Kidney Diet Tips

Peas please? Can I eat peas on a kidney friendly diet?

Peas are eaten around the world. They come in many varieties–black-eyed peas (cow peas), chickpeas (garbanzo beans), green peas, pea pods, pigeon peas (red gram) and split green peas. I especially like green peas made into a salad or stuck to mashed potatoes when eating the two together.

A recent inquiry I received from a visitor asked “What’s the best kind of peas to eat on my renal diet?”

You may see mature peas listed on the ‘Limit or Avoid’ kidney diet food list and green peas and pea pods may be on the ‘Allowed’ list.  Why? Generally any mature bean or pea contains a large amount of potassium and phosphorus. Since people on dialysis and those with later stage kidney disease must limit these minerals, peas are one of the foods that deserve special consideration in kidney diet meal plannning.

The chart below lists different varieties of peas and the nutrients of concern. By comparing varieties you can see fresh pea pods are a good choice, followed by fresh green peas because these are lowest in potassium and phosphorus. Mature peas have the greatest mineral content.

Variety of peas Cooked portion Protein (g) Potassium(mg) Phosphorus(mg) Sodium(mg) Phos:ProRatio
Black-eyed peas 1/2 cup 6.7 239 134 3 20 mg/g
Chickpeas 1/2 cup 7.3 239 138 6 19 mg/g
Green peas 1/2 cup 4.3 217 17 3 4 mg/g
Pea pods 1/2 cup 2.6 192 44 3 17 mg/g
Pigeon peas 1/2 cup 4.6 322 100 4 22 mg/g
Split green peas 1/2 cup 8.1 355 97 2 12 mg/g

Notice the big difference in protein content for peas. Eating adequate amounts of protein while controlling phosphorus is important for stage 5 kidney patients on dialysis. For vegetarians on dialysis, mature peas may provide a significant amount of protein toward their daily goal. Another way to assess value of a food for a dialysis diet is to look at the phosphorus to protein ratio. As shown in the chart above some of the pea choices have a higher protein level. By looking at the phosphorus to protein ratio you can determine which variety is the best choice for providing protein while limiting phosphorus.

Additional considerations for planning peas into your kidney diet include:

  • Is your potassium and phosphorus well controlled on your lab report?
  • Measure a 1/2 cup portion or the amount recommended by your renal dietitian
  • Limit how often you eat peas to 1-2 time a week or ask your dietitian for guideline has several recipes that incorporate peas. Try one or all!

Sara Colman, RDN, CDCES

Sara Colman, RDN, CDCES

Sara is a renal dietitian with over 30 years experience working with people with diabetes and kidney disease. She is co-author of the popular kidney cookbook "Cooking for David: A Culinary Dialysis Cookbook". Sara is the Manager of Kidney Care Nutrition for DaVita. She analyzes recipes and creates content, resources and tools for the kidney community. In her spare time Sara loves to spend time with her young grandson, including fun times together in her kitchen.