Lectins are a group of plant proteins used for plant protection and propagation. Plants have been around for eons, and they’re able to evolve and create effective ways to defend themselves from attacks from insects, bacteria, and other pests.

Some schools of thought believe lectins may cause digestive troubles or immune inflammation in certain people. Lectins can be difficult for humans to digest and can often be left undigested and pass into the bloodstream. Our immune system will respond to foreign objects in the bloodstream. This response can cause inflammation and even IBS. Some schools of thought think lectins can contribute to food sensitivity.

Like other food types, lectins do not bother everyone. Consult our Expert page to find out if lectins are an issue for you.

However, some lectins are very beneficial and can have anti-cancer properties.

Foods high in lectins (to reduce/avoid)

  1. Beans & Legumes Beans carry more lectins than any other food. If you are lectin sensitive, do your best to limit beans, peas, lentils, and other legumes or cook them in a pressure cooker. Also, some legumes hide as nuts so it’s best to cut out peanuts and cashews as well.
  2. Grains  For the most part, grains are a relatively new food to us. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t search for grains. Plus, most grains are lectin bombs, as well as gluten-free grain substitutes. It’s best to limit grain intake if you are lectin sensitive. If you must, eat white flour over wheat.
  3. Squash  Squash, pumpkins, and zucchini have an abundance of seeds. The seeds and peels of these foods can be full of lectins. If you are lectin-sensitive and eat squash, make sure to toss the skins and seeds aside.
  4. Nightshades  Nightshades are vegetables that include eggplant, any kind of pepper, potatoes, and tomatoes. The peels and the seeds of these plants contain loads of lectins, too. Make sure to peel and deseed them or pressure cook or ferment them if you are lectin sensitive. All these techniques reduce the number of lectins.
  5. Out-of-Season Fruit   When fruit is locally in-season fruit is okay to add to your diet. Grocery stores are stocked with fresh fruits on any given day. However, our bodies were not designed to consume fruits year-round.
  6. Corn and corn-fed free-range meats  Corn has a large number of lectins. Free-range means the cattle are eating corn and, therefore, so are you. Instead, opt for only pasture-raised meats.
  7. Casein A1 Milk  It may sound like science fiction, but a couple of thousand years ago, cows in Northern Europe suffered a genetic mutation. The result was a lectin-like protein in their milk called casein A1. If you are lectin sensitive, be aware of this protein! Most store-bought milk in your grocery store, even if it’s organic, is A1 milk. The non-mutated cows, found primarily in Southern Europe, produce a safe protein called casein A2, which may be easier to digest.

Foods to Enjoy

Rather than focus on the foods you are avoiding, focus on what you can eat!

  1. Cooked tubers  Sweet potatoes, yucca, and taro root are a great source of vitamins and minerals. That’s because their roots have strong absorption abilities and draw water and minerals from the soil for nourishment. They’re also high in fiber that feeds your good gut bugs.
  2. Leafy Greens Romaine, red & green leaf lettuce, kohlrabi, mesclun, spinach, endive, butter lettuce, parsley, fennel, and seaweed/sea vegetables are all great to add to a lectin-free diet. They are high in nutrients and incredible for your health. To boot, they are very filling, especially if you drizzle olive or avocado oil on them!
  3. Cruciferous & other great vegetables  Load up on broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Include these lectin-free veggies in your diet as often as you like: asparagus, garlic, celery, mushrooms, and onion. They are full of fiber and polyphenols.
  4. Avocado Now, avocado is a fruit, but it’s okay to eat when ripe because it’s virtually sugar-free! Not to mention, it’s full of good fat and soluble fiber key when trying to lose weight and absorb antioxidants.
  5. Olives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil  Olive oil is full of essential vitamins and minerals. For instance, it contains vitamin K, vitamin E, calcium, iron, sodium, and potassium. Furthermore, olive oil contains polyphenols and fatty acids. It’s an all-around superfood. Olive oil can contribute to the reduction of inflammatory activity in those suffering from autoimmune disorders.  And, it’s an incredible source of polyphenols, especially oleuropein a.k.a. The longevity polyphenol.

Other tips for reducing Lectins:

  1. Use a pressure cooker  A pressure cooker can destroy some plant lectins. This type of cooking works for beans, tomatoes, potatoes, and quinoa. But, using a pressure cooker doesn’t get rid of all lectins it won’t even touch the lectins in wheat, oats, rye, barley, or spelt.
  2. Peel and deseed your fruits and veggies  If you’re going to use lectin-rich plant foods, make sure to peel and deseed them. Often, the most harmful part of a plant is it’s lectin-full hull, peel, or rind. To reiterate, often, the skins and the seeds are where lectins hide, so you can significantly cut down on your intake by eliminating that part of the plant.
  3. White over brown  Finally, if in fact, you must eat grains, opt for white over brown. So, instead of brown rice, eat white rice. Instead of whole wheat bread, find a healthier version of white bread or sourdough. Turns out, though many believe brown rice is healthier than it’s white counterpart, those who eat rice as their staple grain have always stripped the hull off of brown rice before they eat it. That’s because the hull contains all the dangerous lectins.

Vasconcelos IM, Oliveira JT. Antinutritional properties of plant lectins. Toxicon. 2004 Sep 15;44(4):385-403. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2004.05.005. PMID: 15302522.

Pusztai A. Characteristics and consequences of interactions of lectins with the intestinal mucosa. Arch Latinoam Nutr. 1996 Dec;44(4 Suppl 1):10S-15S. PMID: 9137632.

Pusztai A. Dietary lectins are metabolic signals for the gut and modulate immune and hormone functions. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1993 Oct;47(10):691-9. PMID: 8269884.

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