Why should you not eat raw peas?

There are a few key reasons why eating raw peas is not recommended. While peas are quite nutritious, consuming them raw poses some health risks that can be easily avoided by cooking them first. Here are some quick answers to common questions about the dangers of eating raw peas:

Why are raw peas potentially harmful?

Raw peas contain antinutrients like phytic acid and lectins that can irritate the digestive system. Cooking breaks these down.

What are the main health risks?

Food poisoning, digestive issues like bloating and gas, and nutrient malabsorption. The phytic acid in raw peas also blocks mineral absorption.

Are all types of peas unsafe when raw?

Yes, all varieties including garden peas, snow peas and snap peas contain antinutrients. It’s best to cook them before eating.

What cooking methods should be used?

Boiling, steaming, sauteing, roasting. Any method that uses heat will neutralize the antinutrients in peas.

Phytic Acid in Raw Peas

Phytic acid, also known as phytate, is found in all edible seeds, nuts, grains and legumes. It’s considered an antinutrient because it can block the absorption of essential minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium in the body (1).

In peas, phytic acid is concentrated in the bran layer. When peas are eaten raw, the phytic acid remains intact and readily binds to minerals, preventing optimal absorption. Cooking breaks down phytic acid, helping increase mineral bioavailability (2).

Studies show phytic acid can inhibit iron absorption in humans by 20-50%. One study found that phytic acid impaired iron absorption from a meal containing raw peas by 49% compared to a meal with cooked peas (3).

Over time, eating foods high in phytic acid like raw peas may lead to mineral deficiencies, especially iron and zinc. This is of particular concern for those already at risk of mineral deficiencies, like children and women of childbearing age.

Proper preparation through cooking, soaking, sprouting, fermenting or combining peas with vitamin C can help reduce phytic acid and increase mineral absorption from peas (4).

However, completely eliminating phytic acid is unrealistic, as trace amounts are present in almost all plant foods. The key is to properly prepare peas and rotate them with other nutrient-rich foods to maximize mineral absorption.

Lectins in Raw Peas

In addition to phytic acid, raw peas also contain lectins. Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins commonly found in plants that serve as natural insecticides and defense mechanisms against pests (5).

While lectins play an important ecological role, they can irritate the digestive system when eaten raw in high amounts. Similar to phytic acid, cooking denatures and inactivates lectins, making peas safer to eat (6).

Specifically, peas contain a lectin called pea lectin. Research shows pea lectin can withstand passage through the stomach intact when consumed raw, allowing it to reach and interact with the intestinal lining (7).

Ingesting pea lectin may cause gas, bloating, diarrhea, nausea and even damage to the gut wall at high doses. An animal study found that rats fed raw pea protein had increased gut permeability, triggered immune responses and impaired nutrient absorption (8).

However, these effects are dose-dependent and unlikely to occur from occasionally eating a few raw peas. Furthermore, any lectins consumed would likely be deactivated by cooking during food preparation.

For symptomatic relief, carefully cooked and pre-soaked peas are less likely to cause lectin-associated side effects.

Antinutrients Block Nutrient Absorption

Phytic acid and lectins are not the only antinutrients found in raw peas. Other compounds like tannins, saponins, polyphenols and amylase inhibitors are also present (9).

Though these offer some health benefits, they can also bind to nutrients like protein, starch and digestive enzymes when consumed raw. This impairs proper digestion and absorption of nutrients.

For example, amylase inhibitors in raw peas can hamper starch digestion by inhibiting salivary and pancreatic amylase enzymes needed to break down starch into sugar (10).

One study in rats found that eating raw pea starch caused significant reductions in growth rate, food intake, protein digestibility and activities of amylase compared to cooked pea starch (11).

Tannins may also bind to proteins and inhibit digestive enzymes that help digest them, reducing protein bioavailability (12).

Overall, antinutrients can impair the absorption of protein, starch, minerals and vitamins when peas are eaten raw in high amounts.

Raw Peas May Contain Foodborne Pathogens

Eating raw peas comes with an inherent risk of food poisoning if they have not been handled properly.

Fresh produce can be contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses and protozoa from contact with infected soil, irrigation water, animals or human handling. Common culprits include Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli and norovirus (13).

Bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli can reside both on the exterior and interior of raw pea pods. One study isolated Salmonella from the inner tissues of 3% of pea samples tested (14).

If contaminated peas are eaten raw, these pathogens can lead to foodborne illness. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps starting 12-72 hours after ingestion (15).

However, most pathogens are killed by cooking to appropriate internal temperatures. Heating peas to at least 145°F (63°C) is sufficient to destroy illness-causing bacteria (16).

Carefully washing raw peas right before cooking can help reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of foodborne pathogens. Avoiding cross-contamination and using cautious handling and storage techniques also minimizes contamination.

Nutrient Content of Raw vs Cooked Peas

Raw and cooked peas differ in nutrient content, though both remain healthy and nutritious:


– Raw peas have 10-25% more vitamin C than cooked peas because heat degrades vitamin C. However, both contain good amounts (17).

– Raw peas have slightly more folate. One cup (160 grams) provides 65 mcg versus 54 mcg in cooked peas (18).

– Overall, raw peas contain slightly more vitamins, but not enough to make a major difference.


