What Are Lectins?

There has been a lot of talk about low carbohydrate, Paleo and grain-free diets. One of the reasons that these diets are often so effective is because they are low in lectins. Could these lesser-known compounds be wrecking havoc on your health?

Lectins are found in some vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy, coffee and grains. Lectins act to protect plants from being digested by animals, pests and insects. They help seeds and nuts to pass through the digestive tract unchanged, which ensures that they will be dispersed in nature.

Lectins are also found in dairy products, fish, shellfish and eggs. Not all lectins are harmful and some are actually beneficial to human health. However, our modern diet exposes us to many more lectins than we should naturally eat, so the negative effects are very common.

Lectins affect human health because our bodies produce antibodies to them. They are also hard to digest, can damage the intestinal lining and can cause uncomfortable digestive symptoms. Other symptoms of lectin reactions are skin rashes, joint pain and inflammation.

You can reduce the lectin content of grains and legumes by soaking, sprouting and cooking them. You can also soak nuts and seed for 6 hours in water to reduce their lectin content and improve their digestibility. Fermenting vegetables is a good way to break down their lectin content.

Lectins in food vary from season to season so make sure you eat locally grown, organic and seasonal food to avoid excess lectin exposure.

These methods will not get rid of lectins completely but they will help to reduce them significantly.
If you have skin problems, arthritis, digestive complaints or an autoimmune condition then you may benefit from a low lectin diet.