Sugar snap peas are a popular vegetable known for their sweet taste and crisp texture. Many health-conscious eaters wonder if sugar snap peas are a good option for low-carb diets like keto or paleo. This article will examine the carb content of sugar snap peas and whether they can be part of a low-carb eating plan.
What are sugar snap peas?
Sugar snap peas are a variety of pea that can be eaten pod and all. The pods are crisp, sweet, and juicy with a flavor similar to snow peas. Sugar snap peas are often eaten raw or briefly cooked, as prolonged cooking can make the pods tough and less sweet.
Botanically, sugar snap peas are Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon. They are a hybrid of snow peas and garden peas bred specifically to produce crisp, edible pods along with plump peas inside.
Compared to snow peas, sugar snap pods are thicker, sweeter, and starchier. Garden peas, on the other hand, have inedible pods that are peeled away to enjoy just the inner peas.
Nutrition facts for sugar snap peas
One cup (118 grams) of raw sugar snap peas contains (1):
As you can see, sugar snap peas are very low in calories and fat. They also provide fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, thiamine, folate, manganese, and vitamin A (1).
However, the main thing to note for low-carb diets is the carb content.
There are 8 grams of carbs in 1 cup of sugar snap peas, 5 grams of which are from natural sugars. There are also 3 grams of fiber, so the net digestible carbs are estimated to be 5 grams.
Are sugar snap peas keto friendly?
Many people following a ketogenic diet aim to limit net carbs to 20–50 grams per day (2).
With only 5 grams of net carbs in 1 cup, sugar snap peas can easily fit into a keto diet. They make a great addition to keto-friendly meals and snacks.
For example, sugar snap peas go well raw alongside keto dips like guacamole or hummus. They can also be quickly sautéed in olive oil or butter and seasoned with salt and pepper for a simple low-carb side dish.
When watching your portions, about 1 cup of sugar snap peas per day should be fine for most keto diets. This provides a nice serving of crunchy, sweet nutrition without going over carb limits.
Do sugar snap peas work for paleo and primal diets?
The paleo and primal diets also focus on low-carb eating by avoiding processed grains, added sugars, and legumes like beans and peas.
However, green peas and sugar snap peas are an exception. Even though they are technically legumes, green peas are lower in lectins and other anti-nutrients compared to mature dried legumes (3).
Both peas and snap peas can be enjoyed in moderation on paleo and primal diets as a healthy source of carbs. About 1 cup per day is a reasonable portion.
Sugar snap peas also fit well with the paleo and primal dietary guidelines, as they are untouched by human cultivation. Sugar snap peas have never been developed into a dried legume crop. They are always enjoyed fresh off the vine.
This makes them an excellent natural source of nutrition for low-carb hunter-gatherer style diets.
Carb counts in raw vs. cooked sugar snap peas
The nutrition information provided earlier is for raw sugar snap peas. Does cooking change the carb content?
There is little difference in the total carb and fiber amounts between raw and cooked sugar snap peas. Cooking has minimal impact on the carbohydrate profile (4, 5):
|1 cup raw
|1 cup boiled
Boiling, steaming, sautéing, or roasting sugar snap peas results in similar nutrition content. The net digestible carbs increase just 1 gram when cooked.
This makes sense, as sugar snap pea pods are already tender and edible when raw. They don’t need long cooking times to break down fibrous structures like other vegetables.
That being said, prolonged cooking can start to break down the pectin and hemicellulose fibers in sugar snap peas, increasing the net carbs slightly (6). It’s best to steam or sauté them for just 2–5 minutes to retain texture and nutrition.
Sugar snap peas vs. green peas
Traditional green peas are another healthy low-carb vegetable. However, green peas contain more net carbs than sugar snap peas:
|Sugar snap peas (raw)
|Green peas (boiled)
Both peas and snap peas contain similar amounts of fiber. But snap peas have about half the total and net carb content compared to regular boiled peas.
This is because sugar snap pea pods are thinner and less starchy than the inner pod walls of garden peas. Snap peas don’t develop the same starchiness and fiber in the pod walls that peas need to support the mature seeds.
