Are you on a lectin-free diet or considering one? These diets avoid foods that are high in the protein known as lectin. There are various reasons people might want to avoid this nutrient. For example, some foods like kidney beans can cause an upset stomach if they’re eaten when raw or undercooked. In fact, the diet’s supporters claim lectin can increase risks of health conditions like arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. There’s some debate about whether or not high-lectin foods are unhealthy since many are sometimes “superfoods.” However, you must avoid them in a lectin-free diet.
The term “lectin-free” isn’t the best one since all plant-based foods have some lectin. That includes fruits, veggies, grains, etc. What we’re talking about here are foods that are sky-high in lectin. This type of diet might provide benefits like lower inflammation. Some studies show mixed results about whether or not lectins are unhealthy. On the other hand, the diet’s supporters believe you can avoid many health conditions by eating a low-lectin diet. It requires people to limit or cut certain foods like dairy, grains, and beans. In order to follow this diet, it’s important to know which foods to eat less or more of. It’s believed this will make you healthier.
What’s Wrong with Lectin?
A lectin-free diet tries to greatly reduce the amount of this protein in your diet. Before talking about the possible dangers about this substance it’s important to take up lectins themselves. These are plant-based proteins that have benefits and drawbacks based on various studies.
These proteins have some benefits. For example, some researchers believe lectins can help cells to interact with other cells. Lectins might also help “good” bacteria to live in people’s digestive systems. They also might help to slow down how fast cancer cells reproduce.
Many health experts recommend eating lectin foods in order to provide a well-balanced diet. That’s because the proteins contain different vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, etc.
However, studies seem to show that lectins could also cause some negative effects. When beans like red kidney beans are undercooked or uncooked, they can cause digestion problems like upset stomach, vomiting, and nausea.
Lectins are also known as “anti-nutrients” since they prevent the body from absorbing certain kinds of nutrients.
There are various ways you can reduce your lectin intake. They include avoiding high-lectin foods altogether. This is the most practical option but many of the foods are high in nutrients.
Another option is to prepare lectin foods in certain ways including:
- Pressure cooking
The lectin-free diet became popular due to the work of American doctor Steven Gundry. He was a heart surgeon who shifted his focus to medicine that’s based on food and supplements.
It’s interesting that Gundry argues lectins are the biggest danger in today’s American diet. He’s authored a book about how people can avoid lectins. He’s also provided other food options and recipes for low-lectin diets.
Gundry claims that eating a low-lectin diet can make people healthier and boost weight loss. Supporters of this type of diet also argue that eating lectins makes the immune system weaker by boosting inflammation.
Lectins to Avoid
Here are some high-lectin foods to avoid if you’re on the lectin-free diet:
1. Kidney Beans
Make sure to avoid red kidney beans since they have one of the highest amounts of lectin ever. These kidney-shaped beans are high in plant proteins and fiber.
So, what’s the problem? Red kidney beans can cause various digestion problems when they’re under-cooked or raw. In fact, eating such beans can cause problems like nausea.
This might be a surprising one since the soy-based products on the market have sky-rocketed. What’s the problem? These beans are high in plant proteins and nutrients like phosphorus. The problem for people on the lectin-free diet is the super-high amount of lectin in them.
If you want to eat soybeans with less lectin then consider fermentation. One study showed that this process slashes lectin by 95%. However, if you want to follow a strict lectin-free diet then you should drop all soy from your diet.
This fruit is high in nutrients like antioxidants and doesn’t seem to go from the gut into the bloodstream. However, it’s still a high-lectin food.
Dairy products are high in lectins due to the protein Casein A1. This is found in most milk products bought in supermarkets.
What if you don’t want to give up on milk, cheese, and yogurt? If so, then pick milk products that have Casein A2 instead of Casein A1. This includes goat milk. In fact, this type of milk also in sheep milk is lectin-free and won’t cause the same results as A1 Caseins.
Along with wheat, this is one of the whole grains that are high in lectins. For example, popcorn can provide many health benefits when it doesn’t contain tons of salt and butter. On the other hand, supports of the lectin-free diet shouldn’t eat this ingredient.
How to Eat Lectins
A real lectin-free diet wouldn’t include any plant-based foods. That’s definitely an unhealthy diet. If you want to eat foods with a moderate or high amount of lectins then you can still do that with these options:
You might be wondering why an old-school step before cooking bean is to soak them first. This is to reduce the lectin content. If you want to still enjoy grains and beans then this is one of the best options to remove the particular type of protein.
Here’s what to do. Soak the beans/legumes all night and keep changing the water. You can remove even more lectins by adding a little baking soda to the soaking water. Make sure to drain/rinse the ingredient prior to cooking it.
This is important when preparing foods like eggplant, cucumbers, and squash. In fact, it’s believed that that the husk, rind, and peel of certain high-lectin foods are the most dangerous parts.
This lets “good” bacteria get rid of harmful stuff in the ingredient. In fact, studies show that some of the healthiest countries in the world eat fermented soy like Japanese miso soup. Other fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, and beer.
4. Pressure Cooking
One study showed that using a pressure cooker to prepare high-lectin foods reduced the lectin content by about 55%. That’s compared to about 30% by using standard boiling. Another benefit of this cooking method is it might save more nutrients than other options.
You can do this to beans, seeds, and grains in order to reduce the lectin content. As a general rule the longer you sprout a food the more lectins you can remove. Here’s how it works. As the food germinates this results in changes in the seed’s “coat.” That helps to eliminate lectins to provide a similar benefit as lectins to avoid.