Growing up your learned that eating your vegetables is key. You probably weren’t allowed any dessert until you had! Vegetables have always been the secret to staying lean and healthy.
So, what if you found out that some vegetables might actually be making you sick?
It’s a bit of a shock!
But science is discovering that a compound called lectin, found in some edible fruits and vegetables, may be behind many of our digestive problems and even worse, autoimmune issues too.
Lectin is a toxin
All living things in nature are able to defend themselves in some capacity and it turns out that plants are no different. Plants protect themselves from predators by using a protein called lectin. Lectin is a toxin that’s designed to makes animals sick and so dissuade them from returning to eat that plant again. Unfortunately, humans haven’t learned that lesson and just keep going back for more, even though it may be making us ill.
But here’s where plants get even smarter. They also need animals to help them spread their seed so in the right season they decrease their lectin and entice animals back with bright, colorful flowers and fragrant aromas. Once the animal digests the fruit, they’ll deliver it back to the soil and a new plant can be born. But when an animal eats that plant out-of-season, the lectins are high, and the animal pays the price.
All of this amounts to two important things: Firstly, we must stop blaming other things for our nausea, diarrhea and irritable bowels and really take a hard look at our plant-based diets, and secondly, we must aim to eat fruits “in-season”.
A Plant Paradox
Dr. Steven Gundry of Gundry MD takes on lectins in his book The Plant Paradox and its a subject that he’s been monitoring for years.
Dr. Gundry is one of the world’s leading experts in heart surgery, and he’s spent years treating chronically sick and overweight patients, and learning dietary secrets that can return people to optimal health.
In fact he’s created a whole new food pyramid with this in mind and these are his top tips for controlling lectins and getting back to health.
Reduce the Big Five
Try to reduce these five in your diet:
- Beans and legumes This includes beans, peas, lentils, cashews and peanuts. Beans carry more lectins than any other food! You should use pressure cooking or an overnight soak, rinse then boil to destroy the lectins.
- Grains All grains are high in lectins (gluten is a lectin) and we consume more today than any other time in history. Lean towards coconut, almond and other lectin-free flours instead. If you do eat grains you’ll need to relearn what you’ve been taught: you must choose white rice over brown rice and white flour over whole wheat. There’s no use having fiber if that fiber is packed with lectins that make you sick.
- The Squash Family The squash family includes squash, pumpkins, and zucchini and it’s the seeds and the peel of these vegetables that harbors the most lectins. Try preparing these vegetables without their skin or seeds.
- The Nightshade Family The nightshade family is made up of eggplants, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes. Nightshades also contain loads of lectins. Peel and deseed these vegetables, use a pressure cooker or ferment them.
- In-season fruits When eating fruit, find out what’s in- season and limit your diet to those fruits. You should also eat fruit in moderation as they’re very high in sugar.
Ban These Two Bandits
- Corn and corn-fed meats
Corn is one of the worst lectin culprits. Farmers use it to fatten cattle and it actually has the same effect on us. When shopping for meat, avoid labels that say “free-range,” as this means that there is a possibility that the animals were fed with corn. Instead opt for pasture-raised meats.
- Casein A1 Milk
Almost all store-bought milk contains a lectin protein called casein A1 and it’s a big cause of digestive problems. If you consider yourself lactose intolerant, it’s highly probable that you’re actually casein intolerant. Even organic milk contains A1.
A genetic mutation in cattle some thousand years ago has meant that most of the world’s cattle now contain this protein, except for those in Southern Europe which instead contain casein A2. Hunt down Southern European cow, goat or buffalo milk at your health food store but consume in moderation.
Add These Five Superfoods Instead
- Cooked Tubers
Sweet potatoes, yucca, and taro root are full of vitamins and minerals and they’re also high in fiber.
- Leafy Greens
Romaine, red and green leaf lettuce, kohlrabi, mesclun, spinach, endive, butter lettuce, parsley, fennel, and sea vegetables are all high in nutrients and filling!
- Cruciferous Vegetables
Say yes to broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts as well as asparagus, garlic, celery, mushrooms, and onion. They’re all lectin-free and full of fiber and polyphenols.
Avocados are full of good fat and soluble fiber and is the only fruit that’s sugar-free!
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil is considered a superfood. It’s packed with essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin K, vitamin E, calcium, iron, sodium, and potassium. It also contains polyphenols and fatty acids which can help to reduce inflammation.