Plus, with snap peas the pod walls are eaten along with the inner peas and juices. For green peas, the fibrous pods are removed. This concentrates their carb content.
So while green peas can be part of low-carb diets in moderation, sugar snap peas will provide fewer net carbs per serving.
Do sugar snap peas have anti-nutrients?
Most legumes contain lectins and phytic acid, which are antinutrients that impair digestion and mineral absorption.
However, sugar snap peas have lower lectin levels than beans, lentils, and most other legumes (7).
One study found the lectin content in snap peas was only about 5% the amount found in kidney beans (8). Plus, most of this lectin was attached to the fiber, limiting its digestive effects.
Sugar snap peas also have lower phytic acid levels than beans and lentils (9).
This makes sense when you consider sugar snap peas are always eaten fresh. They don’t go through drying and long cooking processes needed to degrade antinutrients in other legumes.
For most people, the relatively low antinutrient content in sugar snap peas shouldn’t cause digestive issues or mineral deficiencies.
However, people with autoimmune conditions may still want to limit all legumes, including sugar snap peas. Those with severe IBS or nutrient malabsorption issues should be cautious with snap peas as well.
Do sugar snap peas spike blood sugar?
Sugar snap peas have a low glycemic index, meaning they minimally impact blood sugar levels (10).
This glycemic response comes from their high fiber content. The fiber slows carb digestion, preventing blood sugar spikes after eating snap peas.
Plus, sugar snap peas are relatively low carb compared to many other vegetables. With only 5 grams of digestible carbs per serving, they are easy to fit into low-glycemic diets like a diabetic diet.
In one study, subjects had a milder glycemic response after eating sugar snap peas compared to carrots, corn, and potato (11). Sugar snap peas also lowered blood sugar when added to white rice in another trial (12).
This makes them a smart choice for people with diabetes looking for delicious vegetables that won’t destabilize blood sugar levels.
Can you eat sugar snap pea pods raw?
Absolutely! One of the pleasures of growing sugar snap peas is nibbling on the crisp, sweet pods while picking in the garden.
Raw sugar snap peas make the perfect nutritious finger food snack. They can be enjoyed straight off the vine or dipped in healthy dips like hummus or guacamole.
The pods have a naturally tender texture and don’t need cooking to become palatable. In fact, light cooking for just 2-3 minutes retains the signature crunchy snap that gives sugar snap peas their name.
Sugar snap pea pods are completely safe to eat raw. The only risk of raw vegetables is foodborne illness, but this is very rare from homegrown snap peas eaten right after picking.
You may want to wash produce from the store to remove residual dirt and bacteria. But other than that, feel free to enjoy sugar snap peas straight out of your garden au natural!
Can you eat snap pea pods if they’re fibrous?
As sugar snap peas mature, the pods gradually become thicker and more fibrous. Eventually the bitterness from fibers like lignin and cellulose starts to come through.
At this point, the pods are still safe to eat. However, they won’t have the signature tender-crisp texture. More mature peas are often shelled and just the inner peas eaten instead.
But newer pods even with slight fiber and bitterness are fine to eat, especially when cooked briefly. This softens the fibrous structures. Slow cooking methods like simmering in soups or stews can make mature snap peas palatable.
Look for pods that still have a shine, springy texture, and vibrant color. Avoid greyish, dull, overly thick pods. The ideal snap pea is plump and rounded but not bulging with peas; this signals peak tender maturity.
With homegrown snap peas, simply taste as you pick and harvest the pods at whichever stage you find tastiest. Commercial snap peas are picked early, when pods are thinnest and most tender.
Do sugar snap peas cause gas and bloating?
Some people experience gassiness, bloating, and digestive discomfort after eating sugar snap peas and other legumes.
Incompletely digested carbs are one culprit. The fiber, sugar alcohols, oligosaccharides, and resistant starches in snap peas can ferment in the gut, producing gas (13).
For people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), FODMAPs (fermentable carbs) in snap peas may trigger digestive issues.
