If you follow the latest health trends, you may have heard the most recent buzzword: lectins. But what exactly are lectins, and why are they getting so much attention?
In Defense of Plants
Lectins are a type of protein found throughout nature, including in our own bodies! As sticky molecules that attach to cells, lectins play an important role in immune health.1
Lectins are also lurking in many foods you eat every day! Common sources of lectins include dairy, meat, and especially plants. Lectins are a plant’s best self-defense because they can cause gastrointestinal issues in those who consume them.
Since lectins can be hard to digest, they can also bind to cells in your gut. And when eaten in excessive quantities, those lectins can cause damage to your intestinal lining.2,3
When to Limit Lectins
But here’s the good news: although lectins might sound scary, they typically don’t create problems for most folks when eaten in moderate amounts. That’s a relief because lectins are found in so many foods, they’re nearly impossible to avoid!
However, there are ways to reduce your lectin exposure. And if you know you're struggling with signs and symptoms of leaky gut, then eating low-lectin can be a big help. (For help determining if you have leaky gut, check out this blog: What Is Leaky Gut? How to Understand and Repair the Damage)
So if you’re looking to cut down on lectins, here’s some useful tips…
Avoid high-lectin foods. To find out which foods have the highest lectin content, check out the top 5 offenders below:
- Grains (You won’t be missing anything by eliminating corn or gluten-containing grains! Here’s why…)
- Dairy (Lectins might not be the only reason to dump the dairy!)
- Nightshades (These include tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, and eggplants.)
Use smart preparation techniques. A few simple shifts in the kitchen can make a big difference in your health! Pressure cooking, soaking, sprouting, and fermenting are all effective strategies for lowering lectin levels, plus peeling and removing the seeds when eating high-lectin plants is key.
Lectins are everywhere! But with a few simple tricks, you can reduce the impact of lectins in foods and on your health. And the good news is that, for most people, lectins will never be an issue.