Health

6 Foods That Are High In Lectins And Why To Avoid Them

Lectins are sugar-binding proteins that are found in plants, animals and microorganisms. They can be distinguished as glycoproteins or heteroglycans depending on their combined structure.

In actual, lectins act as an important defense mechanism for plant seeds, protecting them from consumption and germination by predators.

What Do Lectins Do?

Lectins have a wide variety of functions, including:

  • Protection from predators Most plant seeds are coated in an outer layer of lectins, protecting them from consumption by animals and germination in the digestive tract.
  • Immune system modulators Some types of lectins can alter our immune responses to certain foods and substances, leading to either heightened or reduced symptoms upon consumption. They can also have a protective effect on the immune system, helping to keep it working at top capacity.
  • Adhesion molecules Some lectins bind with cell membranes and act as adhesion molecules, allowing the cells to stick together in certain locations throughout the body.
  • Glycoproteins– Some lectin proteins contain sugar chains and can be distinguished as glycoproteins. They are sometimes added to foods, such as in candy bars, in order to improve texture or taste.

Types of Lectins

There are different varieties of lectins that include:

  • Hemagglutinins These lectins play a role in blood clotting and are found in animal tissues. Examples of hemagglutinins include, lectin found in red kidney beans.
  • Phytohemagglutinins Most commonly found in uncooked or undercooked plant seeds, phytohemagglutinin is known to cause vomiting and nausea in humans upon consumption. Examples of foods containing phytohemagglutinins include, soy, kidney beans, peanuts and red kidney beans.
  • Lectins from plants Most lectin-containing plants are not edible for humans due to their harmful effects on the digestive system. These include poison ivy, poison sumac, red kidney beans and castor beans.
  • Lectins from animals Some animal-derived lectin varieties are also insoluble in water and can alter immune function and the digestive system. These include fish, shellfish, insects and crustaceans such as crab.

6 Foods That are High in Lectins and You Should Avoid

Some of the most common foods high in lectins include wheat, soy and legumes. They are generally found in undercooked or raw forms of these foods.

  • Wheat LectinWheat is known to be one of the highest food sources for lectins. The largest concentration of harmful wheat lectin can be found in the germ of the wheat seed. The best way to reduce contamination from harmful wheat lectin is to remove the germ before consuming any bread products made with flour.
  • Soybeans Soybeans are also a significant source of fairly harmful lectins in our diets. In order to minimize the effects of soybean lectins, it is best to ferment the soybeans prior to consumption.
  • Dairy Products One of the most surprising sources for lectins in our diet is dairy, especially raw milk and cheese. Raw milk is a great source for harmful lectin known as butyric acid or BCM-7.
  • Legumes Legumes are also a significant food source for lectins, especially white beans and red kidney beans. Mature dry soybeans are also a decent source of harmful lectins to be aware of in our diets.
  • Raw Potatoes Potatoes contain lectins that could potentially be harmful to your health. Raw potatoes in particular with their skin seem to have higher levels of these substances, which haven’t been studied enough yet for us to know whether they’re a danger or not when consumed.
  • Nuts and Seeds Excluding grains, there is not much evidence to suggest that humans are sensitive to the types of lectins in tree nuts and most flowering seeds.

Why You Should Avoid The Foods with High Lectins?

Foods high in lectins are a problem for the majority of people and it is one of the many reasons why people need to incorporate an anti-inflammatory diet into their lifestyle. As already mentioned above, lectins are found in legumes, grains, dairy and vegetables.

Not all lectins cause us problems when we eat them. However, some lectins are very problematic and cause us a lot of digestive distress. Lectins are proteins that plants use to defend themselves against predators. Our bodies don’t recognize these proteins as food and therefore they do not get digested as most other foods do. Instead, they bind to the lining in our intestines which causes irritation to our gut and also causes many other health problems.

Dr. Ben Kim and his team of researchers have made significant progress in discovering the major nutrient triggers associated with inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The research has revealed that a diet rich in whole plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains may reduce the risk of developing inflammatory bowel diseases.

However, there are certain lectin rich foods that have been shown to trigger inflammation in the gut and other parts of the body. These include: soy beans, kidney beans, black beans, peanuts and matasan peas.

  • Damages Protective Gut Lining

The primary reason why we should make an effort to avoid these foods in our diet is because they have been shown to damage the protective gut lining, which results in poor absorption of certain nutrients and can contribute to the development of various health problems.

  • Lectins and Gut-Brain Connection

One of the keys to understanding why some lectins are harmful to our health is through the gut-brain connection. The gut sends messages to the brain about what we eat throughout our day via hormones and other chemical reactions, and this process can be affected by damaging lectins that cause inflammation in the body.

