Lectins are ubiquitous, being found in plants, animals, and microorganisms, but the highest amounts are found in legumes and grains. The word ”lectin” comes from the same etymological root as the word “select” and literally translates as “to choose.”
They can serve as potent insecticides, and also can support other immunological functions within animals and plants. Some of the lectins may be linked with the binding of symbiotic rhizobia to form root nodules.
The effects of food lectins
95% of the lectins we absorb from our typical diets are sloughed off by the body. But at least 5% of these substances are filtered into the bloodstream, where they react with and destroy white and red blood cells.
Because these substances circulate throughout the bloodstream, they can bind to any tissue in the body – pancreas, thyroid, collagen in joints. This binding can disrupt the capacity of that tissue and cause white blood cells to attack the lectin-bound tissue, destroying it. This is a typical autoimmune response. For instance, the gluten in wheat is specifically known to be involved in rheumatoid arthritis.
To make things worse, on their way into your body, they damage the walls of your intestines, helping to create “leaky gut syndrome” (condition that happens as a consequence of intestinal tight junction malfunction), so that other large particles can cross the intestinal barrier, enter your blood stream and begin other immune cascades. This is essentially how food sensitivities start.
Consumption of foods with high levels of these toxins can cause skin eruptions, bloating and flatulence after meals, hormonal fluctuations, diarrhea, vomiting, changes in bowel habits, nausea, and disrupt carbohydrate and proteins malabsorption. Additionally, they can also spike inflammation in the skin, gut, joints and the hypothalamus in susceptible people.
Furthermore, ingestion of these substances is associated with leptin resistance, the hormone that signals when you’re full. When your metabolism breaks, you get resistant to leptin before you get insulin resistant, and both forms of resistance lead to obesity.
How can we reduce or neutralize lectins?
While many supplements and foods may inactivate some of these toxic substances, it is impossible for such substances to protect the body from them entirely.
Cooking at high temperatures effectively eliminates lectin activity from foods like legumes, making them completely safe to eat. In fact, cooking legumes for as little as 15 minutes or pressure-cooking them for 7.5 minutes almost completely inactivates the lectins they contain, leaving no residual lectin activity in properly cooked legumes.
Sprouting or soaking seeds and grains helps to eliminate these toxic compounds and other anti-nutrients. Unfortunately, these cooking methods are rarely practiced anymore, and grains in the processed forms we commonly consume are little lectin powerhouses.
Here are top 6 foods high in lectins:
Such as corn, barley, rice, and wheat, especially wheat germ (gluten), as do cereals and other baked goods made with these grains. Gluten is one of the harmful lectins that can cause a lot of problems with the digestive system, which is why many individuals who have sensitive guts have to eat gluten-free foods.
Note – rice is extremely low in lectins (plus is usually boiled before consumption), and therefore very little gas is produced during its digestion.
Kidney, jack, soy, navy, pinto, fava, lima, wax, castor, string and field beans all contain lectins. For example, raw red kidney beans contain 20,000 to 70,000 hau (hemagglutinating unit).
Nevertheless, legumes are a remarkable source of complete protein, minerals, vitamins, and complex carbohydrates, plus, they are a highly satiating food.
Note – legumes have soluble fiber, that lowers the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your bloodstream and helps keep glycemia balanced.
#3 Dairy products
The level is increased if a dairy animal is fed grain rather than grass fed. However, dairy products have other side effects. For instance, according to a major epidemiological study in the United States – the Nurses Health Study, concluded that dairy fat is strongly associated with an increased risk of heart disease as well is showed no protective effect on fracture risk.
Note – in observational studies both within single populations and across countries, higher dairy consumption has been strongly associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer.
#4 Raw Nuts And Seeds
Walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, poppy and sunflower seeds. However, by including seeds and nuts in your weekly diet, the iron, selenium, magnesium, manganese, natural fiber, protein, vitamins, and folate, you receive a wide range of health benefits.
Note – they are a good source of omega-3s – a healthy form of fatty acids which seem to help your heart by preventing dangerous heart rhythms which may lead to heart attacks
#5 Nightshade Vegetables
Nightshade vegetables are part of the Solanaceae plant family, that have well over 2,000 different species. Some of these include – eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. However, most nightshade plants aren’t edible such as belladonna and tobacco.
Note – potatoes are a good source of fiber and fat-free. Furthermore, they contain potassium and sodium, thus, they help keep your electrolytes in balance.
#6 GMO Foods
Lectins are toxic and durable. They are usually spliced into GMO foods to improve fungal and pest resistance. Remove GMO foods from your diet, as these are purposely created to harbor foreign, high-lectin insecticidal material.
Note – some GMO foods contain genes which increase resistance to some antibiotics. Therefore, if this capacity were transferred to a person consuming a GMO food, antibiotics might not have the usual effects against a bacterial infection.
If you enjoy this type of foods (except nr.6), tolerate them well, and are willing to prepare them properly, there are no credible studies showing that they will harm you when eaten.