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Are Black Eyed Peas Bad For You?

Also Known As: Black-eyed beans, cowpeas



Short answer

Black eyed peas are a nutritious legume, packing proteins, fibers, vitamins, and minerals. They are beneficial for digestive health, and their low-glycemic index makes them suitable for blood sugar management. However, preparation methods and individual health conditions must be considered. While generally healthy, they can be problematic for people with legume allergies, G6PD deficiency, or those sensitive to anti-nutrients, which can be reduced by proper cooking. Environmentally, they are drought-resistant and have a lower carbon footprint compared to animal proteins.



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Long answer

Nutritional Profile of Black Eyed Peas

Black eyed peas, known scientifically as Vigna unguiculata, are a type of legume rich in nutrients that play an essential role in maintaining good health. To assess whether black eyed peas can be detrimental to one's health, it's important first to evaluate their nutritional content. Below, we break down the key nutritional components of black eyed peas that contribute to their status as a healthy dietary option.

One cup (approximately 165 grams) of cooked black eyed peas contains:

  • Calories: 160 kcal
  • Protein: 13.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 35.5 g
  • Fiber: 11.1 g
  • Fat: 0.6 g
  • Sugars: 6.9 g
  • Calcium: 211 mg
  • Iron: 4.3 mg
  • Magnesium: 86 mg
  • Phosphorus: 198 mg
  • Potassium: 690 mg
  • Zinc: 1.9 mg
  • Vitamin A: 1,305 IU
  • Vitamin C: 1.5 mg
  • Folate (B9): 356 mcg

This nutritional breakdown portrays black eyed peas as a low-fat, high-fiber, and protein-rich food. The high fiber content is significant for digestive health, aiding in regularity and potentially reducing the risks associated with various diseases. Moreover, the protein found in black eyed peas is a crucial component for muscle building and repair. It's also worth noting that this legume is an excellent source of vital micronutrients.

Consuming black eyed peas can contribute to your daily intake of important vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Calcium, which is essential for bone health and plays a role in muscle function and nervous system signaling.
  • Iron, which is necessary for forming hemoglobin in red blood cells, crucial for oxygen transport throughout the body.
  • Folate, a B-vitamin that supports DNA synthesis, cell division, and is particularly important during pregnancy for fetal development.

It's essential to recognize the impact of preparation methods on the nutritional profile of black eyed peas. For instance, canned black eyed peas may contain additional sodium, which can affect those monitoring their salt intake. However, soaking and cooking dried black eyed peas can be a more health-conscious preparation method that also preserves their nutritional integrity.

Lastly, while the macronutrient profile of black eyed peas suggests many health benefits, individual dietary requirements and restrictions should be taken into account. People with certain health conditions, such as kidney disease, may need to monitor their intake of potassium and phosphorus, both of which are found in black eyed peas.

In conclusion, the nutritional profile of black eyed peas is overall quite beneficial, boasting a rich array of proteins, fibers, vitamins, and minerals. When consumed in moderation and prepared healthily, they are unlikely to be bad for you and can be a valuable addition to a balanced diet.

Anti-Nutrients in Legumes: Myths and Facts

Legumes, including black-eyed peas, are often pointed to as sources of anti-nutrients. These are compounds that may interfere with the absorption of nutrients or have other metabolic effects. However, the impact of anti-nutrients is a nuanced topic, filled with myths and facts that warrant examination.

Myth: Anti-nutrients are harmful and should be completely avoided.

Fact: Anti-nutrients like phytates, lectins, and tannins in legumes can bind to minerals and reduce their absorption. However, they are not inherently harmful and can have health benefits. For instance, phytates have antioxidant properties and may help in preventing kidney stones and cancer.

Myth: Cooking does not reduce the content of anti-nutrients.

Fact: Preparatory processes such as soaking, sprouting, fermenting, and cooking can significantly lower the levels of anti-nutrients in legumes. A study in the Journal of Food Science showed that soaking and boiling legumes like black-eyed peas reduced phytate content by up to 50%.

