Lectins are proteins primarily found in grains and legumes. Recently, the lectin-free diet has been gaining popularity thanks to many diet books and media attention. There are numerous kinds of lectin; many are harmless, while many can pose health risks.
Removing lectins from a diet might mean skipping specific foods and ensuring a few items are cooked properly. Today, we do a deep dive into the lectin-free diet and use scientific data to understand whether this is worth a shot or not.
What Is the Lectin-Free Diet?
The lectin-free diet recommends decreasing your consumption of lectins or taking them out of your diet entirely. This can be advantageous for many.
Lectins can be found in most plant foods. Their concentration is incredibly high in:
- Milk and other dairy products
- Nightshade veggies, like eggplant and tomatoes
- Legumes such as lentils, beans, peanuts, and soybeans
- Grains like rice, barley, and quinoa
Restrictive in nature, the lectin-free diet eliminates some nutrient-rich foods, even ones usually considered healthy. Cooking foods high in lectins, like kidney beans, decreases their lectin content significantly, making them safe to consume. But, cooking foods like peanuts might not reduce theirs.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source suggests people boil beans for at least 30 minutes to ensure the harmful lectins have been eliminated. It’s important to understand that we rarely encounter foods with high volumes of active lectins, mainly because they have been cooked correctly.
Pros of the Lectin-Free Diet
It is unclear if eliminating lectins from your diet would result in notable improvements in your health. These include weight reduction, decreased symptoms and signs of chronic inflammation, or improved digestion. As such, if you create a diet comprising less processed foods may have significant advantages.
- May decrease inflammatory response: According to several studies, consuming lectins may cause an inflammatory reaction. Theoretically, lectins may function as a “warning signal” that increases the risk of autoimmune illnesses, claimed to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Immunology. This study also revealed a biochemical route via which this may occur. Therefore, lowering or getting rid of lectins could help to reduce inflammation.
- Might enhance nutrient absorption: Anti-nutrients are a thing. Lectins are often labeled since they gather in the gut and interfere with natural nutrient absorption and digestion.
- May help irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients: ibsIBS Meals containing lectins may make diarrhea, bloating, constipation, bloating, or other irritable bowel syndrome symptoms worse, as many patients with IBS discover that specific foods trigger their symptoms. Some studies have hypothesized that meals containing lectins and FODMAPs may interact with one another. FODMAPSa are carbs known to stir digestive distress in IBS patients. 1 However, additional investigation is required to pinpoint how lectin removal can help those with IBS.
- Focuses on whole foods: A lectin-free diet has one assurance: You won’t be ingesting many processed foods. You’ll probably make most of your meals at home using healthy foods like veggies, plant-based lipids, and grass-fed meats due to the limits of the diet. This might undoubtedly be advantageous in a world where processed meals account for an excessive amount of calories. Cooking at home may also teach you some valuable culinary skills.
- May lower disease risk: According to research, eating more processed foods increases the chance of developing cancer, obesity, metabolic syndrome, depression, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.
Cons of the Lectin-Free Diet
The biggest con of the lectin-free diet is its limiting nature, which can bear some detrimental physical effects.
- Limited evidence of effectiveness: Although there is some evidence that lectins may have adverse effects, nutrition experts do not generally agree that this diet is an effective way to treat or prevent illness.
- Reduction in consumption of critical nutrients: Going without lectins can also entail eliminating certain vital nutrients. When you cannot eat grains, legumes, or fruits, it can be challenging to maintain a well-balanced diet with lots of fiber. Long-term nutritional shortages might arise from consuming insufficient amounts of vegetables’ antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
- Difficult to maintain: There’s no doubt that the list of banned items on a lectin-free diet is exceptionally vast. It will probably be difficult to follow its rigorous rules, and you could miss your favorite meals that aren’t permissible.
- Many allowed foods are pricey: A lectin-free diet promotes eating lots of cheap vegetables such as carrots, onions, and broccoli, or suggested foods may be expensive. Budget-busting items include grass-fed meats, goat or sheep dairy, and expensive cooking oils such as walnut and avocado. Before starting, you might want to consider whether this diet is financially possible.
- May cause constipation from too little fiber: You may get constipation if you don’t consume enough fiber from foods, including fruits, legumes, grains, and certain vegetables.
Is the Lectin-Free Diet Good?
You can still get all the nutrients necessary for good health while staying on a lectin-free diet. Given the variety of foods you can eat on this diet, you do not have to skip on the essential macro and micronutrients your body requires to function.
A lectin-free diet, however, may have critical nutritional disadvantages. It will be challenging to consume the necessary 45% to 65% of daily needed calories from carbohydrates, given how scarce they are in this area.
You won’t be able to consume the 3 ounces of whole grains per day advised by the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans because the diet doesn’t allow grains. It could also be challenging to meet your daily fiber requirement of 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women (minimum) due to the absence of grains, including lentils, beans, and other veggies.
In addition, since fruits are almost entirely avoided on a lectin-free diet, there will surely be a reduction in vitamin and mineral consumption.