Cowpea, otherwise called Black-eyed pea, is a kind of bean with a black eye on it, which is oval and cultivated around the world as a common legume. Cowpeas are generally pale in color, and they are also found in various species such as red, black, brown, creamy white, and so on.
Its savory flavor and taste are popular in Indian cuisine; however, it is enriched with various nutritional values. The strong flavor and taste of cowpeas make it a staple in Southern cuisine.
Cowpeas contains almost all the essential minerals and vitamins such as A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, sodium, zinc, and so on. Cowpeas are not only beneficial for body health but also hair and skin.
In India, cowpeas are called Lobia or Chawli, one of the prominent dishes in most Indian restaurants. It is added to salads, soups, Dal, and curries. Though Lobia seeds or cowpeas are filled with vitamins, minerals, and protein, they are the most economical staple for everyone.
In this Article
Cowpeas are medicinally beneficial in aiding weight loss, boosting immunity, easing digestion, growing hair, glowing skin, and more.
Let’s get into the benefits of cowpeas for health, skin, and care, nutritional content, plant details, traditional usage, and many more in this article.
What is Cowpea?
Cowpeas are botanically called Vigna Unguiculata, an important herbaceous legume crop cultivated in various arid parts of the world, Asia, and Africa continents for more than 4,000 years.
Cowpeas are hardy and versatile beans from the Vigna genus that can grow in harsh climate conditions and provide extremely rich minerals, protein, and vitamins to those areas. Cowpeas are green and lengthy. In earlier days, cowpeas were fed to cattle that gave it a familiar name.
Beans are the primary ingredient used from cowpeas, but the other parts such as leaves, pods, and green peas are also edible and provide the same minerals and nutritions to humankind. Cowpeas are very important in culinary traditions that complement various other dietary items in traditional grain meals and used to make bean salads, cakes, soups, and numerous vegetarian dishes. As cowpeas are quick to cook, they can be easily added to various dishes than other legume species. In South Africa, they use this grain mostly to prepare stews.
Types of Cowpeas
Later, cowpeas were mainly cultivated for human consumption and gained various other names based on the changes in the shape, size, and taste. The popular types of cowpeas are:
- Black-Eyed Peas
- Southern Pea
- Yardlong Bean
- Crowder Pea
History of Cowpeas
Cowpeas were introduced to Europe and India in and around 300 BC and 200 BC. In England, the people used English peas for human consumption and cowpeas for cows. After the period, cowpeas were transported to the southern regions of America and cultivated there.
Some old records say the cowpea was used in Jamaica around 1675, and in Florida, America in about 1714. Southern America’s weather and soil were the perfect land for cowpeas to grow. Cowpeas make the soil it grows into nitrogen-rich. In this way, it works as a soil fixer and eventually helps other plants to grow.
Cowpea is from a plant family and an herbaceous legume that annually grows in lands with adequate rainfall. This crop grows well in a warm climate, humid tropic, and temperate zones. The well-drained and sandy soil is the best to grow this crop. The plant reaches almost 24 inches in height.
The flowers of the plant are bell-shaped and in white, pink, purple, yellow, or blue.
The plant has dark green leaves that grow to 10 cm. The leaves are smooth, pubescent, rhomboid, and shiny to look at.
The stems of the plant are smooth, hairy, straight, and in purple shade. The stem reaches 3m long.
It has a taproot with lateral roots expansion in the soil.
The pea pod is in yellow, purple, or green color. The pods are 6 to 10 inches long with a slight curve and cylindrical shape. Each pod contains 6 to 13 seeds that are green, white, creamy, brown, red, and black color. The seeds are kidney-shaped and 6 to 12 mm long. The flavor of seeds more or less like nuts. The lifespan of seed is five years.
The plant roots, leaves, immature pea pods, green seeds, and seeds are the edible parts of this plant.