Myth: Anti-nutrients lead to nutrient deficiencies in most people.

Fact: While excessive intake of anti-nutrient-rich foods without a balanced diet can lead to deficiencies, a varied diet usually provides more than enough essential nutrients to offset the potential impact of anti-nutrients.

Myth: All anti-nutrients are the same and affect the body identically.

Fact: Not all anti-nutrients are created equal. Some, like lectins, can be toxic in large amounts, but are mostly inactivated by cooking. Others, such as saponins found in some legumes, have been linked to health benefits, like lowering cholesterol levels.

Understanding the role and effects of anti-nutrients in legumes is vital. Including black-eyed peas in a balanced diet and using proper cooking methods can minimize the negatives while maximizing nutritional gains.

Remember, nutritional science is dynamic, and recommendations may evolve with new research. Consulting with healthcare providers or dietitians can provide personalized dietary advice tailored to individual health needs.

Carbohydrate Content and Blood Sugar Response

The carbohydrate content in black-eyed peas is an essential factor to consider when evaluating their impact on blood sugar levels. A standard serving of cooked black-eyed peas, which is about a half-cup (85 grams), contains roughly 19.5 grams of carbohydrates. However, it is not just the quantity but the quality of these carbohydrates that matters.

Black-eyed peas are classified as a low-glycemic index (GI) food. The glycemic index measures how much a food increases blood sugar after consumption. Foods with a low GI value are digested and absorbed more slowly, which leads to a gradual rise in blood sugar levels instead of a spike. Consequently, they are often recommended in moderation for people managing diabetes or looking to maintain stable blood sugar levels.

  • Composition of Carbohydrates: The carbohydrates in black-eyed peas consist of fiber, starch, and a small amount of naturally occurring sugar. The significant fiber content, roughly 5.6 grams per half-cup serving, is beneficial in slowing down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
  • Blood Sugar Response: Due to their fiber content and low GI, black-eyed peas can help to moderate blood sugar response. This makes them a good option for individuals with insulin sensitivity or diabetes, as part of a balanced diet.
  • Dietary Guidelines: Nutrition experts suggest incorporating legumes like black-eyed peas into a healthy diet due to their beneficial combination of carbohydrates and dietary fiber. They recommend pairing legumes with whole grains and lean proteins for a complete meal that is less likely to cause unhealthy blood sugar spikes.

A study in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests that the consumption of legumes, including black-eyed peas, is associated with improved glycemic control in diabetics. This is due, in part, to the alpha-amylase inhibitors present in legumes, which slow the digestion of starch into sugars, helping to prevent rapid increases in blood sugar levels post meals.

It is also important to mention that the blood sugar response can vary among individuals depending on their metabolic health, overall diet, and even the cooking method of the legumes. For instance, al dente cooked legumes tend to have a lower GI compared to those that are overcooked or mashed, which can lead to faster carbohydrate absorption and a higher GI.

For individuals concerned about post-meal blood sugar levels, it may be advantageous to consume black-eyed peas alongside foods that have additional fat or protein, as these nutrients can further slow digestion and the release of glucose into the bloodstream.

Ultimately, monitoring portion size is key. Even low-GI foods can lead to high blood sugar if consumed in large amounts. Therefore, enjoying black-eyed peas as part of a balanced diet and in moderate portions is generally recommended for optimal blood sugar control.

Potential Allergens and Intolerance Issues

When discussing the nutritional benefits and drawbacks of foods, it's crucial to acknowledge that some individuals may experience adverse reactions. Black-eyed peas, while generally regarded as a healthy addition to many diets, may pose concerns for those with specific allergen sensitivity or intolerance issues. Let's delve into specifics:

Allergic Reactions to Legumes

Black-eyed peas belong to the legume family, which also includes beans, lentils, and peanuts. A subset of the population can be allergic to legumes, and though less common than peanut allergies, black-eyed pea allergies are a consideration. Symptoms can range from mild hives to severe anaphylaxis. Those with known legume allergies should exercise caution and potentially avoid black-eyed peas.

