Lectins are a type of protein found in all forms of life, including the food you eat. In small amounts, they may provide several health benefits. However, larger amounts can reduce your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. This article reviews six foods that are particularly high in lectins, and explains how you can make sure they don’t reduce your nutrient absorption.
What Are Lectins?
Lectins are a kind of protein that can bind to sugar. They’re sometimes referred to as antinutrients, since they can reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Lectins are thought to have evolved as a natural defense in plants, essentially as a toxin that deters animals from eating the plants.
Lectins are found in many different plant- and animal-based foods, yet only about 30% of the foods you eat contain significant amounts. Humans are unable to digest lectins, so they travel through your gut unchanged. How they work remains a mystery, though research shows they bind to cells on the gut wall. This allows them to communicate with the cells, triggering a response.
In small amounts, lectins play important roles in body processes, including immune function and cell growth. Research shows they could even have a role in cancer therapy. However, large amounts can damage the gut wall. This causes irritation that can result in symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. It can also prevent the gut from absorbing nutrients properly.
The highest concentrations of lectins are found in healthy foods like legumes, grains and nightshade vegetables. Luckily, there are several ways to reduce the lectin content of these healthy foods to make them safe to eat. Research shows that by cooking, sprouting or fermenting foods that are high in lectins, you can easily reduce their lectin content to negligible amounts .
Below are six healthy foods that are high in lectins.