Lectins: The 'Healthy' Foods that Could Be Making You Sick

Many people are following what they believe is a healthy diet, and yet they are feeling bloated and tired and are struggling to lose those extra few kilos. If this sounds familiar, it could very well be the lectins in your food that are obstructing your path to a leaner, healthier you.

 A nutritional therapist’s perspective on lectins and why they might be harmful to your health

What are lectins?

Plants have been around for a long time, certainly much longer than us. And before animals arrived, plants did not have to protect themselves or their seeds from being eaten. However, once animals appeared on the scene, plants had a problem. They could not run, hide or fight so had to find another way of protecting themselves and their seeds. This is where lectins come in.

Lectins have evolved as a natural defence in plants. They are essentially toxins (a form of ‘chemical warfare’), that deter animals from eating the plants. In small amounts, they can provide several health benefits. However, in large amounts they can damage the gut wall, causing irritation that often results in symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea. Lectins can also interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Lectins act like missiles that attack the gut lining, nerves and joints of animals, making them feel ill or preventing them from thriving. In most cases, animals get the message and move on. Humans however simply resort to pharmaceutical drugs to relieve their symptoms, often unaware of the extent to which lectins are responsible.

 

Which foods contain lectins?

Lectins are found in hundreds of common foods. According to former heart surgeon, Dr Steve Gundry (author of the book The Plant Paradox), people who are trying to reduce or avoid lectins, should limit the following foods:

  • Legumes, such as beans, peas, peanuts and lentils

  • Squash

  • Nightshade vegetables such ads tomatoes, aubergine, potatoes and peppers

  • Grains

  • Fruit, although it is safe to include in-season fruits in moderation

How to decrease lectins in foods

Are you suffering from gut issues?

Learn about Leaky Gut Syndrome

  • Soaking (preferably overnight, rinsing a few times before bed and again in the morning)

  • Boiling

  • Fermentation

  • Deseeding

  • Peeling

  • Sprouting

  • Pressure cooking


Who should go on a lectin-free diet?

If you have one or more autoimmune diseases, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), arthritis, brain fog, migraines or some other chronic health issue and, despite making changes to your diet and lifestyle, you are feeling no better, it is possibly time to consider whether your diet is high in lectins and whether it is the lectins that are causing your health problems. According to Dr Gundry, “My research and others suggest that lectins cause most heart disease, arthritis, dementia, and all autoimmune disease. I reference all these studies, including my own in The Plant Paradox. As I show in my book, lectins promote weight gain, obesity, and diabetes…” In humans, Gundry says that eating lectins can provoke an inflammatory response – which can lead to weight gain and other serious health conditions, such as leaky gut, autoimmune diseases and IBS.

If you are looking to reduce lectins in your diet, it is advisable to choose white rice and white pasta over brown rice and whole wheat pasta.

In the case of lectins, white is the safer option

Gluten is a lectin. However, the real trouble is not the gluten, but rather a wheat germ called agglutinin. In the quest for a ‘healthier’ diet, many people have started eating whole grains and brown rice, which contain far more lectins. Traditional cultures have always removed the hull from grains. Today, many cultures which use rice as their staple, still use white rice, not brown. They have been throwing the lectins away for centuries. If you are looking to reduce lectins in your diet, it is advisable to choose white rice and white pasta over brown rice and whole wheat pasta.


 Broccoli does not contain lectins and is safe to eat

What foods to eat on a lectin-free diet

  • Leafy green vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, spinach, Bok Choi

  • Mushrooms

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Millet

  • Pasture-raised meats

  • Wild caught fish.

 

Conclusion

Going lectin-free may very well help some people, but not necessarily all those with the health issues referred to above. The ‘one size fits all’ approach is more and more being recognised as the incorrect approach to resolving health issues. Each individual’s health problems are the product of their genetic make-up, diet and lifestyle habits, toxic exposure and build-up, lifelong use of pharmaceutical drugs and antibiotics, etc. Lectins can be troublesome in high quantities, but do also have several health benefits. Some lectins are anti-microbial and may even have anti-cancer potential. The only time YOU will know if you are one of the many whose health issues do resolve by following a lectin-free diet, is by doing exactly that. Following my reduced lectin, 3-day grain-free diet, available on my Free Downloads page is a good place to start. If you wish to discuss your health issues in more detail, or wish to follow a lectin-free programme for longer, contact me here to arrange a free 30-minute discovery call.

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