Lectins, a protein found in plants that act as the plant’s defense mechanism, have been found to cause adverse reactions in some people. Like other animals, humans have problems digesting lectins because they’re highly resistant to your body’s digestive enzymes.
Many lectins are pro-inflammatory, immunotoxic, neurotoxic and cytotoxic. Certain lectins may also increase blood viscosity, interfere with gene expression, and disrupt endocrine function. If you’re eating a whole-food diet yet find yourself still struggling with weight gain and/or stubborn health problems, lectins may well be a hidden culprit.
The problem with recommending a completely lectin-free diet is that this would eliminate most plant foods, which should ideally make up the bulk of your diet. The key then becomes finding a happy medium where the worst lectins are avoided, and the effect of others are tempered through proper preparation and cooking.
Fortunately, there’s a variety of foods that are less likely to cause symptoms.
- Fish (wild) means not farmed/grain-fed.
- Organ meats are hearts, tongue, liver, kidney, skin, marrow.
- Protein powders eg. pea, hemp – if tolerated.
- Sausages (fresh) means without nitrites, smoke, or ingredients in the not‐
Brown rice protein isolate
Meat (grass‐fed and free‐range)
Roe (fish eggs)
Sardine (fresh) (wild)
- Too much MCT oil can cause diarrhea.
- Cruciferous vegetables—sprouts includes broccoli, red clover, mustard seed and alfalfa
Sweet potatoes (any color)
Spices and Herbs
- Generally, non‐seed herbs that are leaves and roots are well-tolerated, but this is individual
Orange and Lemon zest
Apple Cider Vinegar
Baking Soda (not Baking Powder)
Hi‐Maize resistant starch
Mayonnaise (Primal Kitchen brand)
Nutritional yeasts (without folate)
Higher Lectin Foods
Although lectins are resistant to your body’s digestive enzymes, the silver lining for many foods that are higher in lectins is that there are ways to prepare these foods that significantly reduces the lectin content.
- cooking, especially with wet high-heat methods like pressure cooking. boiling or stewing
- soaking in water for several hours
The higher lectin foods are:
- Casein A1 milk
- Most store-bought cow milk will be A1 because most cows today are A1 producers. Many who believe they’re lactose intolerant are actually responding to the casein A1. If you’re going to drink cow milk, buy organic, grass-fed casein A2. Another option is to drink sheep, goat and/or water buffalo milk as they’re naturally casein A2.
- Corn-fed meats
- To avoid factory farmed, corn-fed meat, make sure the meat you buy is certified grass-fed.
- Cucurbita (gourd) family fruits such as squash, pumpkin and zucchini
- Grains (especially whole grains)
- Legumes (plant seeds in pods, such as peas and beans¹¹)
- Some beans are lower in lectins than others, making them a safer bet. Among the moderate-to-low lectin varieties are rice beans, cowpeas, broad beans, lupin seeds, Great Northern beans and Pinto III cultivars. Among the lowest, and therefore the safest, are Polish pea varieties, lentils, and cooked and raw green beans.
- High-to-moderate varieties best avoided if you’re susceptible to lectins are white kidney beans and soybeans. Red kidney beans are among the highest of all. For comparison, white kidney beans contain one-third of the hemagglutinating units of toxic phytohemagglutinin found in raw red kidney beans, and broad beans contain just 5 to 10 percent of the lectins found in red kidney beans.
- Peanuts are best avoided as they’re not generally cooked.
- Nightshade fruits and vegetables (such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, bell peppers and goji berries)
- Lectin content can be reduced by peeling and removing the seeds.
- Lectins in potatoes are heat resistant.
- Unfermented soybean products
- If you want to eat soy, make sure it’s traditionally fermented.