Home Health What Are Lectins, and What Do They Do?

What Are Lectins, and What Do They Do?

by Daniel Muse
What Are Lectins

Lectins are a kind of protein naturally found in plants and their work is protecting the plant from predators. After ingestion, lectins trigger a sudden reaction leading the predator to believe that the food is not good for them. Lectin can pass through an animal’s digestive tract without being digested. Worryingly, it can bind to the cell membranes in the digestive tract.

If you eat foods that are high in lectin and you lack the right enzymes to digest it, the proteins might leak into the bloodstream and it won’t be pretty. In fact, some people believe that lectins are partly responsible for creating a leaky gut, which, oft-a-time, causes autoimmune diseases. That means that consumption of food rich in lectins can cause a number of symptoms, including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Brain fog or fatigue
  • Disruption of lipid, protein and carbohydrate metabolism
  • Damage to the epithelium luminal membranes
  • Interference with the digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • Alteration of hormones

That is not all. Some health conditions are wont to worsen with the presence of high amounts of lectins in the body. These conditions include:

  • Allergies
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Celiac
  • Asthma
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Premenstrual syndrome

Foods with Lectins

Virtually all plant-based foods contain lectin proteins, and since most of our diet is plant-based, it is crucial to understand the foods that have the most lectin so you can make choices that are well-informed. Some of the foods that contain high amounts of lectin include:

  • Grains
  • Legumes – lentils, beans, and peas
  • Seeds
  • A number of fruits and veges such as berries, tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants


What do you do now that virtually all plant-based foods are rich with lectin? You have three options:

The first option is to completely give a wide berth to foods that contain high amounts of lectin. The second option is to reduce the number of lectins in the foods you consume.

In avoiding foods that are lush with lectins, replace them with the following foods:

  • Olives
  • Leafy greens
  • In-season fruits
  • Wild-caught seafood
  • Avocadoes
  • Eggs from cage-free chicken
  • Pasture raised meats
  • Cruciferous vegetables

The third option is take a supplement with your intake of foods, since you can’t guarantee a lectin-free diet 100% of the time. These easy to take on the go pills can help reduce the digestive problems that lectins cause. Check out this podcast about Lectin Shield, and hear for yourself. The supplement has gotten so popular that even Pinterest has pages for Lectin Shield and the lectin avoidance diet.

It may be difficult to eliminate the foods completely, in which case there are a number of things you can do to significantly cut down on the amount of lectins any particular food contains. The following guidelines will help you to that end:

Sprout beans – sprouting beans deactivates the lectins in them. That is because the seed coat where a lot of proteins is found is metabolized during sprouting. That means the amount of lectins in the particular seed will be significantly reduced and their activity, of course, will be reduced as well.

Fermentation – Fermented foods are thought to be the mainstay of most Asian societies. Well, they are enjoyed worldwide, but with moderation. If you’ve never been into fermented foods such as kimchi, tofu, sourdough, tempoyak, or natto, then this is your opportunity to relish in what most Asian communities enjoy. It is worth noting that fermented foods are not just an alternative; they are also tasty and a great help to the digestive tract. Fermentation as a process permits beneficial bacteria to break down the lectins.

Soaking – By soaking beans and legumes overnight, the lectins and other toxins are reduced to a level which eliminates the potency and ability of the toxin and lectin to cause any harm to your body after ingestion. After rinsing the legumes and beans properly, cook the food properly for the required time and it’d be safe for consumption.

Cooking- Properly cook your foods. Or buy properly cooked foods unless it is labeled as safe to eat raw. Sometimes people don’t prepare food as required and that often breeds problems. In addition, ignore fads that champion for a totally raw diet- cooking food, properly, not only makes it palatable, but also significantly reduces the lectin levels in it.

Granted, most plant-based foods have lectin, but you can come up with measures to reduce the amount of lectin in the foods you take as shown above. Don’t forget, you can always check out Pinterest pages on Lectin Shield and lectin! Also, if you embark on alternative foods, it is prudent to first consult your physician. That will ensure you make safe and right choices for your health.

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