– Phytic acid in raw peas reduces mineral absorption, especially iron and zinc (3).

– Cooking improves mineral bioavailability by degrading phytic acid.


– Raw and cooked peas contain similar amounts of protein. One cup (160 grams) provides 8 grams of protein (18).

– However, antinutrients may inhibit protein digestion of raw peas. Cooked peas are more easily digested.


– Raw peas contain resistant starch, while cooked peas contain more digestible starch (19).

– Resistant starch provides gut health benefits but can also cause gas and bloating for some.

Bottom Line

Both raw and cooked peas are nutritious. However, cooked peas may be easier to digest and provide more bioavailable minerals. Raw peas are not recommended in large quantities or for those with digestive issues.

How to Cook Peas to Remove Antinutrients

Properly cooking peas helps eliminate antinutrient effects. Here are some effective cooking methods:

– Boiling: Boil peas for 3-5 minutes to deactivate heat-labile antinutrients while retaining water-soluble vitamins (20).

– Steaming: Steam for 2-5 minutes until bright green. Steaming is gentler than boiling.

– Sauteing/stir-frying: Cook peas in oil over medium-high heat while stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes.

– Roasting: Toss peas with oil then roast at 400°F (200°C) for 18-22 minutes until browned and crispy.

– Microwaving: Microwave peas with a small amount of water in a covered dish for 2-3 minutes.

– Pressure cooking: Pressure cook peas for 1-2 minutes under high pressure. This is faster than other methods.

Avoid overcooking peas to prevent excessive nutrient loss. Peas are best cooked just until tender and heated through.

For canned peas, the canning process involves cooking peas at 240–250°F (115–120°C) for 25–35 minutes, which neutralizes antinutrients (21).

Tips for Safely Eating Raw Peas

Though not recommended in large quantities, peas can be eaten raw in moderation if you follow precautions:

– Eat only young, tender peas. Mature peas contain more antinutrients.

– Consume raw peas in small portions as a garnish or snack, not as a main dish.

– Avoid if you have IBS, Crohn’s disease or digestive issues aggravated by high fiber foods.

– Select only fresh, undamaged pea pods without signs of moisture or decay.

– Wash peas thoroughly under cool running water right before eating.

– Keep raw peas refrigerated at all times until eating. Discard if left at room temperature for over 2 hours.

– Avoid raw peas if you are pregnant, very young, elderly or immunocompromised due to higher risk of foodborne illness. Cook peas thoroughly instead.

– Peel and discard outer pods before eating inner peas raw. The pods harbor more dirt and bacteria.

In general, consuming peas raw should be limited to help avoid digestive issues and antinutrient effects. Cooked peas are recommended for regular, safe consumption.

Who Should Not Eat Raw Peas?

The following individuals are better off avoiding raw peas:

– Infants and young children: More vulnerable to antinutrients impairing growth and development.

– Pregnant and breastfeeding women: Require adequate nutrient absorption for baby’s health.

– Those with compromised immune systems: More likely to experience severe foodborne illness.

– Older adults: At greater risk for foodborne pathogens leading to infection.

– People with digestive disorders: Raw peas may aggravate conditions like IBS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis.

– Individuals with kidney stones or mineral deficiencies: The phytic acid and oxalates in raw peas may worsen these conditions.

– Those with legume allergies: Raw peas more likely to trigger allergic reactions than cooked.

– Anyone experiencing gas, bloating or discomfort after eating raw peas.

For those who should avoid raw peas, cooking peas thoroughly eliminates risks. Canned peas are another safe option.

Summary: Why Raw Peas Are Not Recommended

Here’s a summary of the key reasons why consuming raw peas is not advised:

– Contains antinutrients (phytic acid, lectins, others) that impair nutrient absorption. These are deactivated during cooking.

– May harbor harmful foodborne pathogens if improperly handled, causing illness. Thorough cooking kills bacteria.

– Raw peas are more likely to cause digestive discomfort, gas and bloating due to antinutrients, lectins and resistant starch.

– Nutrients like minerals are less bioavailable in raw peas compared to cooked due to phytic acid. Cooking increases mineral absorption.

– Groups like children, the elderly, pregnant women, those with compromised immune systems or kidney issues are at higher risk of complications.

– Occasionally eating a few raw peas as a garnish is likely safe. But raw peas should not be consumed in large quantities or long-term.

– Simply cooking peas via steaming, boiling, roasting, sauteing or other methods removes antinutrient effects and pathogens, allowing you to enjoy their full nutritional benefits.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, raw peas are not recommended because they contain antinutrients that can interfere with digestion and nutrient absorption. They may also harbor harmful bacteria if improperly handled.

Cooking peas deactivates problematic compounds like phytic acid and lectins, increases nutrient bioavailability and kills any dangerous pathogens, making peas safer and easier to digest.

Occasionally eating a few raw peas is unlikely to cause issues. However, they should be consumed cooked the majority of the time, especially for those with digestive disorders or compromised immunity who are more susceptible to negative effects.

To maximize the nutritional value of peas, the best preparation method is to steam, boil, saute or roast until just tender. This retains nutrients while eliminating the risks of a foodborne illness and antinutrient effects.

So in summary, while peas are highly nutritious, they are best consumed after proper cooking rather than raw. Following this simple preparation tip allows you to safely reap the many health benefits peas have to offer.

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