Cowpea Scientific Classification
|Scientific Name||Vigna unguiculata|
|Subkingdom||Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)|
|Superdivision||Spermatophyta (Seed plants)|
|Division||Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)|
|Family||Fabaceae/Leguminosae (Pea family)|
|Genus||Vigna Savi (Cowpea)|
|Species||Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp. (Cowpea)|
Synonyms of Vigna unguiculata (Cowpeas)
Dolichos biflorus L., Dolichos sesquipedalis L., Phaseolus cylindricus L., Vigna baoulensis A. Chev., Vigna catjang (Burm. f.) Walp., Vigna cylindrica (L.) Skeels, Vigna sesquipedalis (L.) Fruwirth, Vigna sinensis (L.) Savi ex Hassk., Vigna sinensis subsp. sesquipedalis (L.) Van Eselt., Vigna sinensis subsp. sinensis, Vigna triloba Walp., Vigna unguiculata subsp. cylindrica (L.) Verdc., Vigna unguiculata subsp. dekindtiana (Harms) Verdc., Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis (L.) Verdc., Vigna unguiculata subsp. stenophylla (Harv.), MarÃ©chal, Mascherpa & Stainier, and Vigna unguiculata subsp. Unguiculata.
Common Names of Cowpeas/Black-eyed Peas/Lobia
- Botanical Name: Vigna unguiculata
- English Name: Cowpeas, Black-eyes peas
- Tamil Name: தட்டைப்பயறு/Thattaipayaru, காராமணி/Karamani
- Malayalam Name: തട്ടപ്പായിരു/Thattapayeru, വാൻപയർ/Vanpayar
- Telugu Name: అలసందులు/Alasandulu, బొబ్బర్లు/Bobbarlu
- Kannada Name: ಬಾರ್ಬೊತಿ ಕೊಲೈ / Barboti Kolai, ಅಲಸಂದೆ / Alasande
- Hindi Name: लोबिअ/Lobia, बोरा/Bora
- Marathi Name: चावली /Chawli
- Gujarati Name: ચોળા/Chola
- Punjabi Name: ਰੌਂਗ / Raung
- Bengali Name: বরবটি/Barbati
- Urdu Name: گوارا/Gawara
21 Possible Health Benefits of Cowpeas
Cowpeas, aka Black-eyed peas, are highly nutrient riched, having an array of all the essential minerals, vitamins, and protein in each serving. There are also many micronutrients found in their beans, such as folate, iron, copper, and thiamine.
In addition to nutrients, cowpeas are also full of polyphenols that are chemical compounds that act as antioxidants in the human body to remove free radicals, repair and prevent cell damages, and provide overall well-being.
Packed with several nutritions values and components, cowpeas are associated with various effective health benefits. Let’s see them here.
1. Keep Cholesterol Levels on Check
Cowpeas are beneficial in keeping cholesterol levels in check. The source of dietary fiber and protein in these beans is a substance to decrease the bad cholesterol levels in the blood plasma. The steroid compounds present the beans called phytosterols that are powerful in maintaining the normal cholesterol levels.
2. Controls Blood Cholesterol
The glycemic index is the main reason that increases the sugar levels in the blood. Luckily, cowpeas are lower in this glycemic index than other grains. A few studies demonstrate that following the low glycemic index diet is medically beneficial for the blood lipid profile in the body. Hence, the beans are another remedy to maintain standard blood cholesterol levels.
3. Regulates Blood Sugar Levels
Cowpeas with soluble fiber help absorb the excessive sugar content in the blood, making it an ideal food for diabetic patients. The low glycemic index values of cowpeas help regulate the sugar levels of the blood.
4. Treats Cardiovascular Ailments
Thiamine, also called Vitamin B1, is found in various vitamin B complex supplements and products. It is an essential vitamin for neurotransmitters’ reactions, aka acetylcholine that passes the actions and messages from the brain to the muscles and nervous system of the body.
The clinical studies show that Vitamin B1 prevents heart ailments and maintains the functions of ventricles in the heart. Eating thiamine rich foods like Cowpeas keeps you away from cardiovascular diseases.
A study involving 42 women has shown that following a low-calorie diet, including a cup of legumes in a day for six weeks, reduced the blood sugar levels, triglyceride, and waist circumference significantly than a controlled group.
5. Keeps Fatal Diseases Away
Lignin is another powerful component present in cowpeas that is typically a group of phytoestrogens that help prevent various fatal diseases like cancer, hypertension, stroke, osteoporosis, etc.
6. Treats Stomach and Pancreatic Problems
There are very few foods that can handle conditions of spleen, stomach, and pancreas where cowpeas are one of them. The pack of nutritions in cowpeas helps tone the body organs and regulate their functions.
