The Benefits of Eating Peas When Pregnant

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Peas are one of the best vegetables to eat even if you’re not pregnant. But when you are pregnant, do peas live up to their healthy reputation?

Peas contain nutrients that are essential during pregnancy and are rich in both folate and fiber content. They are also reported to have antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, hypocholesterolemic, and prebiotic functions. Peas are safe provided you wash or cook them thoroughly before eating them.

So, what’s so good about peas, which types are the best, and is pea protein good for you during pregnancy? Find out the answers below!

Are Peas Good for Pregnancy?

Peas are an excellent choice of vegetable during pregnancy. Peas contain folate at about 65 µg per 100 g (source: Saudi Journal of Medical and Pharmaceutical Sciences). 

Folate is one of the most crucial nutrients during pregnancy. It plays a crucial role in metabolic processes such as metabolism and the formation of nucleic acid. 

A deficiency in folate during early pregnancy can cause problems in the placenta and the baby, which can lead to birth defects, malformations, lower birth weight, and spontaneous abortion (source: NIH). 

pile of snow peas

Peas that have edible pods are snow peas and sugar snap peas. Those with inedible pods are green peas (source: IDPH). All peas, though, are an excellent source of fiber.

Types of Peas and Pregnancy Safety

For both snow peas and snap peas or mange tout, the strings are normally taken out. They can be served raw or cooked and they are available frozen or fresh. If the strings are left on, it won’t affect their safety during pregnancy.

When used raw, snap peas can be made into a salad or they can be blanched and partially cooked as in stir-fries, or as a side dish. Snow peas also work great in stir-fries (source: CDC). 

Green peas, also known as garden peas or sweet peas, have sweet matured seeds. They are shelled after being harvested and only the soft ones are utilized (source: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction).

Only 5% of peas grown in the country are sold fresh. The rest are either canned or frozen (source: CDC).

snap peas in a bowl

Mushy peas are popular in the UK, especially as a companion to fish and chips. Mushy peas are usually made from the marrowfat pea, a special type of green pea (source: Pulses, Sugar and Tuber Crops). Mushy peas are safe to eat during pregnancy. If heating leftovers, make sure you heat them up until hot.

Canned peas are low in acid. This makes them have a long storage life (source: USDA). While there are no reports regarding the adverse effects of eating commercially canned peas, there are studies about outbreaks linked to homemade canned peas.

One took place in New York City on 2018. Two patients were rushed to the hospital after eating homemade potato salad created with homemade canned peas. They contacted botulism from Clostridium botulinum (source: NIH). 

We, therefore, don’t recommend making your own canned peas, or eating those that have been “home canned” due to the higher risk of contamination.

canned green peas in open tin can

Are All Types of Peas Safe When Pregnant?

Most, if not all peas are safe for pregnant women. When buying fresh peas (snow peas and sugar snap peas) make sure that they don’t have any damage like bruises, scratches, or darkening.

Wash them under running water without any detergent. You can use a strainer to make things easier. Remove damaged parts or pieces (source: CDC).

Green peas are sold frozen, dried, or canned. Frozen peas are considered safe. So are dried peas because they don’t contain moisture and are well-packaged.

The one that has the (very small) potential to be unsafe, is canned peas.

Apart from not making your own canned peas, check for dented or bloated cans. Home canning is a strong candidate for botulism (source: CDC). 

Bulging or swollen cans of peas are something else to look out for, whether homemade or commercially-made. These have to be thrown away without the need for opening them for inspection (source: New York State Department of Health). 

Dried peas don’t require refrigeration. If stored properly, they can keep for up to 2 years. 

Before washing, throw away withered or shriveled peas. Rinse them thoroughly. Dried peas need to be soaked to rehydrate them. If you’re soaking peas, follow the directions carefully, especially regarding cooking time, and how long to soak them for.

Pea protein powder in a measuring spoon

Are Raw Peas OK When Pregnant?

You can eat peas raw during pregnancy, so long as they’re thoroughly washed, even if you’ve just podded them (to eliminate the small chance of any bacteria transferring from the pod to the pea). For other, non-podded types like mange tout, just ensure you wash them before eating.

As with all veg, avoid any bruised, damaged or moldy peas, especially if you’re eating them raw.

Is Pea Protein Safe While Pregnant?

Currently, there are no negative reports regarding the safety of pea protein during pregnancy.

Pea protein is a somewhat novel plant protein and is mostly available as protein powder. It’s been utilized as a functional ingredient in the food industry worldwide.

It is accessible, affordable, nutritious, and is used as a substitute for soybean and other animal proteins (source: PubMed). It has also been studied for its antihypertensive, antioxidant, and biotic functions in intestinal bacteria (source: USDA). 

Pea protein has been gaining attention in both the health and food industries. If you’re interested in protein powder during pregnancy, you can read our dedicated article here.

Overall, though, peas can be a delicious and safe addition to your healthy pregnancy diet.