What are LECTINS? Should You Avoid Foods Containing Them?
The lectin-free diet is becoming popular for people who want to lose weight, improve their gut health and digestion.
But is it worth it? Should you really be afraid of lectins?
What are lectins?
Lectins are a type of plant protein that can be found in almost all foods, especially whole grains and legumes, and nightshades (tomatoes, peppers and potatoes).
There are different types of lectins, which have different functions in the body. Some lectins can make plant foods difficult to digest, while others are believed to stress the body and cause inflammation (although this hasn’t been proven).
Lectins have recently become villainized because of some claims that they can cause inflammation, weight gain, unpleasant digestive symptoms, and “leaky gut.” But these anecdotal accounts have never been substantiated in published studies.
Research on lectins.
Since the 1970s, there have been some studies on lectins, but they are mostly test tube or animal studies that are difficult to translate to human nutrition.
A lot of what we’re hearing about lectins is based on hearsay—some people report that giving up lectins has helped them lose weight, improved their gut health or reduced digestive upset.
But there are no long-term studies that show how removing them will affect your health in the long term. There just isn’t enough research on the lectin-free diet at this point. However, there is substantiated research showing the benefits of lectins.
Current data about health effects of dietary lectins, do not support negative health effects in humans. In contrast, consumption of WGA (wheat germ agglutinin)
, containing foods, such as cereals and whole grain products, has been shown to be associated with significantly reduced risks of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer, as well as a more favourable long-term weight management.
Approach your lectin research with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Look for science-based evidence instead of inflated claims on websites that are trying to sell products.
Health benefits of lectin-containing foods.
Here are just a few examples:
• Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which has been shown to protect the prostate, promote heart health, and contribute to healthy skin.
• Squashes and pumpkins contain a range of phytonutrients with strong antioxidant activity, and also appear to be beneficial for a healthy intestinal ecosystem.
• Legumes are a valuable source of protein and a variety of phytonutrients. Nations with high intake of legumes have low rates of colon cancer. Plus, many preliminary studies support the gut-protective properties of legumes.
Since lectins are found in foods that are very beneficial for your health, it doesn’t make sense to cut out the foods that contain lectins from your diet.
Yes, you can have your lectins—and eat them, too!
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