7. Cures Urination Problems
Intaking cowpeas can effectively heal the urination problems like uneasiness. Leucorrhea (abnormal vaginal discharge) is also said to be treated by eating cowpeas regularly.
8. Aids in Weight Loss
Cowpeas are low in fat, calories, and sodium that makes it a beneficial remedy for healthy weight loss. Additionally, the beans are completely free of cholesterol. These attributes contribute to a healthy diet for overweight people who are working on to shed off weight.
9. Prevents Cancer
Ascorbic acid, also is known as Vitamin C, is a natural antioxidant that can fight against free radicals, tumors, and cancer cell growth. The harmful free radicals that affect the human body with excessive oxidative stress that can be treated with Vitamin C. With that said, Cowpeas are having a high amount of vitamin C. On regular consumption, these beans can reduce the free radical rate, and thereby reduce the various health risks and prevent you from being prone to Cancers.
10. Prevents Anemia
Anemia can be better treated with Iron. Cowpeas are a rich source of Iron; hence it helps to cure anemia. The body’s protein metabolism is assisted by iron that is important for the production of hemoglobin in the blood and RBCs, thereby reducing the risks of anemia because it is caused due to deficiency of hemoglobin and red blood cells.
Anemia is a severe health condition that quickly makes the person weak by affecting the body organs and lowering the immunity and energy levels. Without proper energy and low immunity, our body experiences poor brain functioning. The survey was done by WHO showed that low iron levels and genetic disorders are the main reasons for most of the anemia cases.
11. Supports a Healthy Metabolism
The presence of copper, potassium, folate, and several other antioxidants in the cowpeas aid in maintaining a healthy metabolism when intake regularly. Almost 50 different actions of metabolic enzymes in the body require Copper. A cup of cowpeas contains 0.458 mg of copper. All the metabolic reactions are essential to keep the string metabolism.
12. Helps Maintain Strong Bones
The amount of calcium and phosphorus is high in cowpeas. These minerals are essential to strengthen the bones. The bone metabolism enzymes can be regulated by Manganese that helps in bone formation. The mineral density of bones is assured by phosphorus, which prevents fracture, bone break, and osteoporosis.
We need to maintain the standard levels of calcium and phosphorus to have healthy bones. In that case, cowpeas contain 4% calcium, 38% phosphorus, and 35% manganese. Vitamin D and minerals such as zinc, calcium, magnesium, copper, and boron in cowpeas are beneficial in treating osteoporosis in women.
13. Encourages Mental Health
We need both our body and mind to be stable to lead a healthy life. Most of the people nowadays are more affected by mental illness than physical ailments. The pressure, stress, anxiety, and even more things severely affect and prevent them from their normal lifestyle.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that aids in curing certain mental disorders like anxiety, insomnia, and it also helps to get a good sleep at night. The neurotransmitters are responsible for maintaining our mental energy, controlling the moods, and appetite. Tryptophan directly influences and assists these neurotransmitters. The level of histidine can be improved by eating cowpeas as it contains 0.41mg of histidine in a cup of serving size, which is equal to 33% of daily recommended value.
14. Heals and Repairs Muscle Tissue
The presence of Isoleucine in cowpeas helps to increase body endurance and repairs muscle tissue. This compound can also promote the bleeding of the injury.
The amino acids in the body improve the overall energy. In this way, cowpeas contain three amino acid chains, such as isoleucine, leucine, and valine, which speed up the recovery of muscle damages. The same amino acid chain helps in regulating the level of sugar in the blood.
A cup of thoroughly boiled cowpeas contains 0.53 g Isoleucine, 1.01 g leucine, and 0.63 g Valine.
15. Supports Immune system
Vitamin A and C are high in cowpeas, which can boost and improve the body’s immunity. Including the cowpeas in your regular food diet can remove the microbes that cause various infections and illnesses.
Additionally, cowpeas have threonine that stimulates the production of antibodies, and thus it helps to improve the immune system. Threonine is an amino acid that offers glycine and serine essential compounds for muscle tissue, collagen, and elastin production. These compounds assist in maintaining strong and healthy muscles and tissues.
