Most people may not be familiar with lectins, but in fact, they are very harmful to the human body.
Lectins are immunotoxic, neurotoxic, and cytotoxic. Additionally, lectins can cause inflammation, leaky gut syndrome, arthritis, and other health problems.
Studies have confirmed that chronic inflammation is the root cause of almost all diseases. An unhealthy diet is the main cause of inflammation, because an unhealthy diet may contain a lot of sugars, refined carbohydrates, trans fatty acids, and chemical additives.
However, lectins present in many healthy foods can also cause inflammation and even obesity.
What Are The Lectins
Simply put, lectins are toxic proteins. They not only cause inflammation but like gluten, they affect digestion and make it harder to maintain a healthy weight.
Most plants contain large amounts of lectins. Plants related to our diet include grains, beans, certain fruits, and vegetables.
Plants have no teeth and claws, so they cannot protect themselves like animals. They use lectins as a “weapon” to defend against predators. You can also think of it as a plants’ built-in “bodyguard”.
When plants are harmed, lectins go to work, attacking the invaders like a viper secretes venom.
Why Are Lectins Harmful
Lectins are large proteins. They are also very sticky. When people eat plants that contain lectins, these lectins bind to carbohydrates (sugars), especially polysaccharides, and attach themselves to the surface of cells, thereby producing toxicity or inflammation. This disrupts the transmission of information between cells.
In addition, lectins hinder the body’s absorption of nutrients such as vitamins and can cause indigestion. They also promote fat cells to store sugar, which can lead to weight gain.
The most harmful lectin is wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) in wheat and other seeds. These lectins mainly interfere with insulin, an important hormone in the body. One of the roles of insulin is to transport sugar in the blood to cells, thereby providing energy for the body.
WGA imitates insulin and binds to insulin receptor sites on cells, thereby blocking the action of insulin. This results in reduced energy utilization, which can make you feel tired. At the same time, more sugar is pumped into fat cells. This stimulates weight gain and insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes. [*]
You may have the experience that after eating a big meal (especially eating foods that contain a lot of carbohydrates), you soon feel very sleepy. This is because the lectins in wheat flour start working in your body.
Another hazard of lectins is that they can be the cause of the leaky gut syndrome.
The total area of our intestinal lining can reach 4000 square feet (approximately 372 square meters). If everything is normal, this lining will form a tight and stable barrier to control the substances absorbed into the blood. This works to protect the body from harmful substances. [*]
However, when the intestinal mucosa is attacked by lectins, an inflammatory reaction occurs. This reaction can cause cracks or holes in this barrier. Then, it is possible for the harmful substances in the intestine to leak into the blood through these gaps.
What Foods Are High In Lectins
Lectins are found in most plant foods and a small amount of animal foods. They are almost impossible to completely avoid. Generally speaking, grains contain more nutrients, but they also contain a lot of lectins.
The most obvious adverse reactions after eating foods rich in lectins are indigestion and allergies. For example, many people are allergic to beans and peanuts. Other people can be intolerant to lactose. Therefore, these foods that cause allergies, need to be avoided.
The following are the foods that contain the most lectins:
- corn and corn products
- peanuts, cashews, and unfermented soybean products
- legumes (such as peas, lentils, green beans)
- grains, especially whole-grain
- solanum fruits and vegetables (such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, sweet pepper, hot pepper)
- cucurbitaceae vegetables (such as pumpkin, zucchini)
- seeds (such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia)
- non- grass-fed beef and poultry (raised with corn and soybean)
- casein A1 milk
From our list, everything else is pretty straightforward, but what is Casein A1 milk?
First of all, casein A2 is the normal protein that exists in the milk of sheep, goats and buffaloes. However, most cows currently only produce casein A1 milk. The milk you buy from the store, including organic milk, is basically casein A1 milk.
Casein A1 is metabolized in the intestine, to produce β-casomorphin. This can attach to the β cells of the pancreas and cause autoimmune attacks [*]. This is why many people have lactose intolerance.
Foods That Are Low In Lectins
Some plant foods contain very little lectins, so you can eat them freely.
These foods include:
- cooked tubers or rhizomes (such as sweet potatoes, taro)
- green leafy vegetables
- cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts)
- olives and extra virgin olive oil
How To Reduce Lectins In Foods
You might ask: what should I do if my favorite food contains a lot of lectins?
You can use the following methods to reduce the content of lectins in food and make them safer for your body.
- Germination: Grains, seeds, and legumes after germination will result in inactivating lectins.
- Fermentation: During the fermentation process, beneficial bacteria metabolize many indigestible components, including lectins.
- Peel the skin and remove seeds: Generally speaking, the skins, shells, and seeds contain the most lectins.
- Choose grass-fed meat: Avoid eating artificially raised livestock and poultry meat.
- Soaking and cooking: Beans and seeds (such as chia seeds) can be fully soaked and cooked (preferably with a pressure cooker) to destroy the lectins, making them inactive.
Regularly eating foods rich in lectins can bring great harm to health. Issues such as indigestion, leaky gut, decreased immunity, weight gain, and various chronic diseases caused by inflammation.
Lectins are contained in most plant foods and a small number of animal foods. Some of the most popular foods containing lectins are beans, nuts, corn, certain seeds, and non-grass fed meat.
You can use methods such as soaking, sprouting, peeling, and cooking to reduce the content of lectins in food to make your diet safer.