Should you be avoiding lectin in your diet?
Fat-free, sugar-free, lactose-free, gluten-free… What’s left to eat, anyway? We thought we’d heard it all too, but then came lectin: a new sensitivity to be aware of. Steven Gundry, MD, sure makes a case for it in his book The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers In “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain. We consulted our in-house nutrition expert, Sarah Greenfield, RD, to break lectins down for us and tell us whether we should be avoiding them.
First, What Is Lectin?
Lectins are plant proteins. They’re part of a plant’s natural defense system. Generally speaking, when you ingest lectins, they bypass digestion without being impacted by enzymes and will bind with sugar molecules. These molecules can attach to cells in the intestinal lining. They can create tiny tears which can potentially create an immune response and impair digestion.
It’s a similar inflammatory response that some people have with gluten, but with a slightly different physiological process.
Lectins are most commonly found in legumes and grains. However, they’re also in many plants such as tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers—especially in their seeds and skin. Beans, nuts, seeds, grains, squash, A1 milk, and corn also contain lectins.
Do We Need To Go Lectin-Free?
All organs in the body work hard to manage acute inflammation and keep the body clean. However, we’re all genetically different and the way our bodies respond to food varies. Foods that illicit an immune response or contribute to chronic inflammation will take a toll on the body when eaten consistently every day. That’s why rotating your foods can be a very powerful tool for improved health.
Do you feel lethargic, foggy headed, or bloated? Do you have irritated skin? Are you experiencing other digestive-related symptoms? If so, you may want to examine your diet more closely. In these cases, I recommend working with a registered dietitian nutritionist to get to the root of your personal health concerns. Perhaps you’re having an inflammatory response to lectin, or perhaps it’s something else. You might also consider food-sensitivity testing to see if lectin-rich foods come up in your results. You can try an elimination diet from there.
If you do identify a lectin sensitivity, there are a few things you can do. Preparing foods in a pressure cooker can decrease the level of lectins. You can also opt for foods that are lower in lectins such as sweet potatoes, yucca, taro root, dark leafy greens, sea vegetables, fennel, broccoli, cauliflower, avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, millet, and pasture-raised meats.
There are no black or white answers when it comes to what to eat. We’re all genetically different and the way each person’s body responds varies.