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Pigeon Peas: 10 Health Benefits, Nutritional Value & Recipe

A perennial legume, pigeon peas are scientifically termed as Cajanus cajan. Pigeon peas are also called as red gram and are one amongst the most beneficial peas [1] in the legume family. It is commonly used in Indian and Indonesian cuisines. The small and oval shaped legumes come in various colours like yellow, brown etc. Pigeon peas are used for various purposes such as a windbreak to fodder, a canopy crop or food for livestock.

The pigeon peas are a good source of protein when compared to the other legumes in the family. It is a healthy choice of food, considering its low-fat content and high fibre and mineral content. The increasing prominence of pigeon pea [2] in the arena of health-conscious individuals is due to the important role the delicious peas has in improving your overall health. The remarkable flavour of the legume is another factor contributing to its significance.

The diverse blend of minerals, vitamins, dietary fibre, antioxidants and several other components has the potential to benefit your hair, metabolism and heart. Let's get to know more about the health benefits and advantages of the wonder legume, pigeon peas.

Nutritional Value Of Pigeon Peas

The energy content in 100 grams [3] of pigeon peas amount to 343 kcal. They have minute content of pyridoxine (0.283 milligrams), riboflavin (0.187 milligrams), and thiamine (0.643 milligrams).

100 grams of pigeon peas contain approximately

  • 62.78 grams carbohydrates
  • 21.70 grams protein
  • 1.49 grams total fat
  • 15 grams dietary fibre
  • 456 micrograms folates
  • 2.965 milligrams niacin
  • 17 milligrams sodium
  • 1392 milligrams potassium
  • 130 milligrams calcium
  • 1.057 micrograms copper
  • 5.23 milligrams iron
  • 183 milligrams magnesium
  • 1.791 milligrams manganese
  • 367 milligrams phosphorus
  • 8.2 micrograms selenium
  • 2.76 milligrams zinc.

Health Benefits Of Pigeon Peas

An excellent source of protein and minerals, the legumes can be regarded as the ultimate health food. It is encompassed of a variety of unique health benefits.

1. Prevents anaemia

The high folate content in the legumes [4] makes it a central ingredient to prevent the onset of anaemia. Your body does not have the proper amount of folate that is required for your body. The deficiency of folate content in your body causes anaemia, which can be overcome with the incorporation of pigeon peas in your daily diet. A single cup of pigeon peas each day can help you from the onset of anaemia.

2. Helps in weight loss

The most significant benefit of pigeon peas is its low-calorie amount, saturated fats and cholesterol. The dietary fibre content in the legumes [5] keep the stomach full for a longer period of time, avoiding the need to constantly eat or snack. The nutrient, as well as the dietary fibre content in the legume, contribute towards a better functioning of your metabolism and curbs unnecessary weight gain.

3. Boosts energy

Pigeon peas are a good source of vitamin B, as well as riboflavin and niacin. These components aid in enhancing your carbohydrate [6] metabolism and prevents the unnecessary storage of fat, thereby naturally boosting your energy levels. Pigeon peas improve your energy levels without causing any weight gain or fat development.

4. Reduces inflammation

The legumes are encompassed of anti-inflammatory properties which help in reducing swellings and other inflammatory issues. The organic compounds in pigeon peas act as the anti-inflammatory agents and reduce any inflammation [7] or swellings in your body. It is used as a quick relief, due to the speed at which pigeon peas reduce the levels of inflammation.

5. Improves growth and development

Protein, the building block of your entire body, is critical for the development and growth. The high amount of protein in the pigeon peas aid in the formation [8] of cells, tissues, muscles and bones. The protein content also helps in improving the normal healing process of your body, by helping with the regeneration of cells.

6. Balances blood pressure

The copious amount of potassium in pigeon peas helps regulate your blood pressure levels. Potassium acts as a vasodilator, that is, it reduces any blockage in the blood vessels and reduces your blood pressure. Regularly consuming pigeon peas can help clear out any blood vessel [9] blockages, and therefore are extremely beneficial for individuals suffering [10] from hypertension or any cardiovascular disease.

7. Improves immune system

We have all heard that most of the legumes, in comparison to the cooked ones, are more beneficial to your health [11] and your body when consumed raw. The notion applies to the pigeon peas as well because the raw legumes have more nutrients than the cooked ones. Eating the raw legumes can help you get all of the vitamin C, which can reduce by 25% if it is cooked. To get all the vitamins out of the legume to improve your immune system, consume it raw.

Vitamin C improves your immune system by stimulating the production of white cells and acts as an antioxidant. Thus, incorporation of the legume [12] in your diet can help improve your overall wellness and immunity.

8. Boosts heart health

Low cholesterol, and high potassium and dietary content in the legume plays a central role in improving your heart's health. The low range of LDL [13] cholesterol in pigeon peas deliver the relevant vitamins without causing any imbalance or development of saturated fat. The potassium content in the legume reduces your blood pressure and lowers the chances of any strain. Likewise, the dietary fibre helps maintain [14] the cholesterol balance and prevents the onset of atherosclerosis.

9. Improves digestive health

The rich supply of dietary fibre in the pigeon peas act as the central component improving your digestive health. The fibre content enhances [15] the nutrient absorption and the digestion process by adding bulk to the stool, and reduces any cause of strain or inflammation. The fibre content is responsible for the ease of bowel movements. Regular consumption of pigeon peas can reduce diarrhoea, bloating, constipation, and cramping.

10. Eases menstrual disorders

The fibre content in pigeon peas is beneficial in a variety of scenarios. One of the other important roles it plays is in easing the menstrual [16] disorders. Consuming pigeon peas during menstruation can help reduce the cramps and resultant [17] pain.


