Recently, you may have come across a friend or heard someone about the “Lectin-Free Diet”. What exactly is it? Is it healthy? I hope this post will banish some myths and offer you insights as to the origins of this diet and how it affects the body.
So, what is a Lectin? A lectin is a part of natural food that exists to help in nature to help protect against bacterial infections and insects: they can be called plant defense proteins1. They are not just in plants like fruits, vegetables, and grains, they are also an abundant source of protein and show up in much of our other foods such as fish as well 2. That’s a lot of our diet!
Lectins aren’t the greatest for our body and are sometimes referred to as “anti-nutrients”. This is because lectins in foods can prevent us not to be able to absorb certain nutrients- calcium iron, phosphorus, and zinc 3. There is no evidence to prove that these anti-nutrients are strong enough in the body to be able to be eliminated from the diet. Also, if you have a healthy gut the effect on your body by consumption of foods that contain lectins far outweigh the negatives. This concept of the “anti-nutrient” is from the origin of the Lectin-Free diet. It is an incredibly restrictive diet that cuts out a lot of healthy foods.
The most important thing to remember is the foods that contain these lectins are also some of the healthiest items in our diet. Higher consumption of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables has been proven to significantly reduce multiple health risks including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer. In fact, another major study just came out in 2020 proving that increasing consumption of whole grains reduces the chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes 4. If you were to go on a restrictive diet because of lectins, you would miss out on a lot of great health benefits!
There is no evidence to support that eliminating lectins from your diet is healthier for you. If you think that they are causing you to have problems with your gut, work with your dietitian- they can go through an elimination diet to figure out what foods are causing you problems.