Lectins: why they’re not to be feared

By The Gut Health Doctor Team

Dr Megan Rossi in a lab looking through a microscope

Heard about lectins? There’s seems to be some serious scare-mongering going on, making people afraid to eat legumes, wholegrains, nuts and even many types of fruit and vegetables.

A recent review suggested a lectin-free diet could be come the next ‘food fashion’… Although thankfully Covid-19 seems to have squashed that potential trend, with everyone making the most of store cupboard ingredients (many of which are claimed to be ladened with lectins), I’ve had a concerning number of questions around whether we should be worried about lectins.

The short answer? No.

As long as your food is prepared appropriately, i.e. cooking legumes and wholegrains. Essentially, just don’t eat dried beans or raw potatoes. They’ll be really hard and won’t taste good either…

What are lectins?

It’s a type of protein and all raw plants are thought to contain some lectins. Foods higher in lectins include beans, peanuts, lentils, tomatoes, potatoes, aubergine/eggplant, wheat and other grains – so essentially, many foods that have actually been linked with health benefits! (That’s the first alarm bell as to the validity of the diet).

So where did this diet come from?

Like most trends, there is a little bit of science, that’s just been twisted. Yes there is evidence to suggest certain types lectins could be harmful when eaten in excess, but there’s much more to it.

The vast majority of ‘bad’ lectins are removed when you cook food – even reducing the lectin content to less than 0.1%, as one study showed in beans.

So what about the foods you don’t cook?

There are zero studies in humans suggesting these have any negative effects, in fact some types of dietary lectins may actually be beneficial, at least according to test tube studies.

Take home message:

Keep up your plant-based diversity and unless there are human studies that suggest otherwise (I’ll be sure to let you know) don’t let lectin-fuelled thoughts get in the way of reaching your 30 this week.


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