If you’ve been hearing about lectin free diets lately, but aren’t sure what they are… you’ve come to the right place. Lectin free diets are gaining traction as they’re understood to have a slew of positive health effects.
But chances are, even if you know a little bit about the lectin content of certain nightshade vegetables or legumes, you could probably still stand to get a little help. This guide to lectin free diets will serve to answer a heap of your lectin rich foods questions.
Check out this guide to a lectin free diet and get started today.
What To Know About Changing Your Diet To Cut Out Lectins
Let’s start with the basics of high lectin foods. First, you should know that a plant’s first line of defense is its chemical makeup and the effects those plant chemicals can have on predators — humans and otherwise.
Clearly, plants make a run for it if they feel threatened, nor can they put up much of a fight on the spot. If a person, animal, or insect wants to eat a plant — they will. So plants hope the toxic makeup of some of their natural chemicals will dissuade predators from returning to eat their families by making the predator sick in some way.
There’s the old adage about the kid saying to the healthcare professional, “Doctor, it hurts when I do that.” And the doctor replying, “Then don’t do that.” Similarly, if humans say, “It hurts when I eat that” hopefully they won’t eat whatever ‘that’ is again.
Plants have been on the planet for a lot longer than humans have. They’ve had time to evolve and line up a defense: dietary lectins. Lectins are a toxic group of plant proteins found in several types of grains, vegetables, fruits, and other plant foods.
Research about lectins has consistently proven that some types of lectins, like the ones in certain beans and legumes, have been linked to several negative health outcomes and discomfort. A few of the disconcerting physical effects of lectin consumption may include:
- Diarrhea 1
Educating yourself in terms of which foods contain lectins and how to avoid them can help you help yourself (and your friends and family) to stay healthier, longer. So, let’s get into the nitty-gritty about lectins.
How Can High Lectin Foods Affect Your Gut Health And Overall Health And Well-Being?
When asking yourself how high lectin-containing foods might affect your gut health, it helps to start with how lectins work in the first place. Lectins, often referred to as ‘sticky proteins’ seek out a special kind of sugar molecule in your blood (no matter your blood type).
They also look for these molecules in your gut lining, and even within your nerves. When lectins find the right molecule, they stick to them (hence, the nickname) and cause a communicative interruption between the molecule and your immune system.
Next, lectins do their damage — ripping tiny holes all over your gut lining and in your intestines. The problem here is that the perforation lectins cause is often linked to autoimmune concerns and unpleasant effects that tend to mimic the effects of food poisoning.2
Does this mean you should cut out all plant foods? No! Of course, not. Some plant-based chemicals, like polyphenols, can actually help you improve your immune function, cognitive function, and even your digestive function. You just need to know what foods to eat and what foods to avoid on a lectin free diet.
The basic rule is: Consume fewer plant lectins. Keep reading to discover the beginner’s guide to lectin free eating.
The Beginner’s Guide To Lectin Free Diets: What Lectin Foods Should You Avoid When Starting This Diet?
The following foods are the biggest offenders when it comes to lectin free diets. They should be eliminated from your diet.
Corn contains extremely high lectin content. The lectins in corn might cause a significant amount of weight gain. So it makes sense that farmers use corn for no other reason than to fatten up livestock. But if corn makes corn-fed cattle fatter, don’t you think it would have the same effect on people? A diet high in lectins from corn can cause an uptick in fatty deposits in your muscle.
Free-range cattle are fed corn — steer clear of free-range and other animal proteins. And limit your pasture-raised protein intake as well to 2 — 4 oz a day. If you must continue to eat meat, look for pasture-raised meats. These are animal proteins that are raised without corn as feed.
