Remember a few years ago, when gluten shot to the top of “foods you should avoid” lists everywhere? Well, there’s a new potentially dangerous ingredient on the scene that’s been linked to inflammation and disease. It’s called lectin, and it’s the subject of a buzzy new book, The Plant Paradox, by cardiac surgeon Steven Gundry. Here’s the gist:
What are lectins? In a nutshell, they’re plant-based proteins that bind to carbohydrates. Lectins are common in most of the foods we eat, and according to Dr. Gundry, highly toxic in large quantities. That’s because, once ingested, they cause what he refers to as “chemical warfare” in our bodies. This so-called warfare can cause inflammation that can lead to weight gain and health conditions like autoimmune disorders, diabetes, leaky gut syndrome and heart disease.
What foods contain lectins? Lectin levels are especially high in legumes like black beans, soybeans, kidney beans and lentils and grain products. They’re also found in certain fruits and vegetables (especially tomatoes) and conventional dairy products, like milk and eggs. So, basically they’re all around us.
So should I stop eating those foods? Gundry says ideally, yes. But he also recognizes that cutting out all lectin-heavy foods is a no-go for many people, so he suggests more manageable steps to decrease your intake. First, peel and de-seed fruits and veggies before eating them, since most lectins are found in the skin and seeds of plants. Next, shop for in-season fruits, which contain fewer lectins than pre-ripe fruits. Third, prepare legumes in a pressure cooker, which is the only cooking method that fully destroys lectins. Finally, switch back to white rice from brown (whoa). Apparently, whole grains with hard outer coatings, like whole-grain rice, are designed by nature to cause digestive distress.
Hey, if your digestion has been less than stellar recently, it’s worth a shot. (But sorry, Dr. G. We’re not giving up caprese salads.)