Are you concerned about lectins?
This is a topic I’ve gotten MANY questions about lately. So today, we’re going to break down what lectins are, how they could potentially be harmful, what you need to be concerned about, and how to protect yourself and your family.
There’s a lot to cover so let’s get started…
What Are Lectins?
Lectins are a large family of protein compounds that bind to other molecules, especially carbohydrates. They are antinutrients, which means they interfere with the absorption of nutrients into your body. Lots of foods contain antinutrients and some are more of a concern than others.
For instance, peppers and tomatoes contain solanine, which is actually a beneficial antinutrient for most people, whereas tannins are antinutrients in wine that many people have reactions to.
What’s interesting about lectins and all antinutrients is that nature created them for a reason, which is to protect the plants from predators so they can reproduce and continue the species.
Lectins are found in a long list of foods including:
- Legumes – beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts
- All squashes
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
- All fruit
- Anything made from wheat and all other grains
- Animal products fed a diet of corn like conventional cow’s milk and beef
How Could They Be Harmful?
The idea that lectins are harmful got started with a well-written book, The Plant Paradox by former cardiac surgeon, Dr. Steven Gundry. Gundry found that when he asked his patients to remove fruit from their diets, their health improved, so then he asked them to remove vegetables with seeds like squashes, and they felt better and lost weight. And based on that, he came to the conclusion that lectins, which are present in those foods, were the culprits for a wide range of health issues.
If you delve into the research on lectins, there are some studies that show that foods with a high presence of lectins can be harmful. But, and this is a big BUT, there are even more studies showing how beneficial foods with a high presence of lectins are.
While Dr. Gundry claims that removing lectins from your diet can prevent cancer, studies have found the opposite to be true. Eating foods with lectins may actually prevent tumor growth in certain types of cancer like colorectal. That’s an important note and one I’ll come back to later.
Bottom line: Taking foods with lectins out of your diet is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater!
Even avocados have lectins, but with all of their other health benefits, does it really make sense to stop eating avocados?
People who eat foods with lectins like beans, fruits, and squashes by and large live healthier, less-diseased, and longer lives than people who don’t. That common sense approach is the one worth taking.
What’s more, there’s a simple way to prevent the problems associated with the most prevalent source of lectins, which is raw beans. Cook any beans you eat or buy them canned. The process of commercial canning or at-home cooking deactivates lectins, so they don’t have the potentially harmful effects of raw beans.
And even better, SPROUT the beans, such as garbanzo beans (chickpeas) when making hummus, as this process removes the antinutrients, exposing you to the beneficial component ONLY of that specific food!
The Root of the Problem
All of that said, I do want to pinpoint a problem that Dr. Gundry tried to solve with his no-lectin diet. And to understand this, let’s remember that patients were coming to him with health problems and that’s why he prescribed this diet. As a cardiac surgeon, he was seeing patients with heart disease on a daily basis.
So is it really a problem of eating lectins? Or is it the inability to break down certain foods because of the lack of health in patients’ microbiomes (read: gut) that leads to problems with lots of foods as well as other health troubles?
Remember, emerging research has found that in colorectal cancer patients, lectins in the diet actually shrink tumors, so while that’s still being studied, we do see a link between gut health and lectins.
A healthy gut should be able to break down a wide variety of foods, but an unhealthy digestive system found in a person with inflammation and too much ACIDITY is incapable of breaking down some of the same foods. Hence, they have a reaction to these foods!
Did you ever consider WHY some people who eat these lectin-containing foods HAVE reactions, then someone sitting right next to them, eating the very same food, is completely fine? So here’s the question – is it the lectin-containing FOOD, or that specific person and their ABILITY or INABILITY to properly breakdown, digest, and assimilate that food? My common sense and gut says (pun intended) it’s the latter!
By removing foods with lectins from their diets, it temporarily shocks the gut into better digestion and absorption, which led to Dr. Gundry’s conclusions. But sadly, sooner or later in many, inflammation, disease, and poor lifestyle choices will come back to haunt those patients.
What to Focus on Instead
So instead of worrying about lectins, let’s focus our efforts on taking accountability and improving our choices when it comes to health and nutrition.
The most important step you can take for your long term health is to improve your gut function, so that you’re getting the most out of the nutritious foods you eat and processing everything efficiently. Here’s a quick reminder on how to do that:
Load up on healing, alkaline, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich foods like:
- Dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and watercress, chard, romaine
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower
- Sulfur-based vegetables like onions, cabbage, radishes
- Healthy fats like avocados
- Any other vegetables – raw or steamed
- Coconut oil and other no sugar added coconut products
- Other healthy oils – macadamia, EVOO, MCT, black cumin seed
- Raw nut-butters like almond, cacao, macadamia, and coconut
- Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, Brazil nuts
- Nut milks (ideally home made)
- Pacific or Alaskan wild-caught salmon, trout, anchovies, sardines
- Chia and flax seeds
By focusing on eating as many of those foods as you can, you’ll naturally minimize the acidic, inflammatory foods you may be eating now like sugar, dairy products, gluten and other grains, meat, soy, corn, vegetable oils, etc.
You’ll also want to load up on vitamins and minerals to fight acid, while alkalizing and energizing your body. As good as we may try, its impossible to totally eliminate the toxins in our life from food, chemicals, environment, air, and water.
Taking Alkamind Daily Minerals every night before bed will give you the added advantage, and help ensure your liver and kidneys are properly filtering out toxins so your gut can do its job. (You’ll also sleep better as a result!)
Starting each morning off with Alkamind Daily Greens will give you 5 whole servings of those dark, leafy greens that will fight inflammation and help your gut heal. One scoop of greens gives you 21 different high-alkaline vegetables and low-sugar fruits – do you know how hard (impossible) it would be to get ALL that in one sitting!
And unlike other brands, you’re going to absorb more of the wheatgrass and other super foods because we’ve broken them down to their most digestible form. So by taking your Greens first thing every morning, you’re getting a dose of the most powerful, alkaline food on the planet!