For my regular readers… let me give you the cliff notes version and see if you can answer this question yourself!
- Lectins are found in many fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- If you eat foods in the ways that they have historically been prepared and consumed, there is no evidence of lectins contributing to health problems.
- There is some evidence showing lectins can promote health and immunity, and therefore reduce cancer risk.
So go ahead… guess the answer! What does your common sense tell you?
I guess you’ve probably figured it out by now. All those people either hating on lectins, or promoting them as a cancer cure, are not basing their advice on any kind of good, solid evidence.
Anyway, for those who want to know more, here’s some helpful information!
All About Lectins
What are lectins?
- Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins that are present in plants, found in highest amounts in grains and beans (legumes)
- They are found in foods like potatoes, tomatoes, wheat, peanuts, and soybeans, just to name a few
- When the food is growing, lectins help to protect the plant against pests
- They are not easily digested
- They are “deactivated” and removed when food is cooked properly (side note – this is why I tell people that we should not consume an all raw food diet!)
Something that I did learn when doing all this research was that kidney beans have the most lectins of any foods. Obviously, we’re not going to eat kidney beans raw. However, you do want to make sure that beans are cooked well before eating.
It is suggested that boiling them for 30 minutes will be enough to get rid of the lectins. It’s also recommended not to cook them in a crockpot because it doesn’t heat them hot enough. This was kind of surprising to me, and I love a crockpot!
My take home is to use canned beans for the crockpot meals, or make sure that I boil the beans for 30 minutes before using the crockpot. Or… another alternative –> Instant Pot anyone?
How do lectins function in the body?
- Lectins actually are known to have some health benefits, from antimicrobial, to possibility of cancer prevention
- Lectins can cause illness if consumed in large amounts and if they are not cooked properly
- High intake of lectins can cause damage to the intestinal lining
- If you become sick because of lectins, YOU WILL KNOW IT! It causes symptoms like food poisoning – upset stomach, diarrhea, bloating.
Now, let me first say that more research is needed before lectins can officially being recommended for helping cancer. The evidence currently is very limited, although interesting.
- Lectins may be able to bind to the surface of cancer cell membranes and leads to death of cancer cells and/or suppression of tumor growth.
- Another study looked at the potential for lectins found in mushrooms as basis for developing new cancer drugs.
It seems like it may be a while before we have any conclusive answers on lectins, but in the meantime, we can use some common sense and evidence-informed knowledge about how food works in the body to come up with a reasonable approach to lectins!
Common Sense Approach to Lectins
Here are your take home points:
- Lectins should not be consumed in pill form! Your body always prefers nutrients in food over supplements.
- When consuming beans and grains, cook them completely.
- If cooking beans in a crockpot, use canned beans, or boil them for 30 minutes before putting in the crockpot.
- Consuming a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean and/or plant proteins is the best cancer fighting diet that is on the market! Research seems to prove it time and time again.
Be sure to eat your plants and cook the ones that need to be cooked. DUH! : – D
Check these articles for more reading on lectins!
amr elsa says
list of food for paleo diet such as the one to follow will give you an idea of what this diet is all about. It will include foods easily accessible to our Paleolithic ancestors. They ate natural foods that did not include all the chemicals, preservatives and calorie-laden foods we eat today. The foods they ate helped keep their bodies slim and healthy. There were not a lot of overweight cavemen. Paleo foods are low in carbohydrates and calories.
Bridget @EatRightMama says
Very nice summary about lectins; great common sense advice. Interesting info about the crockpot though!
Should bell pepper be cooked and peeled before eating in order to help prevent cancer or should the skin be left on? Is it the lectin in the peel that helps to prevent cancer?
There are a number of different types of lectins. I suspect some are good and some are bad, like cholesterol. If lectins cause inflammation, then that would stress your immune system, not good. A friend reduced their blood sugar numbers by not eating or avoiding lectins. If raw kidney beans can kill you then I will join the non eating lectins camp.
Concerned Reader says
I’m a health care professional, and a mom and I care about making healthy choices with regards to nutrition and healthy lifestyle practices. I care about what I eat and feed my daughter; what I teach my patience about nutrition and it’s impact on health. There is a cardiologist (I’ve seen his videos on Facebook) who is making claims that certain vegetables including the one you’ve mentioned above that are high in lectin are bad for our health because they promote cancer, inflammation and fat storage. He makes these claims while promoting products he developed for sale. After seeing his videos I was prompted to do some research of my own to find out for myself if his claims are supported because in his pitch he cites trusted reasearch instutions such as Harvard and large observational studies that he claims concluded that there is a strong correlation between consumption of foods high in lectin and inability to loose weight even with regular exercise and promotion of diseases. I’m breathing easier now that I did some reading of my own and have a better understanding of lectins their impact on nutrition and health. There is some truth to what he is saying but he ommits that lectins are broken down when cooked and the benefit vs risk of not eating vegetables high in lectin are small considering that these foods are not usually eaten in large amounts raw. Thanks for your insight on the topic.
Consumers always do your own research and question the motives of the source and their credibility especially when they are promoting a miracle health product.
Julie Lanford MPH, RD, CSO, LDN says
Yes – you got it! 🙂
Devon A Hanley says
That doctor is a crook. Of course he fails to mention that beans and legumes are HEALTHY when COOKED. Who in their right mind is going to eat raw, hard beans?!
Julie Lanford MPH, RD, CSO, LDN says
LOL!! EXACTLY!! It turns out that beans fresh off the plant you can eat (although they are hard and very starchy tasting). One year i bought fresh black eyed peas thinking they could be eaten raw. I put them in a “redneck caviar” bean dish. It was technically edible but yuck! The dried beans are taken off the plant, then dried. I think sprouting the beans might be the only time people eat them raw. VERY few people sprout their own! And I’ve never seen a sprouted kidney bean. ???