  • Mild allergic reactions: These may include itching, hives, or gastrointestinal discomfort.
  • Severe allergic reactions: In rare cases, one may experience difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat, or even anaphylaxis.

If an individual experiences any signs of an allergic reaction after consuming black-eyed peas, they should seek medical attention promptly.

Lectin Sensitivity

Lectins are a type of protein found in many plant-based foods, including black-eyed peas. They can cause gastrointestinal upset in sensitive individuals when consumed in large amounts. Proper preparation methods, such as thorough cooking and soaking, can significantly reduce lectin content, making black-eyed peas more digestible.

Intolerance Issues

Fiber Content: Black-eyed peas are a fiber-rich food, an attribute that usually supports digestive health. However, for individuals with certain digestive conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), high fiber intake can exacerbate symptoms like bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort. They might need to limit their intake of high-fiber foods like black-eyed peas or introduce them slowly into their diet.

Consideration for G6PD Deficiency

Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency is a genetic condition that affects red blood cell function. Certain legumes, including black-eyed peas, contain compounds that may trigger hemolytic anemia in individuals with G6PD deficiency. If someone has this condition, it's important to consult healthcare providers before incorporating black-eyed peas into their dietary routine.

Understanding potential allergens and intolerance issues is integral to making informed dietary choices. Individuals with known sensitivities or underlying health conditions should consult healthcare professionals regarding the inclusion of black-eyed peas in their diets. This dialogue is essential to ensure both safety and nutritional adequacy for those with specific dietary needs.

Benefits of Including Black Eyed Peas in Your Diet

Black eyed peas, also known as cowpeas, are a type of legume that offer a wealth of nutrients and can be a beneficial addition to a balanced diet. Not only are they a staple in Southern American and African cuisines, but they're also recognized for their health-promoting properties. Here are some of the notable benefits of including black eyed peas in your diet:

  • Rich in Fiber: Black eyed peas are a great source of dietary fiber, which is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Fiber aids in regular bowel movements and can help prevent constipation. It also plays a role in lowering cholesterol levels and regulating blood sugar, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals managing diabetes or heart disease.
  • Plant-based Protein: With a considerable amount of protein per serving, black eyed peas are an excellent option for vegetarians, vegans, or anyone looking to reduce their meat consumption. The protein found in these legumes is vital for muscle repair, immune function, and overall cellular health.
  • Loaded with Key Nutrients: Black eyed peas are packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including folate, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Folate is especially important for pregnant women as it helps prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy. Iron is crucial for transporting oxygen in the blood, while potassium aids in muscle function and maintains electrolyte balance.
  • Antioxidant Properties: These legumes are good sources of antioxidants, which help combat oxidative stress and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Anthocyanins, one type of antioxidant found in black eyed peas, have especially been noted for their potential health benefits.
  • Heart Health: Consuming black eyed peas may contribute to heart health due to their low fat content and absence of cholesterol. The soluble fiber within can help reduce LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) levels, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
  • Weight Management: The combination of high fiber and protein can lead to increased satiety, which helps manage weight by decreasing overall calorie intake. As a low-glycemic-index food, black eyed peas may also aid in controlling appetite and reducing food cravings between meals.

Several studies support these benefits. For instance, research published in the Journal of Nutrition emphasizes the role of dietary fiber found in legumes like black eyed peas in reducing heart disease risk. Additionally, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has highlighted the positive effects of plant-based proteins on blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Integrating black eyed peas into your diet is quite simple and can be deliciously done in a variety of dishes, from salads and soups to stews and casseroles. Their versatile nature makes them not only a nutritious supplement to your diet but also a culinary ingredient that can enrich the flavors and textures of many recipes.

