The Lowdown on Lectins - What You Need to Know
'Lectin-Free' has become the new 'Gluten-free', but with less science and less associated facts.
Lectins are a type of protein that can bind to carbohydrates or sugars. This feature helps them to defend themselves in nature and causes them to resist digestion in the gut. They are found in all plants, but raw legumes (beans, lentils, peas, soybeans, peanuts) and whole grains like wheat contain the highest amounts of lectins.
Cooking, especially with wet high-heat methods like boiling or stewing, or soaking in water for several hours, can inactivate most lectins.
Fad diets cite lectins as a major cause for obesity, chronic inflammation, and autoimmune diseases, but there is limited research in humans.
Lectins can act as an antioxidant, which protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. They also slow down digestion and the absorption of carbohydrates, which may prevent sharp rises in blood sugar and high insulin levels.
Early research is also looking at the use of non-toxic low amounts of certain lectins in anticancer treatments due to the ability of lectins to cause cancer cell death.
Lectin-containing foods like legumes, whole grains, and nuts are associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, weight loss, and type 2 diabetes. These foods are rich sources of B vitamins, protein, fibre, and minerals, and healthy fats.
The health benefits of eating these foods far outweigh the potential harm of lectins in these foods.
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