Similarly, casein A1 cow milk should be avoided. Casein A1 is the milk you typically find in your grocer’s refrigerated section. Strangely, Northern European cows suffered a genetic mutation a few thousand years back. Casein A1 becomes beta-casomorphin — a lectin-like protein that can sometimes cause attacks on your pancreas if you drink normal milk or consume normal cheese.3
There are several types of cows that didn’t undergo the mutation. Most exist in Southern Europe. The protein they produce is called casein A2 and it is generally safer for human consumption. Often people mistake a casein A1 intolerance with lactose intolerance. So if you’ve believed your lactose intolerant, give casein A2 milk a try.
There are other types of milk that work on a lectin free diet: goat’s milk and buffalo milk are a tasty substitute (in moderation).
Legumes and beans contain a ton of lectins. These are probably the worst foods you can consume on a lectin free diet. It’s best to ditch them entirely. 4 If you must eat legumes and beans like peas, black beans, kidney beans, and lentils, cook them in a pressure cooker. The pressure cooking process can help relieve these foods of some of their lectin content — but not all of it.
Other High Lectin Foods To Avoid On A Lectin Free Diet
Nightshade vegetables and fruits, like the tomato, pepper, potato, and eggplant, should be avoided at all costs. The seeds and the peels in these plant foods contain lots of lectins. 5
Again, if you must eat one of the nightshades, peel and deseed them. Cook them in a pressure cooker. While these methods won’t get rid of all of the lectins in nightshades, they can help.
Like nightshades, grains are lectin-filled grenades that can tank your weight loss efforts and lead to serious discomfort. Limit the number of grains you eat. Stick to sorghum and millet or use blanched almond flour, coconut flour, or sweet potato flour. There are several other flour substitutes on a lectin-free diet, as well.
Finally, when it comes to fruit, limit yourself to only fruit that is actually in season. Even then, don’t go overboard on fruit. Think of it as natural candy. The sugar in fruit is still sugar — so if you don’t want to experience weight gain or suffer the other effects of sugar consumption, keep your fruit intake low.
Reducing Lectins in Your Dietary Intake: Lectin Free Foods To Love
One of the heroes of the lectin-free diet is the avocado. It may surprise you, but avocados are fruits. You can eat them when they’re ripe and you can eat them in any season because, for all intents and purposes, avocados are free of sugar.6
They do, however, contain a healthy amount of good fats and soluble fiber. Of course, soluble fiber can help a lot when it comes to pursuing weight loss.
Another lectin-free power player is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Olive oil is chock full of the following vitamins and nutrients:
- Fatty acids
- Vitamin E
- Oleic acid
- Sodium 7,8,9
On a lectin-free diet, you can’t go wrong with leafy green vegetables. Consider these leafy greens the main staples of your lectin-free diet:
- Red leaf lettuce
- Green leaf lettuce
- Butter lettuce
These leafy veggies are very high in essential nutrients, so eat as many greens as you like.
Cruciferous Veggies, Tubers, And Fungi
Just like leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables are some of the best plant foods you can eat. Fill your plate with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Mushrooms, asparagus, garlic, and onions are great lectin-free foods, too.
When it comes to lectin-free living, don’t forget you can indulge in sweet potatoes and taro root. These foods are high in fiber — always a good thing for your gut (and for your good gut bugs).
A Beginner’s Guide to Lectin Free Diets: Tips, Tricks, And Wrapping It All Up
Remember the following tips when eliminating lectins: Foods like legumes, tomatoes, and potatoes should be avoided. But if you have to eat them, take extreme precautions. A pressure cooker can help you reduce the lectin content in food. And a pressure cooker won’t help you with the lectins in grains, but it can reduce your lectin intake when it comes to legumes, beans, and some nightshades.
And if you’re choosing to eat rice, make sure you go for white rice over brown. White rice has been de-hulled and the hull is what contains most of the lectins.
In the end, the lectin-free diet is probably the most enjoyable diet you’ll try. You can still eat fabulous foods, you just have to learn what goes into lectin-free living. There are a lot of excellent resources you can find out there for lectin-free eaters, so why not start now?