Effects of Lectins on the human body
A lot of people are talking about Lectins and their harmful effects on human health. We come across a splurge of information on the internet giving varied details about these anti-nutrients. The lectins are termed as anti-nutrients as they come in the way of digestion of food and do not let the nutrients contained in those foods be absorbed by the body. They are available in plants and are intended for their protection. Lectins are being claimed to be toxic to those human beings who are lectin-intolerant.
Which foods have a higher amount of lectins:
Lectins are present in plant foods but are majorly rich in the following foods amongst others:
- vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant;
- Legumes viz. lentils, beans, peanuts, chickpeas
- Milk and milk products;
- Grains such as wheat rice quinoa, and barley.
How lectins behave in our body:
Our body is not capable of digesting the lectins. Our intestines cannot really process the lectins for digestion. When we eat some lectins containing food, they start looking for the sugar in our body and bind/stick to them. The lectins are fond of sugar present in our gut, our brain, and the tissues of the nervous system. By way of sticking to these parts of the body, they come in the way of the normal functioning of these body parts. The lectins impact the communication amongst cells in the body. It can cause inflammation or digestive issues viz diarrhea, nausea, and digestion-induced symptoms. It can promote the sticking of bacteria and viruses to the cell in our body. The persons who have leaky gut and lectin intolerance are affected by its menace. The lectins can enter the bloodstream in the case of persons having leaky and not a strong gut, it can consequently trigger the immune response in the body. However, the person who has no intolerance to lectins and is otherwise healthy, he is not impacted that much by it. Small discomforts may be caused by the lectins to these persons which their bodies can fix on their own. Having good gut health can make the difference with regard to sensitivity to the lectins, as a healthy gut can effectively deal with lectins.
Can we eat foods containing lectins?
Yes, despite the above-stated effects of the lectins, we can still eat such foods. There are ways to neutralize the adverse impact of lectins in our foods. First of all the above referred negative effects are only seen in a small number of people. These persons, with compromised guts, have to be careful with regard to the quantum of such foods however the other person can just counter-balance the effect of lectins. The lectins are soluble in water and are found on the surface of foods. These characteristics of water solubility and presence at the surface of lectins make it possible to diminish their impact by their proper washing. Further, the process of intense heating and cooking of food also neutralizes the effect of lectins. At the same time, there are also considerable benefits of consuming such foods. They augment the body’s capacity to deal with free radical damage (being antioxidants). The food items which are lectin dense are also good sources of proteins and fiber. The lectins are particularly responsible for preventing spikes of blood sugar when you eat carbohydrate-dense foods. The studies are also indicating the role of lectins in containing cancer as the lectins are suggested to be having anticancer properties,
These foods can be eaten by individuals who are lectin intolerant:
- leafy greens
- sweet potatoes
- flax seeds,
- hemp seeds,
- sesame seeds,
- macadamia nuts
- Brazil nuts and pine nuts,
- shiitake mushrooms
- maitake mushrooms
- sweet basil seeds
A word of caution
Each individual has a different composition of his body and distinct sensitivities. If someone’s gut is healthy, one can take the foods containing lectins, however, proper washing of foods and cooking is recommended for further minimizing the harmful effects of any of such foods. Individuals who have gut issues should have a diet under the guidance of a nutritionist and follow the dietary guidelines.