Lectins are a type of protein that is present in all forms of food, especially grains and legumes. There is much evidence showing that high amounts of lectins in your diet can be toxic and may harm your body. However, some experts are saying that lectins can improve the permeability of your gut and alleviate many autoimmune diseases.
Certain lectins are toxic when consumed in excess but they can be easily eliminated through cooking. If you are wondering whether lectins are harmful or beneficial for your body, keep on reading to know more about them.
What Are Lectins?
Found in all animals and plants, lectins are a family of protein that can bind to carbohydrates. Lectins found in the plants are involved in their defenses against herbivores and insects. About 30% of the foods eaten in the United States contain a significant amount of lectin.
It is difficult for humans to digest lectins because they are highly resistant to the digestive enzymes of our body. Some form of lectins present in plant foods are toxic and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and severe abdominal pain.
Does Cooking Reduce The Lectin Content?
Yes, lectins can be eliminated through cooking. It was found that boiling the plant foods in the water at a certain temperature degrades most of the lectins present in the food. Boiling plant foods like soybeans and red kidney beans for 5-10 minutes will reduce the lectin content and make them safe for consumption.
Plant Foods That Are High In Lectins
Soybeans are one of the most important plant-based foods that a person who follows a vegan diet should consume. This is because it is a great source of high-quality plant-based protein. Vitamins, molybdenum copper, manganese, magnesium, and riboflavin, etc. are some of the other essential nutrients present in soybeans.
The amount of lectin present in soybeans is very high and cooking eliminates most of the lectin content in the soybeans. Make sure not to cook them at a high temperature for a long time. Studies have shown that boiling soybeans at 212-degree Fahrenheit for 10 minutes eliminates all the lectin content. Sprouting and fermentation are some other methods that help in reducing the lectin content in soybeans.
Red Kidney Beans
Like soybeans, red kidney beans are also a great source of plant-based proteins. Red kidney beans have a low glycemic index and also have a high amount of carbs. They are very beneficial for weight loss and improving your gut health because of the presence of resistant starch and insoluble fiber. Vitamin K1, folate, iron, potassium, etc are some of the other nutrients present in red kidney beans.
The amount of phytohaemagglutinin, a type of lectin, is high in red kidney beans. Eating without cooking can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Cooking will significantly lower the lectin content of the red kidney beans. Like soybeans, boil red kidney beans in water at a medium temperature for some time. It will help in reducing the amount of lectin.
Peanuts are often considered as a great source of energy because of the high amount of mono- and polyunsaturated fats. This legume is also high in protein, vitamin E, thiamine, and biotin. The high amount of antioxidants in peanuts reduces the risk of developing gallstones and heart disease. Unlike some other high-lectin foods, cooking does not reduce the lectin content in peanuts.
A recent study has shown that peanut lectins increased the growth of cancer cells. Since peanut lectins can enter the bloodstream, some people believe that it may aid in the spread of cancer in your body. However, there is much evidence that shows the ability of peanuts in cancer prevention.
For about 35% of the world population, wheat is the staple food. Whale wheat is high in fiber content and can improve your gut health. It is also a great source of many minerals and vitamins if you can tolerate gluten; a family of protein present in wheat.
Raw wheat is very high in lectins but it is eliminated during cooking and processing. The lectin content in whole-wheat flour is lower when compared to that of raw wheat germ. Cooking whole-wheat pasta even at low temperatures can eliminate the lectin content.
Potatoes are one of the main plant foods in vegan meals and are eaten in many forms around the world. Potatoes with skin are a great source of minerals and vitamins. The high levels of potassium in potatoes are very helpful in decreasing the risk of heart disease.
They are also a good source of folate and vitamin C and the potato skin is rich in antioxidants. Studies have shown that potatoes can aid weight loss. Even though potatoes contain a significant amount of lectins in them, there is no conclusive evidence for any harmful effects on the human body.