All the grains are a good source of vitamins and amino acids that enhance your body strength and endurance, where the cowpeas are even more nutritious.
16. Prevents Cold Sores
The presence of lysine in the cowpea lowers the cold sores or genital herpes, and it also speeds up the healing time. Eating cowpeas regularly can reduce cold sores. A cup of cowpeas (171 g) contains 0.90 g of lysine that is equal to 27% Daily Value required.
17. Prevents Depression
Cowpeas contain an amino acid called phenylalanine that can prevent depression. The studies on this amino acid showed that phenylalanine could be a powerful remedy for healing depression in men and women.
The mood swings and disturbances were improved as phenylalanine was given because of the increment in chemical production such as dopamine and norepinephrine.
The study proved that consuming foods that contain high amounts of phenylalanine can reduce depression, migraines, sleeping disorders like insomnia, and so on. Thus, cowpeas can effectively lessen depression.
18. Maintains Bowel Movements
The dietary fibers in the beans promote and soften the stool. With that, cowpeas reduced constipation with bulky stool. The fiber compounds absorb the water, so the bulk is added to the stool. Any food diet that includes high fiber content minimizes the risks of pouches in the colon and hemorrhoids.
19. Prevents Birth Defects
Folate, aka Vitamin B9, contributes to reducing the risks of neural tube defects. Folate deficiency can lead to severe congenital disabilities, like heart and limb malformations. The fetus cells need folate to grow and replicate the DNA. So, pregnant women are advised to take vitamin tablets and supplements to have a healthy pregnancy. Fortunately, cowpeas are rich in folate (vitamin B9); for instance, a cup of cowpeas contains 356 micrograms of folate that is 89% of daily recommended value.
20. Prevents Diabetes
As we already have seen, cowpeas are rich in magnesium, which is vital for maintaining the body’s standard glucose and carbohydrate metabolism. The studies found that having magnesium-rich foods can lower the risks of type 2 diabetes by 15 %. The medicinal researches show that magnesium can enhance the sensitivity of insulin.
While the deficiency of magnesium may reduce the secretion and sensitivity of insulin.
However, know that it can prevent diabetes and can’t cure it. The cowpeas contain 27% of carbohydrates that may stimulate the glucose levels, so those who have chronic diabetes must contact the doctor before eating it.
21. Aids in Digestive Health
Cowpeas are a source of soluble fiber that is a crucial nutrient for digestion. The clinical studies summarized that eating soluble fiber-rich foods can gradually improve the regularity and frequency of stools in constipation problems. This soluble fiber in cowpeas and other vegetables can work as a prebiotic that enhances the growth of goodwill bacterias in the gut and helps grow a healthy microbiome. These beneficial bacteria growth aids in digestive health, reduce inflammation, improve immunity, and lowers cholesterol levels.
Various other studies found that fiber can prevent digestive problems like stomach ulcers, hemorrhoids, and acid reflux.
Benefits of Cowpea for Skin
Cowpeas are full of vitamins, protein, and minerals that make it excellent for improving skin health. The antioxidants found in the beans are set to reduce and prevent the aging signs, heal skin irritations, scars, and protect the skin from infections, inflammation, and UV radiations.
Legumes are rich in vitamin C and contain detoxifying and anti-inflammatory properties. All these are essential for healthy glowing skin.
The high protein level in the beans helps speed up the cellular damage and growth of new tissues. It is said that cowpeas with all nutritional content make anyone look younger and active.
1. Delays Signs of Aging
Cowpeas contain two essential vitamins for skin health, such as A, C, and also a high level of antioxidants. All these values contribute to preventing skin cell damages due to harmful free radicals.
These two vitamins gradually repair the cells and heal the skin. The anti-oxidative properties in the beans avoid symptoms of aging like spots, wrinkles, dark circles, etc.
2. Nourishes Skin
Being a protein-rich grain, cowpeas are very good for the skin. In addition to the cell repair abilities, cowpeas are also helpful in cleaning the stomach and removing worms using its dietary fiber. It naturally nourishes the skin and brings a healthy glow.
Benefits of Cowpea for Hair
Cowpeas can facilitate hair growth. The beans are high in protein, which is the essential nutrition you need for long hair.
