Beware of diet fad avoiding lectins

soybean seeds

LAMAR, Mo. — A new diet trend suggests individuals wanting to lose weight should avoid consuming foods that contain lectins, a plant protein, claiming that protein interferes with nutrient uptake and causes digestive upset.

When lectin-containing foods are eaten in their raw, uncooked form, lectins bind to the intestinal wall. This is where they interfere with nutrient uptake and digestion, giving credit to their nickname “antinutrient.”

“However, after these plant foods have been heated, especially in moist heat, much of the lectin is destroyed,” said Lindsey Stevenson, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Gut bacteria

For example, raw soybeans contain 10 to 20 grams of lectin per kilogram of soybeans, but when heat-processed to make soymilk, lectins decrease to 2 to 4 grams per kilogram.

At this level, lectins improve the health of the gut bacteria and other microbes in ways that may ease food allergies and support the immune system.

“It’s important for consumers to be well informed about this new trend. The foods in this group contain concentrated and beneficial proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and fiber. If someone were to avoid lectin-containing foods based on a half-truth, they would be missing out on the health benefits of many plant foods,” said Stevenson.

Lectins are abundant legumes (beans), nuts, oilseeds (such as sunflower seeds) and some grains like wheat, rice, barley and rye.

Not only do these foods make up the base of some of the scientifically proven, and time-tested healthiest eating patterns on the planet, they have also supported some of the longest-living humans on the planet, according to an article from Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.


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