  • Lectins and Immune System

The immune system has a tough time dealing with lectins due to their characteristics, which include: being sticky and hard to digest. In many cases, the body may respond to lectins by sending out white blood cells and antibodies in an attempt to fight them off. However, if too many of these proteins are consumed on a regular basis, this can lead to significant damage and plenty of health problems as a result.

How Do Lectins Affect Our Health?

Our bodies are not able to easily digest lectins because they are designed by nature to be difficult for us to eliminate from our systems. This makes it easy for many lectin proteins to get stuck in the gut, where they may cause significant amounts of damage over time.

The immune system becomes a key player here as well because lectins can also contribute to inflammation in the gut and other parts of the body. When small amounts of lectins are consumed, our immune system may not respond too aggressively or be able to eliminate them from the body. It is only when a large amount of lectins enter the digestive tract that inflammatory effects can occur.

Dr. Ben Kim’s research has found that many of the foods on the above list are also rich in lectins. For example, soy beans contain a harmful type of lectin known as trypsin-like inhibitors, which have been shown to cause cancer and growth problems in animals. Black beans contain phytohaemagglutinin, which has been shown to damage human cells in a test tube and lead to bleeding from the gut.

Is There Anything We Can Do To Protect Ourselves?

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways we can stop these harmful lectins from entering the body. One of the most effective methods involves simply knowing how to prepare foods properly. For example, it is important to make sure that you remove the seeds and skin from certain plant-based foods such as kidney beans, peanuts and black beans.

Also, most lectins become heat sensitive when they reach boiling temperatures, which means you should take extra care to wash your food properly.

Another effective method involves paying attention to your caloric intake. Consuming too many calories may lead to digestive problems and more inflammation in the gut. Avoid eating large portions of lectin-rich foods, such as peanut butter, at any given meal if you want to avoid triggering an immune response in your body.

You should also consider taking supplements during times when you consume high amounts of lectins. Some good options include the following:

  • Activated charcoal One study found that activated charcoal protected against damage caused by lectin protein consumption (10). This substance is sometimes used in emergency rooms to help treat drug overdoses and poisoning cases (11).
  • Vitamin C Human studies have shown that vitamin C can help counteract the negative effects of lectins on gut health (12).
  • Coconut oil One animal study found that coconut oil could help protect against damage caused by lectins in the gut lining (13, 14).

Last but not least, make sure you get plenty of exercise every day. This will help to improve gut health and keep your immune system working at full capacity. The best form of exercise is to take long, slow walks every day. These will improve the circulation of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.

Tips to Avoid Foods High in Lectins

Apply these tips in your life to avoid the foods that are high in lectins, so you may lead a healthy lifestyle:

  • If you have digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, try avoiding all legumes (beans, peas), any kinds of grains (corn, wheat) dairy products and nuts for a week.
  • After a week of avoiding these foods, reintroduce one food at a time and then see how you feel. Do not eat any other foods during this test period because it is important to know what the reaction will be due to lectins alone.
  • Once you have identified the particular food that causes digestive distress for you, avoid that food totally.
  • Eat only the following foods that are known to be low in lectins: beef, poultry, fish and eggs. (These four types of meat are good sources of protein without all the additional digestive distress from lectins). You can eat as many vegetables as you want, but stick to non-starchy veggies such as: asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower.
  • Try to eat organic foods whenever possible since it is important to eliminate pesticides from your diet.
  • Eat lots of healthy fats such as avocado oil, macadamia oil and olive oil which are all beneficial to good health. Eliminating it from your diet is an important step in healing your gut. Choose a healthy alternative to beans such as Mung Bean Hummus or cook with canned coconut milk instead of cream or whole milk. Use ¼ cup coconut oil when you cook instead of butter. Eat avocados, olives and nuts sparingly because they are still high in lectins.
  • All foods can cause some level of digestive distress for most people. However, it is important to know the effects that lectins have on our bodies and reduce them from our diet whenever possible. In addition to lectins, there are many other inflammatory foods that you should try eliminating from your diet such as: sugar, dairy, gluten, soy and corn.
  • These foods are inflammatory to the body and can cause many health problems in the long run. Eating whole foods in their natural state is very important for good health and nutrient absorption. This includes fruits, vegetables, eggs/meat (especially grass-fed), fish and nuts.

Conclusion

Avoiding the foods that are high in lectins will enable you to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. We really hope the above guide will have helped you out in understanding about it, why and how to avoid these food sources which are high in lectins. What are your thoughts on this topic, share with us in comments section?

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