Peas and the Paleo Diet

Image from Paleo Crash Course

Determining what not to eat while on a Paleo diet is sometimes a whole lot easier than knowing what is okay to eat under the same circumstances. It is even harder to imagine yourself eating like our prehistoric ancestors, when the entire planets structures are different from what we know now. There are a number of things that can jump at you for being non-Paleo, while there are others that can be subject to light debates within some Paleo communities.

Are peas Paleo? This is certainly one of the grey areas in the Paleo diet list. Are peas okay to eat per Paleo standards? The existing theory that makes Paleo what it is today, is to start eating foods that are entirely organic—something that cavemen did when life was really simply and the presence of technology is totally zilch. That said, a Paleo diet list will naturally consist of veggies, fruits, meats, certain fats, nuts and seed. Paleo also wants you to snub any consumption of grains (pasta, bread and such), dairy, soy, refined sugars and beans.

So, where are peas located in the Paleo grand scheme of things? Well, the simple answer is that peas are sadly a no-go. Why? Because they are considered as legumes and are not considered as Paleo-approved food. Again, why?

So where are the peas located in the overall picture of the Paleo diet—well, they’re a no-go in this case. Why? Peas are considered as legumes, and legumes are considered non-Paleo food. Again, why are they not included in the Paleo diet list? First, because they contain phyctic acids which are considered “anti-nutrients’—they block the body’s absorption of essential vitamins and minerals. Second, legumes have lectin content; a protein class which can cause arthritis and poor vitamin absorption. And lastly, because our cavemen ancestors did not develop a taste for them.

Why Peas Can’t Be That Bad

A lot of things written about peas and about it being non-Paleo are somehow not without a bunch of gloom and doom.  But then again when you get to dig deeper, you’ll see that there are some grey areas in the picture.

  • The phyctic acid content of legumes is stored in the form of phosphorous. This particular acid type is referred to as the “anti-nutrient” because of its capability to bind nutrients in the digestive tract to form a “phytate”, making it harder to absorb in the body; thus the loss of its nutritive value.  But despite this drawback, the binding process that happens in the digestive tract reduces the instances of free-radical formation; something which makes the phyctic acid function more like an anti-oxidant. Also, phyctic acid can bind heavy metals (lead and mercury) which can help in reducing their accumulation in the body.
  • Lectins are a protein class that can bind to sugars.  In plants, lectins act as an insecticide for their protection, while in humans, they facilitate cell-to-cell contact. Lectin poisoning is indeed probable, but only if you enjoy raw beans that much. When food passes the stomach lining, it causes minor damage that can be easily repaired by the body cells. Lectins can only damage the guts, when cell repair is really slow. When that happens, the digestive lining won’t fuction really well, which may allow other substances that should normally be contained in the guts to pass through; thus the term “leaky gut”.  If you consume too many legumes, your gut would most likely evacuate its contents in the form vomiting, diarrhea, cramps and more. Yes it can be messy, but like phyctic acid, lectins can be neutralized by processes such as sprouting and soaking.
  • Most people may not know this, but our cavemen ancestors may have eaten legumes during their time too! A research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America looked at tooth decays from pre-historic Neanderthal skeletons which suggested that they ate a diverse diet of plants which may have included legumes.
Image from Allrecipes Dish

So, Are Peas Paleo?

Yes, but in controlled amounts. Let’s say that the impact of choosing which types of food to eat or not highly depends on an array of factors including one’s current state of health, genetics, and how much of that food you will likely consume. In a Paleo diet, given the reasons above, it can be said that peas should not be entirely avoided, but consumption should be at the minimum, of course.  And just what like an old adage says “anything in excess can be harmful to one’s self”.  So live life in moderation and enjoy getting on Paleo.