Lectin Foods & How they Impact your Health
Are you someone that’s sensitive to lectins? Then let’s discuss what they are and how to best avoid them if you are allergic.
Lectins are a type of protein that are sugar-binding and can adhere to cell membranes. Lectins offer a way for molecules to stick together without getting the immune system involved, which can influence cell-cell interaction. They are abundant in raw legumes and grains, and most commonly found in the part of the seed that becomes the leaves when the plant sprouts.
Lectins in plants are a defense against microorganisms, pests, & insects. They may also have evolved as a way for seeds to remain intact as they passed through animals’ digestive systems, for later dispersal. Lectins are resistant to human digestion and they enter the blood unchanged.
How they Impact Immunity
Because we don’t digest lectins, we often produce antibodies to them. Almost everyone has antibodies to some dietary lectins in their body. This means our responses vary. Certain foods can even become intolerable to someone after an immune system change or the gut is injured from another source. The presence of particular lectins can stimulate an immune system response, most especially because they can compromise the inner lining of the stomach leading to “Leaky Gut”.
While many types of lectins cause negative reactions in the body, there are also health promoting lectins that can decrease incidence of certain diseases. Furthermore, the body uses lectins to achieve many basic functions, including cell to cell adherence, inflammatory modulation and programmed cell death.
Sources of High Lectin Foods
- Grains – less so gluten, but wheat germ agglutinin, so you can be gluten-free but still be consuming if you’re eating grains
- Corn and quinoa
- Nightshades: potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes
- Beans: peanuts, cashews
- Squash, zucchini, chia seeds
If you are highly sensitive to lectin foods, then it’s best to avoid them all together. But if you’re not, and still wish to be cautious, these tips can help you to avoid the repercussions of them:
Peel your veggies. Most of the lectins are contained in the skin and seeds of plants; simply peeling and de-seeding vegetables. Shop for fruit in season. Fruit contain fewer lectins when ripe, so eating apples, berries, & other lectin-containing fruits at the peak of ripeness helps minimize your lectin consumption. Swap your brown rice for white. Avoid whole grains & seeds with hard outer coatings too.
What do the symptoms of this look like, how might someone know it’s affecting them?
- Joint pain and arthritis
- Skin rashes and psoriasis
- Autoimmune diseases
- Depression, fatigue
- Coronary artery disease
- Tonsils removed have a higher incidences of lectin sensitivities