Lectins are one of the many proteins that exist. You can find them in many plant-based portentous foods. There are both good and bad sides to lectins. Essentially, their health effects could be negative, but they may be positive too. It depends on what factors you are considering. Because of the possible negative effects, some experts suggest that we should avoid lectin-rich foods. But then, is a lectin-free diet as beneficial as they tout? Is there substantial evidence to support these claims? In this article, we will talk about why you may want to avoid lectin-rich foods. We will also tell you some foods high in lectins to avoid.
Lectins usually stick to the membranes of your gut because they are carb-binding proteins. As such, they may affect nutrient absorption or cause sensitivities in some people. We will talk about these in further detail as you read on. Lectins are also of different types. Some types are toxic while some others are non-toxic. One example of a toxic lectin type is ricin. But then, there is not so much research on the effects of lectins on people. Anyways, some experts insist that lectin-free eating is healthful. This involves reducing or eradicating lectins in your diet. This is very beneficial for anyone who suffers from food sensitivities. But the challenge with lectin-free eating, as with other restrictive diets, is that you may miss out on certain vital nutrients. We will, therefore, also examine some of the potential downsides of lectin-free eating.
A Brief Overview of Lectins
We mentioned earlier that lectins are carb-binding proteins. As such, they aid the interaction of cells in your body. Some experts also tell us that lectins help provide defense for plants. They keep pests and insects away.
Lectins are also nitrogen-containing compounds. Plants need nitrogen to grow well. You can find lectins in different parts of a plant. However, seeds are the parts that we eat the most.
The lectins we consume may impact your health in diverse ways. These effects range from simple indigestion to more serious cases like chronic diseases. Being that they are carb-binding proteins, lectins can cause clustering of your blood cells.
Remember that we also said earlier that they may stick with your gut walls and affect nutrient absorption. That is why experts call them anti-nutrients. And if you don’t cook the plant well enough, the lectins in them can upset your stomach.
Someone may have told you before that you should not eat uncooked or undercooked legumes. The reason is that the legume is either not degraded or, at least, not well enough. As such, it may be dangerous.
Kidney beans, for instance, is lectin-rich. The type of lectin type in kidney beans is plant hemagglutinin. It can cause poisoning if you eat raw kidney beans (or undercooked).
The FDA says that only 4 raw kidney beans can lead to severe symptoms. These symptoms include severe vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. That is why you should use proper cooking methods for kidney beans whenever you want to eat kidney beans.
The use of moist heat while cooking helps to decrease the lectins in plant-foods. That way, your body would remove the lectins before they can cause any negative effects.
Furthermore, you should not use slow cookers to prepare kidney beans. The low temperature of these cookers cannot degrade lectins. So, to eliminate lectins, you should peel, deseed, boil, ferment, sprout, and/or pressure cook lectin-rich foods.
But then, lectins are not entirely bad news. They do have some beneficial effects too. In small amounts, they may support your gut bacteria and aid your digestion.
Foods High In Lectins to Avoid
If you can remember any other food, you should remember to avoid eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes as much as possible. They are common foods and spices that we typically add to our meals daily. But that’s not all. You should also avoid the following foods:
- Legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, and peas)
- Fruits (you can eat in-season fruits in moderation)
- Nightshade vegetables (peppers, eggplant, potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes)
- Grains (white-flour products, rather than wheat)
While you can still limit the foods we listed above, there are some you should avoid completely. They include A1 milk, corn, and the meats of corn-fed animals.
Pros and Cons of Lectin-free Eating
Many experts believe that lectins are quite harmful because they can cause inflammation. Some older articles link lectins them to autoimmune conditions, such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease.
One article even discusses how wheat-germ lectins can affect the human immune system and increase inflammation. If inflammation persists for the long term, it may lead to more serious health conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, and depression.
Lectin-free eating can help to reduce inflammation in your body. However, there is a need for more research to confirm this effect.
Another problem with lectins is that they can make your guts more permeable to toxins and bacteria. When these cross your gut barrier into your circulation, they may cause undesirable effects. But then, whole grains also contain antioxidants. This can help your body fight inflammation.
So you see, there are lots of benefits you can get from going lectin-free. But then, this theory is not absolute. There is still a need for more research studies to confirm this.
More so, lectin-free eating is restrictive. So some people may find it difficult to stick with it long-term. It also cuts out lots of nutritious foods, like beans, certain vegetables, and whole grains. Whole grains, for example, can reduce the risks for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Fruits and veggies also have many health benefits. They can help reduce your risks for multiple health conditions, such as lung and heart diseases. They can also reduce cancer risk, as well as help you avoid unwanted weight gain.
Lectin-free eating can be very difficult for vegans and vegetarians to follow. Remember that foods high in lectin to avoid include legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. These form a major part of vegan and vegetarian diets. But with careful planning and the help of a nutritionist, you can pull through.