What Are Lectins?
Lectins are proteins that are commonly found in legumes and grains. Foods high in lectin usually form glycoproteins after binding to carbohydrates. More than one-third of foods which people consume on daily basis usually contain lectins. However, food preparation processes such as fermentation or cooking usually help to eliminate them. Lectins have various benefits and also side effects. Outlined below is an overview of lectins and everything that you need to know.
Foods High in Lectin
What foods contain lectins? Well, there is a wide range of foods which are rich in lectins especially legumes and grains. Examples of foods high in lectin content include potatoes, red kidney beans, soybeans, peas, eggplant, lentils, peanuts, tomatoes etc. These foods offer consumer various health benefits because they are rich in vitamins and minerals. Besides that, they also have anti-inflammatory properties along with high amounts of antioxidants. Lectin-rich foods are known to be very nutritious and they help to improve the immunity. Additionally, they help to reduce the risk of certain disease such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes among others.
Foods with Lectins to Avoid
Generally, lectins are considered as inflammatory hence it’s important to avoid foods high in lectin. According to the lectin levels in foods chart, these foods weren’t consumed by humans in ancient times until some centuries ago. They include:
• Peanuts and cashews which have killer lectins and they increase inflammation.
• Vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, soybean oil, and corn oil.
• Quinoa has high lectin content which irritates the digestive tract.
• Nightshades such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes have unfriendly amounts of lectins.
• From the lectin food list, legumes and beans including lentils and peas have the highest amount of lectin.
• Squashes (except cucumber) contain lectins as well as sugar which help to enhance weight gain.
• Dairy products from organic and grass-fed contain the casein A1 protein which is not consumer friendly.
Side Effects of Foods Containing Lectins
Are lectins bad for you? Although lectins have benefits, their side effects are extensive. High lectin content in the body can cause adverse side effects and some may result in autoimmune conditions and the leaky-gut syndrome. The common side effects of lectin foods include stomach pains, constipation, gassing, fatigue, joint pains, diarrhea, nausea, skin changes among others. They are also considered as anti-nutrients and they can interfere with the process of digestion and the overall health of a person.
The reason why people with autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory bowel disorder, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis are advised to implement a lectin free diet is that it helps to reduce the symptoms of these conditions. You can reduce the lectin content in your food by thoroughly cooking it.
Lectin Free Foods
Although a lectin free diet is usually considered to be a restrictive diet plan, it’s actually easy to implement and follow. Lectin free foods are free of certain types of vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Some of the low lectin foods include:
• Extra virgin olive oil
• A2 milk
• Meats that are pasture-raised
• Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables
• Sweet potatoes
As much as lectin free foods are good, they don’t have high amounts of nutrients. Vegans and vegetarians might fight it very difficult to follow. In addition to that, low lectin foods are expensive.
How to Remove Lectins in Food
There are various methods which can be used to neutralize or decrease the amount of lectin in food. The most common ones include:
Grains or seeds that have sprouts contain low lectin content. The longer you allow them to sprout, the more the level of lectins reduces. Some beans or grains have lectins in their seed coat and they are eliminated during germination.
The process of fermentation is highly beneficial. It allows the bacteria in food to digest as well as convert harmful compounds. It’s for this reason that most healthy people love fermented foods such as tempeh, natto, and miso.
Some people usually prefer to soak some lectin foods before cooking especially grains and beans. The idea behind this is to reduce the lectin content. If you want to cook beans or grains, simply soak them overnight then rinse them before cooking.
Foods high in lectins are known to increase inflammation. They make it very easy for certain types of bacteria and toxins enhance their activities along the gut. And though lectin foods have high amounts of antioxidants, they can’t effectively inhibit inflammation. Note that clinical research studies link long-term effects of inflammation to various diseases including depression, cancer, and heart disease. A lectin free diet can help to effectively manage and reduce the symptoms of these diseases. However, if you are craving food that is rich in lectins, you can effectively reduce the content by thoroughly cooking the food. In addition to that, you can also soak it or allow it to ferment.