The lectins and other antinutrients in snap peas may also contribute to gas and bloating, especially in those with gut sensitivity.
Cooking sugar snap peas before eating can help break down fibers and lectins to reduce fas-producing effects. Additionally, limiting portion sizes and introducing snap peas gradually can help tolerance build up over time.
However, some people experience gas and digestive issues from nearly all high-fiber veggies. If this applies to you, consult a dietitian knowledgeable in the low-FODMAP diet to manage symptoms.
Can you freeze sugar snap peas?
Freezing is a great way to preserve the harvest and enjoy sugar snap peas all year long.
To freeze, start by washing and patting dry fresh snap peas. Sort and discard any overripe pods.
Blanching before freezing helps retain color and texture. To blanch, boil a pot of water and add snap peas for 1-2 minutes until bright green. Remove and immediately plunge into an ice water bath to stop cooking. Drain and pat dry.
Spread blanched snap peas in a single layer on a tray and freeze overnight. Transfer to freezer bags, removing as much air as possible. Properly frozen snap peas will keep for about 8 months at 0°F.
To use frozen snap peas, simply run under cool water to thaw or add directly to soups, stir fries, and other cooked dishes. They’ll soften within minutes.
Avoid freezing overripe fibrous pods, as they’ll turn even more soft and mushy when thawed. Enjoy those snap peas fresh!
Can you juice sugar snap peas?
Sugar snap peas have a high water content, making them suitable for juicing. Their mild flavor blends well with sweeter produce like apples or carrots.
To juice sugar snap peas:
– Rinse fresh pods and pat dry. Remove strings along the seam if desired.
– Run pods through a juicer according to manufacturer’s directions.
– For the sweetest flavor, dilute with other fruits and veggies. Snap peas have a low sugar content on their own.
– Drink immediately or store sealed in fridge up to 48 hours.
Snap pea juice retains most of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes found in the whole vegetable. Juicing discard the fiber, concentrating the vegetable’s nutrients into an easy-to-consume liquid form.
However, fiber is important for controlling blood sugar and promoting gut health. For this reason, it’s best to use snap pea juice to supplement your diet instead of replacing solid foods. Drink it along with fiber-rich meals.
Picking the perfect sugar snap peas
When selecting sugar snap peas, look for:
– Bright green, firm, smooth pods. Avoid yellowing, cracked, warped, or soft.
– Medium-sized, fully rounded pods without bulges or lumps.
– A bit of stiffness and palpable crunch when gently squeezed, signifying crispness.
– Both ends well-attached to stem and tip.
– Refrigerate unwashed in perforated plastic bag for up to 7 days.
Rinse just before eating. Trim ends and remove any strings along the seam if desired. Store shelled snap peas in air-tight containers for 3-4 days.
Optimal storage conditions
To maximize freshness, store sugar snap peas:
– Unwashed, in refrigerator crisper drawer. Rinsing accelerates spoilage.
– Loose or in perforated plastic bags. Avoid airtight containers or moisture buildup.
– At high humidity, around 95-100%. Misting snap peas helps preserve crunch.
– Away from ethylene-producing fruits like apples that hasten ripening.
– For no more than 3-5 days, or up to 7 days if very fresh.
Wash just before eating. Place used snap peas in a closed container in fridge; eat within a few days. Freeze extras for extended storage.
Sugar snap peas are a delicious low-carb vegetable. With only 5 grams of digestible carbs and no fat per one-cup serving, they are an excellent addition to keto, paleo, primal, and diabetic diets.
The entire snap pea pod is edible, providing a sweet crunch and plenty of nutrition. Raw or cooked snap peas make a tasty finger food or crunchy side dish.
Look for plump, crisp, bright green snap pea pods. Store them properly in the refrigerator and enjoy within a week for the sweetest flavor and texture.
At only around 40 calories per cup, you can enjoy heaps of sugar snap peas on a low-carb diet. Their sweet, juicy crunch adds nutrition and satisfaction without spiking blood sugar or blowing your daily carb limit.