There are no known negative effects caused by the most beneficial legume. However, certain cases of allergies have been reported which are caused by the components in the legume. If you find yourself being allergic to the legume, consult a doctor.

One other common side effect is flatulence.

How To Consume Pigeon Peas

The legumes are most beneficial when it is consumed raw.

Sprouted pigeon peas are great for your health.

You can cook pigeon peas - either by boiling the legume alone or incorporating it with other vegetables or anything of your choice

Healthy Recipe

Chicken with rice and pigeon peas


  • 1/2 cup dried basmati rice
  • 2 cups pigeon peas, drained
  • 1/2 bunch coriander leaves, chopped
  • 4 limes
  • 4 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, visible fat removed
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper


  • In a saucepan, add the rice, water, and ½ teaspoon salt.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Reduce the heat to low, cover tightly, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat.
  • Stir in the beans and coriander leaves and cover to keep warm.

For Chicken

Squeeze 3 of the limes and cut the remaining lime into wedges for serving.

Using a sharp knife, cut 3 or 4 crosswise slashes in the skinned side of each chicken breast.

Put the chicken on the prepared pan and broil 4-6 inches from the heat source, about 5 minutes on each side.


Pile the rice onto a warmed serving platter and top with the chicken.

Serve hot with the lime wedges and steamed broccoli.

View Article References
  1. [1] Morton, J. F. (1976). The pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan Millsp.): a high protein tropical bush legume. HortScience, 11(1), 11-19.
  2. [2] Uchegbu, N. N., & Ishiwu, C. N. (2016). Germinated Pigeon Pea (Cajanus cajan): a novel diet for lowering oxidative stress and hyperglycemia. Food science & nutrition, 4(5), 772-777.
  3. [3] USDA. (2016). Pigeon peas (Cajanus cajun), Raw, USDA National Nutrient Database.
  4. [4] Singh, N. P., & Pratap, A. (2016). Food Legumes for Nutritional Security and Health Benefits. In Biofortification of Food Crops (pp. 41-50). Springer, New Delhi.
  5. [5] Ofuya, Z. M., & Akhidue, V. (2005). The role of pulses in human nutrition: a review. Journal of Applied Sciences and Environmental Management, 9(3), 99-104.
  6. [6] Torres, A., Frias, J., Granito, M., & Vidal-Valverde, C. (2007). Germinated Cajanus cajan seeds as ingredients in pasta products: Chemical, biological and sensory evaluation. Food chemistry, 101(1), 202-211.
  7. [7] Lai, Y. S., Hsu, W. H., Huang, J. J., & Wu, S. C. (2012). Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan L.) extracts on hydrogen peroxide-and lipopolysaccharide-treated RAW264. 7 macrophages. Food & function, 3(12), 1294-1301.
  8. [8] Singh, U., & Eggum, B. O. (1984). Factors affecting the protein quality of pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan L.). Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 34(4), 273-283.
  9. [9] Binia, A., Jaeger, J., Hu, Y., Singh, A., & Zimmermann, D. (2015). Daily potassium intake and sodium-to-potassium ratio in the reduction of blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of hypertension, 33(8), 1509-1520.
  10. [10] Yokoyama, Y., Nishimura, K., Barnard, N. D., Takegami, M., Watanabe, M., Sekikawa, A., ... & Miyamoto, Y. (2014). Vegetarian diets and blood pressure: a meta-analysis. JAMA internal medicine, 174(4), 577-587.
  11. [11] Akinsulie, A. O., Temiye, E. O., Akanmu, A. S., Lesi, F. E. A., & Whyte, C. O. (2005). Clinical evaluation of extract of Cajanus cajan (Ciklavit®) in sickle cell anaemia. Journal of Tropical Pediatrics, 51(4), 200-205.
  12. [12] Satyavathi, V., Prasad, V., Shaila, M., & Sita, L. G. (2003). Expression of hemagglutinin protein of Rinderpest virus in transgenic pigeon pea [Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.] plants. Plant Cell Reports, 21(7), 651-658.
  13. [13] Pereira, M. A., O'reilly, E., Augustsson, K., Fraser, G. E., Goldbourt, U., Heitmann, B. L., ... & Spiegelman, D. (2004). Dietary fiber and risk of coronary heart disease: a pooled analysis of cohort studies. Archives of internal medicine, 164(4), 370-376.
  14. [14] Farvid, M. S., Ding, M., Pan, A., Sun, Q., Chiuve, S. E., Steffen, L. M., ... & Hu, F. B. (2014). Dietary linoleic acid and risk of coronary heart disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Circulation, CIRCULATIONAHA-114.
  15. [15] Okafor, U. I., Omemu, A. M., Obadina, A. O., Bankole, M. O., & Adeyeye, S. A. (2018). Nutritional composition and antinutritional properties of maize ogi cofermented with pigeon pea. Food science & nutrition, 6(2), 424-439.
  16. [16] Pal, D., Mishra, P., Sachan, N., & Ghosh, A. K. (2011). Biological activities and medicinal properties of Cajanus cajan (L) Millsp. Journal of advanced pharmaceutical technology & research, 2(4), 207.
  17. [17] Zu, Y. G., Liu, X. L., Fu, Y. J., Wu, N., Kong, Y., & Wink, M. (2010). Chemical composition of the SFE-CO2 extracts from Cajanus cajan (L.) Huth and their antimicrobial activity in vitro and in vivo. Phytomedicine, 17(14), 1095-1101.
Read more about: nutrition benefits
Story first published: Sunday, December 9, 2018, 10:00 [IST]
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