Debunking the Lectin-Free Diet Myth

Debunking the Lectin-Free Diet Myth Once and for All

First, there was fat and cholesterol. Then gluten. Now the lectin-free diet! Seems that the media keeps trying to make people fear food when in reality all food is good food as long as it’s real food. It’s time to debunk another diet fad because I don’t want you to spend another minute of your life fearing the innocent lectins.

Lectins are a vegetable protein in legumes, grains, vegetables, and even fruit. There are different types of them and they all do some good things and bad things to our health. Some are highly toxic, while others are actually beneficial for us.

The story is very similar to that of phytic acid – it’s been painted as something very dangerous by the Paleo diet fad gurus, when in reality, it’s nothing else but an important and inevitable part of our varied diets. Nothing to fear really. Same applies to lectins!

Not All Lectins Are Equal

Moreover, the fact that some types of lectins are highly toxic doesn’t mean that the rest of them are, which is exactly the idea that the lectin diet fad promoters have been pushing to us.

As The Washington Post wrote very accurately, “Saying all lectins are poison is akin to saying that you shouldn’t eat button mushrooms because some foraged mushrooms are toxic. It makes no sense.”

Lectins help cells stick together, and it’s this “stickiness” than can hinder the absorption of some nutrients or could potentially cause leaky gut, and leaky gut can lead to allergies or autoimmune issues. However, bear in mind that these studies have only been done in a test tube or on animals. They have never been done on actual humans. Plus, just like phytic acid, lectins have lots of health benefits, too. They are anti-bacterial, they strengthen the immune system, and they can even help the body identify and destroy cancer cells

Lectin fad promoters try to argue that almost all the major health issues in North America, such as obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammation, are due to eating lectins, while in reality North Americans eat very little lectins compared to many other countries.

The “Bad” Food List

So what’s on the list of excluded foods?  Whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, dairy, eggs, grass-fed meat, zucchini, watermelon, berries, coffee, chocolate, and even some herbs and spices… Yup, I’m not joking. Is there anything left left to eat? Not really. A leaf of lettuce perhaps? 🙂

Cooking Food Destroys Lectins Almost Completely

By far the highest amounts of lectins are found in legumes and grains, but don’t worry, there is really no need to avoid them.

Lectins in raw kidney beans could cause vomiting and diarrhoea, but does it mean that we shouldn’t eat beans? No! It only means that we shouldn’t eat beans raw, which we all know already anyway. Beans have never ever traditionally bean eaten raw. To be honest, they are so hard that even if you wanted, you simply wouldn’t be able to chew them.

Lots of raw foods contain toxic compounds, that’s why we cook a big chunk of our food.

Another example is cashew nuts. We don’t eat them raw because they’re toxic, so next time you see “raw” cashew nuts for sale, know that it’s a lie. They’re actually roasted and all those raw food eaters are being lied to.

Boiling beans for 30 minutes destroys all lectins.

Soaking beans overnight alone doesn’t remove enough lectins.

Using a slow cooker is also not recommended because the temperatures in the slow cooker are too low to destroy lectins.

Canned beans will also have very little lectins due to the canning process.

Talking about grains, boiling them destroys lectins, while fermenting and sprouting also gets rid of most lectins (this study shows that fermentation destroys up to 95% of lectins).

Why not try making your own sourdough bread? 😉 Here’s a foolproof sourdough bread recipe I shared a while ago.

The People Who Spread the Lectin-Free Diet Fad

The biggest promoter of the lectin-free diet fad is Dr Gundry, a cardiologist from the US, who in addition to posting a ridiculous list of “good” and “bad” foods on his website also sells incredibly expensive supplements, including the Lectin Shield. It is supposed to protect you from the toxic lectins and will set you back  a mere $63 per month… His book titled “The Plant Paradox” is also an incredible example of how far a person can stretch science when he has an agenda to prove.

Dr D’Adamo, the creator of the Blood Type Diet and the Genotype Diet, is another promoter of the fear of lectins with an extensive list of expensive supplements, software products, and books for sale. I read most of his books and what struck me the most is how much those books contradict each other. Truth be told, the man is a great marketer though.

Why Does Lectin-Free Diet Help People Feel Better?

The reason why lectin-free diet helps some people feel better (at least for a while) is because it also encourages them to stop eating processed foods, white sugar, low quality dairy, etc. Pretty much any diet will have those benefits at the beginning because becoming more aware of what you put in your mouth is already a huge first step to better health.

However, removing all those foods from your diet is nothing else but an overkill, and quite a dangerous one long term.

If you have digestive troubles eating beans or grains (both of them are more difficult to digest due to so many different reasons), by all means give yourself a short break while you heal and strengthen your digestion, but don’t eliminate all the lectin containing foods because the truth is that whatever we get from the diet is a very small amount (close to zero if the food is cooked).

Foods High in Lectins Have Been a Staple in the Human Diets for Thousands of Years

In Ayurveda, there is a dish called kitchari. It’s used for short cleansing sessions, convalescence, and whenever one has digestive issues. All three constitutions benefit from it, and it’s very easy to digest. It’s essentially just rice and mung beans. Yup, both things are high in lectins, yet it’s the most healing, soothing, and balancing food ever.

Beans and lentils are a staple in the Mediterranean diet and in most of the Blue Zones in the world that are known for their extreme longevity. How can something so unhealthy sustain all those people for thousands of years in nearly perfect health? 

Remember that both grains and legumes provide a lot of beneficial nutrients, such as fibre, B vitamins, folate, iron, zinc and so many more, so eliminating them isn’t the safest way.

Cooking them properly is the safest way for your health.

The more varied our diet, the more nutrients we will collect for our optimal functioning.

Humans have been eating lectins as long as they’ve been humans. Let’s not create fear where there shouldn’t be any. All food is good food, as long as it’s real food. 

Have you succumbed to the lectin-free fad in the past? Do you fear lectins? Or perhaps you’ve never even heard of them? I suspect it will depend a lot on where you’re from because all this lectin scare mongering seems to be coming out of North America. Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Simply yours,
Vita xx

 

Speak Your Mind

*