Are Green Beans and Snow Peas Paleo?

Green beans, snow peas, green peas, and other green legumes encapsulated in pods are often questioned in the Paleo world. Are they Paleo? The short answer is yes, but here’s why.

When we say don’t eat legumes, it’s because legumes have certain anti-nutrients in them, like phytic acid and lectins. Phytic acid binds to the minerals magnesium, calcium, zinc, and iron in your gut and removes them, unabsorbed, from your body. And lectins are sticky little suckers that can glom onto your gut lining and wreak havoc on its integrity. Not good.

However, nuts and seeds also contain these things, and you’re still “allowed” to eat those on the Paleo diet. And that’s because we’re assuming you’re not going to fill half your plate with nuts and seeds like you might with lentils or black beans. It’s a quantity thing, and so it is with green beans and snow peas. Yes, those things contain those anti-nutrients, but if you’re not eating them by the shovel-ful, you’ll be just fine.

Also, the greener the plant, the less phytic acid and lectins it contains. Here’s an awesome  article from the Weston A Price Foundation on phytic acid – where it’s found and how to get rid of it (partially) in foods like beans and grains. Green beans actually only contain trace amounts of phytic acid. And the lectins and the phytic acid are mostly found in the seed itself – not the pod.

So eat your green beans, snow peas, and even your green peas on occasion. Just don’t make them a staple or a large proportion of your plate and you’ll be just fine.

Anyone have any other thoughts on these delicious little pods?

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  1. celia

    Thank you so much for writing this post. I was very curious about this as well.

  2. Sasha

    I thought green peas are the fruit of a seed pod. Making them not actually a legume, but technically a fruit.

    From wikipedia – “A pea is most commonly the small spherical seed or the seed-pod of the pod fruit Pisum sativum.[1] Each pod contains several peas. Peapods are botanically a fruit,[2] since they contain seeds developed from the ovary of a (pea) flower. However, peas are considered to be a vegetable in cooking.”

    Also both can be eaten raw, whereas a bean cannot.

  3. Pam Russell

    how much is too much ? if fresh green beans are not available, will canned be ok (rinsed) and 1 cup 1/2 cup.. ???

    • Neely Quinn

      Pam Russell – I really wouldn’t worry about the amount of green beans you eat. And canned veggies will always do in a pinch, but just know they have fewer nutrients in them than frozen or fresh.

  4. Colin Jevens

    It seems a very important bit of info is left out above. Please read this excerpt.

    “…And lectins are sticky little suckers that can glom onto your gut lining and wreak havoc on its integrity. Not good.”

    So are lectins bacteria like leeches and what is the damage inflicted upon the digestive system? How do we eliminate them? Some sort of cleansing? I feel that dropping a comment like that is like telling your 3 year old that there are scary monsters living under the bed and in the closet, saying good night, shutting off the light and closing the door like there is no way the child is going to be concerned.

  5. Nastassja

    Doesn’t that imply that eating lentils or hummus are fine in smaller amounts?

    • Neely

      Nastassja – Really, if your body can tolerate any food in small amounts it’s totally fine to eat it. But no, what I was saying in this blog post is that the green, young legumes have fewer anti-nutrients in them than the old, dried ones like lentils or garbanzos, so it’s not the same.

  6. Owen

    “Phytic acid binds to the minerals magnesium, calcium, zinc, and iron in your gut and removes them, unabsorbed, from your body.”

    I have been reading for many days about paleo and this statement goes against convention, infact they only limit absorbtion of the minerals that exist in the food stuff they’re not some big monster!

  7. Roberta

    I’m soooooo glad as I am just starting this diet to get healthier and dearly love green peas and green beans and soooooooo happy that they are included…

  8. Angie

    I appreciate this article. It makes perfect sense, and knowing I can still have peas and green beans now and again in moderation rocks!

  9. Kinsey Jackson

    Thanks for sharing this great info! I agree with you that green beans, snow peas and other “peas” and “beans” that are green in color generally don’t cause problems for most, although it probably is best to rotate them in and out of the diet, and like you say, not use them as a “staple food.” Thanks for sharing your insights!

    Best regards,
    Kinsey Jackson, MS, CNS
    Paleo Plan

  10. Peter

    How about snow pea leaves? Would you consider them paleo?

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