The 14 Foods High in Lectins
Lectins are often referred to as antinutrients, a less common term describing plant compounds that may reduce the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients. But what exactly are lectins and are these 14 foods blocking nutrients in your body?
Nutrients are substances that offers nourishment to the body and are essential for growth and the maintenance of life. They are found in a wide variety of sources but mostly concentrated in whole foods, including whole grains, fruits and veggies, legumes, nuts and seeds, and milk and dairy products. Interestingly, lectins are often referred to as antinutrients, a less common term describing plant compounds that may reduce the body's ability to absorb essential nutrients. But what exactly are lectins and are these 14 foods blocking nutrients in your body?
What Are Lectins?
Lectins are carb-binding proteins and mostly found in plants and thought to protect them against animals in nature. Lectins are indigestible, travel through the gut unchanged, and thought to reduce the body's ability to absorb beneficial nutrients. Though lectins are poorly understood, researchers speculate they can bind to cells on the gut wall and trigger a response. A large intake of lectins may cause gastrointestinal distress, particularly if they are consumed in their raw form, with side effects of gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Individuals with Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome may also be more prone to food lectins, as the gut lining is more vulnerable and sensitive related to a higher turnover of cells in the digestive lining.
Foods High in Lectins
As mentioned, lectins are primarily found in plants and mostly in grains, nightshade vegetables, and beans. More specifically, lectins are commonly known to be in the following foods:
1. Wheat Germ
7. Garden Peas
8. Jack Beans
9. Navy Beans
10. Lima Beans
11. Kidney Beans
Interestingly, lectin concentration in foods may be reduced with the following preparation techniques:
Allowing seeds, grains, and beans to sprout can help reduce lectin content related to the process of germination. In general, the greater the sprouting duration, the lesser concentration of lectins.
Soaking and Cooking
Soaking raw beans and grains is suggested to minimize lectin content. As a general rule of thumb, soak beans for at least two hours, or overnight if possible. Adding baking soda and pressure-cooking can also lessen lectin concentration.
Fermentation is the process in which beneficial bacteria are able to reduce harmful substances in the body, and mostly known in sauerkraut, yogurt, tempeh, kombucha, and other fermented foods. The fermentation process has shown to reduce lectin content up to 95 percent.
Are Lectins In or Out?
To truly gauge whether or not lectin-supplying foods are blocking nutrients is difficult, as researchers do not have clear evidence regarding its effects on the body. However, most nutrition experts suggest consuming a well-balanced limits the risk of nutritional deficiencies. If interested in or following a specific diet, consulting with a dietitian is encouraged, especially if single or multiple food groups are restricted or eliminated. Their expertise and guidance can also help determine whether or not following a lectin-free diet is right for you.