Environmental Impact of Growing Black Eyed Peas

The cultivation of black eyed peas, also known as cowpeas or Vigna unguiculata, has a multifaceted impact on the environment. To understand this impact, it is important to take into account various aspects of agricultural production, ranging from water usage and land efficiency to greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity.

Water Usage and Drought Resistance

  • Black eyed peas are drought-resistant legumes, requiring relatively low amounts of water compared to other crops such as rice or cotton. This makes them a more sustainable choice in areas prone to water scarcity.
  • their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil can reduce the necessity for synthetic fertilizers, which are often associated with high water pollution levels.

Land Use Efficiency

  • These legumes thrive in a variety of soils and climates, which means they can be cultivated in regions where other crops might not be as successful, thus maximizing the efficiency of land use.
  • Their short growing season allows for effective rotation with other crops, lowering the chance of soil depletion and reducing the need for chemical inputs.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Soil Health

  • Legumes, in general, have a lower carbon footprint compared to animal-based protein sources. Black eyed peas are part of this beneficial category, contributing to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when included in diets as a plant-based protein source.
  • The nitrogen-fixing properties of cowpeas also enhance soil fertility, which can lead to less reliance on fossil fuel-based fertilizers that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.


  • Growing black eyed peas can contribute to agricultural biodiversity by offering an alternative to more common staple crops, which can help to preserve genetic diversity and protect against crop failures due to pests or diseases.
  • As part of a polyculture system where multiple crops are grown together, they can also support a higher level of ecological diversity both above and below ground.

Pesticides and Herbicides

  • Like any crop, the cultivation of black eyed peas may involve the use of pesticides and herbicides. However, because of their natural resistance to certain pests and diseases, they may require fewer applications compared to more sensitive crops.
  • Integrated pest management practices can further minimize environmental impacts by reducing the need for chemical pest control methods.

While the environmental impact of growing black eyed peas tends to lean towards the positive, especially when compared with other crops, it's important to discern that the actual impact may vary greatly depending on the farming practices employed. Sustainable and organic farming methods can amplify the environmental benefits of black eyed peas, while conventional practices may negate some of the potential positives. Moreover, supporting local farmers who engage in sustainable cultivation practices can further reduce the carbon footprint by minimizing transportation-related emissions.

Research on the environmental impact of crop cultivation is ongoing, and black eyed peas are no exception. Studies have indicated that the promotion of legumes like cowpeas could play a role in sustainable agriculture strategies aimed at mitigating climate change and promoting food security.

Given the information available, incorporating black eyed peas into dietary regimes appears to be not only nutritionally beneficial but also a more environmentally-conscious choice. However, consumers interested in the specific environmental impact of their food choices should consider the source of their black eyed peas and the farming practices utilized.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, black eyed peas are considered environmentally sustainable due to their drought resistance, low water requirements, nitrogen-fixing ability that enriches soil, and potential use in crop rotation, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

For most individuals, black eyed peas are safe and healthy to consume. However, people with kidney disease might need to monitor their intake due to the potassium and phosphorus content. Additionally, those with G6PD deficiency or legume allergies should consult their healthcare provider before including them in their diet.

Yes, black eyed peas can aid in weight management due to their high fiber and protein content, which promote satiety and may help reduce overall calorie intake. Including them as part of a balanced diet can support healthy weight loss efforts.

Black eyed peas benefit cardiovascular health by providing soluble fiber, which can help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, and they're low in fat and contain no cholesterol. They're also rich in nutrients like potassium and magnesium, which support heart function.

Ask a question about Black Eyed Peas and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Ingredients to be aware of

  • sodium (in canned)
  • anti-nutrients (phytates, lectins, tannins)
  • allergens (legume family)


  • high in fiber
  • protein-rich
  • key nutrients
  • antioxidant properties
  • heart health
  • weight management

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Eden Organic Black Eyed Peas

  • No added salt
  • Organic legumes
  • BPA-free cans
  • Heart-healthy choice
  • Convenient pack of 12
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-12-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-12-2024

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