Lectins? What the Heck Are They and How Are They Hurting My Health?


Sure, we could go through the whole science of lectins, but here’s all you really need to know.

A Breakdown of Lectins

Lectins are simple; they are carbohydrate-binding proteins, macromolecules that are highly specific for sugar moieties of other molecules. Lectins perform recognition on the cellular and molecular level and play numerous roles in biological recognition phenomena involving cells, carbohydrates, and proteins…. HUH? Now, let’s break that down into something regular people like you and me can understand.

They are basically proteins in plants that can have some pretty negative side effects on your digestion and other body functions.

What do they actually do for the plant? It’s been suggested that they play a role in germination as well as helping the plant itself to survive. There have also been studies that lead scientists to believe they act as a natural insect repellent for the plant.

The Health Effects of Lectins

One medical journal stated that one possible impact that lectins can have is increased inflammation which could have harmful effects on the immune system. Inflammation has been linked to medical conditions like heart disease.

Lectins also make it easier for bacteria to cross your gut wall that may lead to what is known as “leaky gut.” They especially lead to an upset stomach when certain raw foods are eaten. For instance, the high content of lectins in legumes can be seriously dangerous. The FDA stated that eating just a few raw kidney beans could lead to severe nausea and vomiting.

The doctor who initially made the lectin-free diet popular, Dr. Steven Gundry, states that lectins could also cause autoimmune disorders and allergies, although more research is needed to affirm these claims.

Apparently, the only way to get rid of lectins from kidney beans is to 1) soak the beans 2) cook them in a pressure cooker.

While lectins may have some harmful side effects, there are a few good things about them. The most important is that a small amount of them may be needed for normal digestion and absorption of food.

Is a lectin-free diet right for me?

A lectin-free diet may be the right diet for you. While you may reap the benefits of avoiding an upset stomach, a lectin-free diet could also mean weight loss! The lectin-free diet forces you to eat less carbohydrates, leading to a loss in fat.

If you have difficulty losing weight, or other health issues you can’t seem to get under control, you may want to ask your healthcare provider if a lectin free diet would be right for you. It’s also important to know that even though you might be lectin-free, there are still plenty of snacking opportunities out there including nuts, veggies, and these delicious, lectin-free bars.

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