LECTINS, FRIEND OR FOE?
With the release of Dr. Steven Gundry’s latest book, The Plant Paradox, a new nutrition villain has emerged on the scene. Enter the LECTIN.
Lectins are nothing new. They are a type of protein found in the foods we eat. It is thought that lectins evolved as part of a plant’s natural defense system, helping to discourage animals from eating them. However, lectins aren’t just limited to plants and we find them in animal products as well. In your body, lectins can bind to specific sugar molecules located in our nerves, gut lining and our blood. Dr. Gundry claims that when lectins bind to these sugar molecules they interfere with the ability of our immune system to communicate with cells, wreaking havoc on our health.
It is thought that lectins evolved as part of a plant’s natural defense system, helping to discourage animals from eating them.
Foods that are high in lectins include beans, legumes including corn, soy and peanuts, wheat, potatoes, and tomatoes. The Plant Paradox has you eliminating these foods and more from your diet.
Now, any diet or wellness book that claims it can CURE every chronic illness from heart disease, to obesity, and cancer to autoimmune disease, causes me to raise a skeptical eyebrow, and it should for you too. If the author is selling their own line of supplements that you simply MUST buy to enhance your health, my eyebrow raises even higher. While Gundry makes quite a few sweeping claims and uses some questionable science to support these claims, there is some truth to the dangers of lectins.
Some lectins should not be consumed, ever. They can make you very sick, like the worst ever stomach flu sick. Ricin, a lectin from the castor oil plant is so toxic, it can actually kill you! Animal studies have shown that lectins can damage the gut lining, contribute to inflammation, and if you are working to heal your gut, avoiding lectin-rich foods may be beneficial during the healing phase.
So clearly we should avoid all lectins like the plague, right? Well Dr. Gundry would answer that with a resounding YES; however, I’m not so sure. Lectins are easily neutralized by how you prepare these foods prior to eating. It’s why you can’t eat raw kidney beans, but they’re just fine cooked. Sprouting, soaking, cooking and fermenting help to neutralize the lectins, making them safe to eat.
Lectins are easily neutralized by how you prepare these foods prior to eating… Sprouting, soaking, cooking and fermenting help to neutralize the lectins, making them safe to eat.
Not only are they safe to eat after cooking, but some studies show that lectins may have beneficial effects on the body such as protecting against cancer. Plus, foods rich in lectins are rich in other nutrients needed for health. Additionally, lectins are found in so many foods it’s virtually impossible to follow a lectin free diet.
So, to eat [lectins] or not to eat….that is the question. As I said earlier, those with gut issues may want to try out being lectin free for a while to see if symptoms improve. This goes for people with autoimmune disorders as well. But for most of us a varied and healthy diet that consumes foods containing lectins (as long as they are properly prepared) is perfectly fine and may even offer some health benefits.
But for most of us a varied and healthy diet that consumes foods containing lectins (as long as they are properly prepared) is perfectly fine and may even offer some health benefits.
- Alexendra Rowles. (2017, April 28). 6 Foods That Are High in Lectins. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-high-in-lectins
- Gundry, S. (2017). The Plant Paradox. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
- Gundry, S. (2017, May 23). 15 Ways to Reduce Lectins in Your Diet. Retrieved from http://gundrymd.com/reduce-lectins-diet/