So, increasing the intake of cowpeas can improve the protein value in your body and thereby helps in hair growth.
1. Offers Shine to Hair
Antioxidant properties of cowpeas are also helpful in benefiting hair growth.
To maintain the health of tresses, make them shiny, and make them strong, cowpeas are an effective remedy.
2. Fights Hair Loss
These small beans can do wonders against hair loss.
Those who suffer from adequate hair fall can add cowpeas in their regular diet to see the effective results in a short time.
Nutritional Profile of Cowpeas
The nutrition value of Cowpeas in a serving size of 1 cup (171 g).
|Calories from Fat||8.19 Kcal||N/D|
|Dietary Fiber||11.1 g||29.21%|
|Total Sugars||5.64 g||N/D|
|Vitamin B9||356 µg||89.00%|
|Vitamin B1||0.345 mg||28.75%|
|Vitamin B5||0.703 mg||14.06%|
|Vitamin B6||0.171 mg||13.15%|
|Vitamin B2||0.094 mg||7.23%|
|Amino Acids||Value||% DV|
Traditional Usage of Cowpeas
All the edible parts of cowpea plant such as Leaf, root, and seed have been used in traditional culinary and medicinal applications.
- Cowpea Plant
The cowpea plant is used to prepare emetics for curing fever and treating urinary schistosomiasis caused by Schistosoma haematobium.
- Plant Leaves
Cowpea plant leaves and seeds are used as bandages in treating infections and swellings. Boils and burns also soothed and cured using the leaves. Chewing the plant leaves can treat tooth disorders.
- Plant Seeds
The cowpea seed powder has used to cure insect stings and irritation. The liquid from cooked cowpea with traditional spices is given to treat common cold and flu. The boiled cowpea can be taken regularly to remove stomach worms. The root of the plant cooked with the seeds is effective in preventing blood in urine and bilharzia.
- Plant Root
The roots of the plant have antidote properties that used to cure snakebites. The infusion prepared from seeds cures amenorrhea, and the crushed plant roots added to porridge to reduce chest pain, menstruation pain, epilepsy, and dysmenorrhea.
How To Include Cowpeas In Your Diet
Cowpeas could be soaked in the water for a night and then boiled, cooked, or steamed. As cowpeas are easy to prepare and offer a strong flavor, it can be added to any spicy and traditional recipes. You can add peas to any gravy or curry that includes onion, tomato, chili, and spices.
Cowpeas are healthy, tasty, and highly versatile that you can enjoy adding them to any recipes. When using dry beans, soak them in water for a minimum of 6 hours to speed up the cooking time and digest it easily.
Then, put them in water or broth and boil. Reduce the flame and let the beans cook for 45 minutes in simmer.
In Traditional Southern cuisine, the boiled beans are added to meat, leafy greens, spices, and gravies. Cowpeas blend well in stews, soups, and salads.
How To Prepare Cowpeas For Cooking (In General)
- Wash the cowpeas with fresh water.
- Soak them for 6 hours or a whole night covering water.
- Next day or after 6 hours, drain the water and put them in a pressure cooker.
- Cover well with water and add a pinch of salt.
- Cook them for 2 to 3 whistles or until they become tender.
- Wait for the pressure to release completely, take out the boiled cowpeas.
You can add the boiled cowpea in soups, stews, meat, grain-based meals, or you can mash the cowpeas and bind them with the Kebab mixture. You get numerous recipe ideas and dishes for using cowpeas on the internet.
Cowpeas Precautions and Side Effects
Cowpeas contain a type of fiber called raffinose that contributes to digestive issues, so it may cause gas troubles, stomach pain, and bloating to some people. To reduce the amount of raffinose and make it easy to digest, dried beans should be soaked before cooking. Cowpeas also have antinutrients such as phytic acid contributing to minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
The antinutrient prevents the absorption of these minerals in the human body. But, soaking the dried beans for a minimum of 6 hours or a whole night and cooking can significantly lower the amount of phytic acid compounds and improve the absorption of nutrition.
However, the overindulgence of cowpeas can cause some health ailments, such as:
- Foul-smelling stools
- Heaviness in Body
- Stomach cramps
It is safe to consult the diet professional before consuming the cowpeas to avoid the above health risks.