If you’ve ever touched a barnacle on a boat, you know how jagged and sharp it can be. Imagine a microscopic version of a barnacle inside your body, gradually tearing tiny holes in your intestines and allowing dangerous bacteria and viruses to enter your gastrointestinal tract. That’s what lectins can do.
Why You Need to Avoid Lectins at All Costs
A plant can’t run from a predator, nor can it fight back. Its only defense is to be so toxic that it dissuades an animal or insect from ever trying to eat it again. Lectins, which are a group of proteins, help plants survive in the wild. Toxicity levels range from relatively mild to potentially fatal. Ricin is a form of lectin found in the castor oil plant that can kill whatever eats it.
But humans are just as much at risk for lectin damage as insects and wild animals. These are some of the main reasons why.
- Leaky gut syndrome – When the intestinal wall suffers some sort of weakness, that opens the door for harmful microbes to enter – when this happens, this is referred to as leaky gut syndrome. Vomiting, diarrhea and severe abdominal pain are just some of the symptoms. If you consume too many foods that contain lectin, you will be at a higher risk for developing this troubling condition.
- Weakening the immune system – Lectins can cause an autoimmune reaction within the body, where, in an effort to destroy lectins, the immune system mistakenly attacks the tissues to which lectins have become attached.1 This, of course, can lead to a wide range of severe health issues.
- Digestive problems – Overconsumption of foods with lectins can lead to major digestive issues. For example, if you eat raw kidney beans (and yes, some people actually do this), that can lead to the development of gastroenteritis.2
Food You Need to Stay Away From
You have to do whatever you can to avoid foods that are rich in lectins. Many of these have probably been a staple of your dinner table for years, and you might find it hard to abandon them. But if you want to avoid the damage that lectins can do to your body, you’ll need to make some hard choices.
- Squash – If a vegetable has seeds, it’s potentially dangerous. The reason is that seeds are chock full of lectins.
- Grains – Grains are filled with lectins as well, so cut them out of your diet immediately.
- Beans and legumes – These are the biggest culprits when it comes to lectins. It goes without saying that you need to cut these out as well.
- Potatoes and tomatoes – Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers are among the vegetables known as “nightshades” because they usually flower at night and are typically found in shaded areas. But even though the name is somewhat endearing, these foods are anything but because their peels and seeds are lectin minefields.
- Milk with casein A1 – Casein A1 is a protein found in just about all brands of milk you’ll typically find in your grocery store. The reason this is a bad thing is two-fold. One, casein A1 is a protein with lectin properties. Two, the body converts casein A1 into another type of protein known as beta-casomorphin. This is a pathogenic substance that can lead to an autoimmune reaction that can damage the pancreas.
There are a lot of healthy and delicious foods that you can substitute if you choose to cut lectins from your diet as much as possible. For, example, avocados taste great and they’re completely safe, as long as you eat them when they’re ripe. It is loaded with not only good fats and fiber, but it also aids in the absorption of antioxidants. Vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli contain no lectin and are also rich in fiber. You should try to get more of other vegetables such as asparagus, onion, garlic and celery.
One of the best things you can do for your diet – and as a result, your health – is to increase your intake of extra virgin olive oil. It contains no lectins and is filled with vital nutrients and vitamins. Studies show that olive oil can provide several health benefits, including the reduction of inflammation in people whose immune systems have been compromised.3
So, while you might need to cut out some of your favorite foods because they contain too many lectins, there are plenty of healthy alternatives that taste great. Talk to your doctor and see what he or she thinks before you make major changes to your diet.