How Can a Lectin-Free Diet Improve Your Health?

Lectin-free Diet

The lectin-free diet is one of the many popular diets that is trending today. The diet advocates limiting or eliminating foods that are high in naturally occurring plant proteins called lectins. According to the diet creator, Dr. Steven Gundry, the central premise behind shunning these broad groups of proteins is because they are inflammatory, gut-irritating, and occasionally even toxic at high levels.

A fact sheet(1) published by the World Health Organization reinforces this belief by stating that having as few as 4 to 5 raw kidney beans (a food source which has the highest concentrations of the toxin called lectins) can cause severe stomach ache, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Given the extensive list of foods that contain lectin, however, is it possible to follow a lectin-free diet? This article entails everything you need to know about the lectin-free diet.

What Exactly Are Lectins?

Lectins are naturally occurring proteins found in most plants, including grains, legumes, seeds, and even eggs and dairy products in smaller amounts. Dr. Gundry describes it as a plant’s self-preservation apparatus. They serve as a protective barrier for plants against insects, pests, and other microorganisms.

When ingested into the human body, however, lectin resists being broken down in the gut. In its active state, lectins can potentially disrupt digestion, cause intestinal damage and gut permeability or leaky gut, which can lead to inflammation and autoimmune diseases.

Benefits of Lean increasing amount of scientific evidence supports the health benefits of the Lection Free Diet which includes foods such as vegetables, grains, nuts, and legumes, etc.

[ Read: High Potassium Foods to Avoid ]

Nutrient-Rich

These foods are rich sources of protein, fiber, B vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats, and removing them from your diet for an extended period can result in potential deficiencies.

A lectin-free diet may also be particularly difficult for vegetarians or vegans as legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are stapled vegan protein sources as well as providing essential dietary fiber.

Helps Deal With Food Sensitivities

Eating lectin foods may(2) lead to the formation of gas or gastric distress. Lectins bind to cell membranes lining the digestive tract and cause damage. Thus, a lectin-free diet will help you deal with irritations and food sensitivities.

Foods High in Lectin

The following are some foods that are high in lectins:

  • Whole grains such as wheat, corn, and rice
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Legumes, especially red kidney beans, soybeans, peanuts, and cashews
  • Nightshade vegetables such as eggplant, peppers, goji berries, tomatoes, squashes of any kind, pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchini, and white potatoes
  • Soy
  • Seeds such as Pumpkin seeds, Chia seeds, and sunflower seeds
  • Dairy from conventionally raised animals

[ Read: Foods High in Folic Acid ]

Plant lectins have been found to possess anticancer properties and have great potential as cancer-fighting agents.

Low Lectin Foods or Foods to Include

If you want to follow a lectin-free diet plan, here are some low lectin foods that you can include:

  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, romaine lettuce, and kale
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and arugula
  • Garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Avocados
  • Asparagus
  • Berries (except goji berries)
  • Herbs such as oregano, basil, and thyme
  • Extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
  • Pastured organic eggs and meat
  • Wild-caught fish

How to Reduce Lectin in Foods?

As many of the foods that are high in lectin pervade our regular diet, it can be challenging to eliminate these foods altogether. In order to reduce or limit the risks of lectins, there are a few things that you can do:

1. Cooking

Cooking
Image:ShutterStock

Lectins are most potent in their raw state. Cooking, especially using wet and high heat methods, can inactivate lectins and render them safe to eat.

[ Read: Anabolic Diet ]

2. Soaking

Soaking grains involves covering them with water and leaving it to rest before cooking. Lectins are water-soluble and typically found on the outer surface cells. Soaking is another way to reduce lectin content.

3. Fermenting or Sprouting

A third option is sprouting or fermenting beans and grains. Most lectins are in the seed coat of grains and beans. During germination, the seed coat is metabolized, which helps to eliminate lectins. Fermentation, on the other hand, produces beneficial bacteria that help to digest and convert toxic lectins.

See Also
lycopene foods

Sample Meal Plan for a Lectin-Free Diet:

Here is a sample five-day meal plan for those of you who would like to get started on a lectin-free diet.

Day 1

  • Breakfast: Pastured eggs with lectin-free toast/Green Smoothie
  • Snack: Baked sweet potato fries
  • Lunch: Arugula salad with chicken and lemon vinaigrette
  • Dinner: Basil and artichoke shirataki fettuccine pasta

Day 2

  • Breakfast: Lectin-free orange cranberry muffins
  • Snack: Gluten-free thyme and garlic crackers
  • Lunch: Gluten-free cheese and chicken quesadillas
  • Dinner: Cream of asparagus soup and crispy roasted Brussel sprouts

Day 3

  • Breakfast: Lectin-free plantain pancakes
  • Snack: Almond flour chocolate chip cookies
  • Lunch: Cauliflower rice with roasted broccoli and sautéed onions
  • Dinner: Smoked salmon with avocado and sautéed cabbage

Day 4

  • Breakfast: Omelettes/Green Smoothie
  • Snack: Lime and sea salt spinach chips
  • Lunch: Cilantro Pesto Chicken with romaine salad
  • Dinner: Cabbage steak with lemony Brussel sprouts, kale, and onions

Day 5

  • Breakfast: Cassava flour pancakes
  • Snack: Flourless chocolate brownies
  • Lunch: Sweet potato noodles/glass noodles
  • Dinner: Celery soup with sheet pan roasted veggies

Side Effects

Lectins, in their raw or active state, have the potential to disrupt the physiology and function of cells and are often referred to as ‘anti-nutrients.’ They can interfere with the absorption of essential minerals such as phosphorus, iron, calcium, and zinc.

Also known as ‘indigestible proteins,’ lectins are further linked to a host of health problems such as Crohn’s disease, autoimmune diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, and other gastrointestinal conditions.

Therefore, it has been suggested that following a lectin-free diet can mitigate several chronic health issues, including acne, weight gain, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, and other autoimmune disorders. However, there is little science to back this up, and most of these claims rely heavily on anecdotal evidence.

[ Read: Low Phosphorus Foods ]

Final Thoughts

If you think you have lectin-intolerance and you want to adopt a lectin-free diet, try reducing your lectin intake by cooking such foods instead of eliminating them. Consult a nutritionist, if you suffer from gastrointestinal issues or inflammation. A nutritionist will be able to oversee a more efficient diet plan and provide alternate solutions for symptom management.


FAQs

1. Do sweet potatoes have lectins?

Sweet potatoes have low amounts of protein toxins like lectins and patatin and are, therefore, a safe choice if you are following a lectin-free diet.

2. Are avocados high in lectins?

No, avocados are lectin-free. Additionally, they are power-packed with antioxidants and high in good fats and fiber, which makes it one of the healthier food choices if you are on a lectin avoidance diet.

3. What does lectin do to your body?

Lectins, when consumed raw, are shown to be resistant to human digestion and are widely known as ‘anti-nutrients’ because they block the absorption of nutrients from other foods. Additionally, some lectins can bind to the cells of the digestive tract, causing disruptions of cell membranes.

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