in-pulse-seeds-and-fractions-Characterization-functional-attributes-and-applications.pdf