I first became aware of lectins in foods when I asked my naturopath why I shouldn’t eat cashews and pistachios. She replied “lectins, they’re bad news for your gut”.
As someone who is genuinely interested in nutrition and the whys and hows of the body, especially when it comes to digestion, I took it upon myself to research lectins.
WHAT THE HECK ARE LECTINS?
Lectins are a type of protein that are often referred to as anti- nutrients due to the fact they can reduce your body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients from your food.
Long term indigestion of high levels of lectins can lead to deficiencies, inflammation in the body and even leaky gut (food particles leaking out of the intestine into the blood stream).
SYMPTOMS OF DIFFICULTY DIGESTING LECTINS
✘ Digestive issues such as bloating & gas
✘ Skin rashes
✘ General inflammation
FOODS HIGH IN LECTINS
? BEANS & LEGUMES if you have digestive issues, you’ll know these guys can trigger bloating, gas & discomfort
? TREE NUTS such as cashews and pistachios
? GRAINS especially wheat, corn and quinoa
?️ VEGETABLE OILS high in inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids and goes rancid easily
? DAIRY especially from cows raised on corn
? NIGHTSHADES such as tomatoes, aubergines and peppers
SHOULD YOU AVOID LECTINS IN FOODS?
In simple terms, no. In small amounts lectins can provide benefits such as antioxidants and binding to sugars to slow the release of sugar into your blood stream. However, in large amounts that they can cause unwanted symptoms and damage your gut wall lining.
How you react to lectins in foods depends on your body. Some people may need to avoid or limit certain sources of lectins, for example people with IBS or compromised gut health. Personally, I struggle A LOT with my digestion so my diet is paleo based and I limit my consumption of grains, cashews, pistachios, peanuts, beans & legumes (these do not agree with my gut), vegetable oil, and dairy (I’m intolerant). But I eat all fruit and vegetables because:
I love them
my gut seems to tolerate them well
I feel good eating them
My advice would be to eat the foods that make YOU feel good. If you love peanut butter, hummus, and black bean burgers, then by all means eat them, as long as you genuinely feel great eating them.
Moreover, there are ways to reduces the negative effects of lectins in foods. ?
HOW TO REDUCE ANTI-NUTRIENTS
? SOAK ya nuts. Lectins in foods are water soluble so soaking your nuts, quinoa, and beans overnight will reduce anti-nutrients like phytic acid (which inhibits your body’s ability to absorb certain minerals like iron), and enzymes inhibitors that can irritate your digestive system. Adding raw apple cider vinegar or bicarbonate of soda may further help reduce lectins levels.
? COOK your beans properly. After soaking them overnight, rinse them and then boil or stew them on a high heat or according to the instructions.