The lectin-free diet is one of the latest nutrition trends. First promoted by Dr. Steven Gundry, going lectin-free requires the elimination of many foods on the basis of their lectin content, which he believes to be the root cause of systemic inflammation and other negative effects throughout the human body.
Lectin is a protein found primarily in complex carbohydrate foods like legumes and whole grains. It is considered an “anti-nutrient” with the likes of dietary fiber because it is indigestible and its constituents are not ultimately absorbed. While consuming some lectins can indeed have toxic effects, (especially those found in raw or undercooked kidney beans), most Americans do not consume enough of the harmful lectins in their diet to pose any serious threat.
Thoroughly cooking your beans and grains is the surest way to remove the dangerous lectins found in these foods. And this is something we already do anyway because eating raw beans and uncooked rice is not exactly an appetizing way to enjoy them.
When prepared properly, the lectins in these foods are deactivated and will be flushed through the digestive tract. If consumed in their undercooked or raw form,
the free lectins can interact with our intestinal cells and may make us ill. With this in mind, we should be careful of the way we cook certain lectin-containing foods and keep raw beans out of reach of children.
However, I must scratch my head at any diet fad that recommends banishing foods that we know are healthy for the general population. Not only does the lectin-free diet mean no more beans or whole grains, it also means cutting out many varieties of nuts, fruits and vegetables, which science has shown time and time again to be powerhouses of good health.
Some foods restricted on a lectin-free diet (in addition to beans and grains):
As it stands, there is simply not enough scientific evidence to support going completely lectin-free. In fact, slashing all lectin-containing foods from your diet may put you at risk for certain nutrient deficiencies. But as with all nutrition choices, the decision to try a particular diet is up to the individual. Approach any new diet with a plan in place, as well as the flexibility to abandon ship if it doesn’t feel right for you.
1 Amidor T. Ask the Expert: Clearing Up Lectin Misconceptions – Today’s Dietitian Magazine. Today’s Dietitian. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/1017p10.shtml. Published October 2017. Accessed August 1, 2018.
2 Hamblin J. The Next Gluten-Level Obsession Could Be Lectins. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/04/the-next-gluten/523686/. Published April 24, 2017. Accessed September 4, 2018.
3 Rosenbloom C. Perspective | Going ‘lectin-free’ is the latest pseudoscience diet fad. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/going-lectin-free-is-the-latest-pseudoscience-diet-fad/2017/07/05/45382462-5b4e-11e7-a9f6-7c3296387341_story.html. Published July 6, 2017. Accessed August 1, 2018.