The Latest Health Controversy: A Little Known Protein Could Be Wreaking Havoc on Our Bodies
"Lectin is a little-known, but potentially dangerous naturally occurring protein found in several foods considered to be healthy."
Today Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, jumps straight into the middle of one of the newest and most controversial issues in the food and health world today. This issue is one most of us are not aware of, but for many, a little known plant protein could wreaking havoc on their body right now. This potential health hazard — sometimes called “the new gluten” — may also have some positive qualities too, preventing other serious issues from occurring in the body. Watch today’s live show to find out just what this health issue is, and what we should be doing to protect ourselves.
02:56: Various Health Controversies
- 26:04: Lectins
28:58: What is Lectin?
- 32:04: Top Lectin Containing Foods
35:34: The Dangers of Lectin
- 38:12: Symptoms of Lectin Sensitivity & Intolerance
- 44:46: The Benefits Associated with Lectins
- 54:44: Wrap-Up
There’s been a lot of controversial health issues over the years, but not many like this. Before we get into this very serious, very relevant health issue, let’s take a look at some of the more interesting health controversies over the years. There have been some real doozies, some of which have turned out to be true, and others are just as crazy as they sound! So check these out and see what you think:
#1 Want to lose weight? How about you swallow a tapeworm — it’ll help you shed some unwanted pounds.
Losing weight by swallowing a parasite sounds crazy, sounds desperate, but believe it or not, people in the early 1900s actually swallowed a pill containing a tapeworm and after losing the amount of weight they wanted, they took another pill to “cure” them.
While people who are infected with a parasite often lose weight, it’s because they are sick, not because they are losing weight in a safe or healthy manner; in fact, parasitic infections can be extremely painful, can make you really sick, and in some cases even be fatal.
So, don’t swallow a tapeworm if you are trying to lose weight... it's disgusting, it's dangerous, and it's just a really bad idea all around!
#2 - Eat Carrots — They make you see better
Who’s heard this before? Can eating carrots really improve your eyesight? Well, carrots are a great source of vitamin A, which you do need for healthy eyes and for maintaining your vision, but eating tons of carrots will not improve your eyesight. So that’s a thumbs down, but only a little thumb — the vitamin A helps maintain good eyesight and helps to prevent night blindness, so it’s not totally false.
#3 Colonics improve your health
You all know what colonics are right? That’s where you use tons of water as a way to flush out your bowels, lose weight, flatten your stomach, reduce digestive issues, and rid your body of harmful toxins and excess waste. So do colonics improve your overall health?
Well, many famous celebrities swear by them, but looking at the medical research, the answer is no, there is nothing conclusive that proves they help you lose weight and keep it off, cure illness, or improve your digestive health.
What do colonics do? They flush feces from your colon; that’s it. And even that might not be safe to do. It looks like flushing out your colon and large intestine can actually rob your body of essential nutrients, it can also wash away healthy bacteria your intestine needs and it can weaken your immune system. So, skip the colonics!
#4 Let bees sting you — it helps relieve arthritis and keeps you from aging
Don’t let a bee sting you on purpose! You could be allergic and end up really sick or even dead if you are — and just so you don’t get your hopes up, getting stung by bees will not help you slow the aging process.
However, the venom in bees’ stingers does have anti-inflammatory properties and causes your body to release cortisone, a naturally occurring steroidal hormone in your body that is known to relieve the symptoms of arthritis. So, a thumbs down for its anti-aging properties but a thumbs up for helping people deal with arthritis pain — fortunately, rumor has it bee venom can now be taken as as a topical cream. No need to get stung! If you look into this, check with your doctor first. You still want to make sure you’re not allergic.
#5 Health benefits of segmented sleep
Have you heard of this one? You know how important sleep is, and more and more, we are hearing how important getting quality, uninterrupted quality sleep is — but this new concept, called segmented sleep, raises questions about whether we need uninterrupted, quality sleep or whether sleeping in segments (or a few hours at a time, and as you need it) is actually better for your health.
The research on this one is pretty clear - you need uninterrupted sleep, and sleeping 7 or 8 hours a night actually allows your body the time required to go through the normal, healthy phases of sleep your body needs to function, including growth and repair, supporting your immune system, and replenishing your energy levels.
Not to mention that research demonstrates, without question, that any time of sleep disruption or consistently sleeping less than 7 hours increases your body’s production of cortisol (the stress hormone), blood sugar imbalances, inflammation, and weight gain.
So, while it sounds interesting on paper, the facts don’t lie: segmented sleep is not the best way to sleep for optimal health.
#6 The acai berry is a superfood that is loaded with antioxidants, burns belly fat, and improves energy levels
Well, we know that acai is a great source of antioxidants, which help to reduce inflammation in your body; this can help you to lose weight and have more energy. Acai berries also can help support brain health, improve cholesterol levels, and even might reduce your risk of developing certain cancers. However it’s not a magic berry that can cure disease or burn belly fat, it just is a really healthy, nutrition option for helping fight the damaging effects of inflammation. So toss them in smoothies or add dried berries to homemade trail mix.
Don’t confuse acai berries with goji berries — there’s a huge difference between the two. In fact, acai is considered a superfood and several studies show that goji berries can actually contribute to a number of unwanted health conditions, including digestive health issues and cause an allergic reaction in your body that can contribute to painful inflammation in your joints — this inflammation is thought to be the result of goji berries’ high lectin content.
Have you heard of lectin?
Chances are you haven’t; lectin is a little-known, but potentially dangerous naturally occurring protein found in several foods considered to be healthy — including most plants.
So let’s spend some time exploring lectin, what it is, where it’s found, and share why some health experts are warning of the dangers associated with eating natural foods that contain lectin — while others are downplaying leptin's role as a known health disruptor. So not everyone agrees that lectins are dangerous, and some doctors and nutritionists firmly believe they are.
First, I want to point out that we are talking about lectin, not leptin. Leptin is a naturally occurring hormone in our bodies that helps to regulate your food intake, your appetite, and helps to control your weight, certainly an important hormone — but not to be confused with lectin, the potentially harmful protein that we are talking about today. They sound a lot alike and are often mistakenly used interchangeably.
What is Lectin?
As we already discussed, lectin is a little known, but potentially dangerous naturally occurring protein found in several foods considered to be healthy, including most plants and especially grains and legumes. A growing body of research continues to demonstrate that lectin might actually be a leading contributor to inflammation in your body.
This protein is found in most plants and is actually thought to be a natural defense mechanism for plants as a way to protect themselves from being eaten by predators, including us.
Some nutrition experts claim that these proteins can really disrupt your immune system, contribute to chronic inflammation and significantly increase your risk of serious health conditions, including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and chronic joint pain.
And here’s where the controversy comes in — an equal number of health experts argue that the health benefits of lectin far outweigh the reported harmful effects and further point out that there are simple ways that you can minimize the effects of lectin just by the way you prepare lectin-containing foods.
So let’s talk some more about the controversy surrounding lectins and see if we can answer the question: are lectins are harmful or are they helpful? Let’s start by identifying the top lectin containing foods.
Top Lectin Containing Foods
Most plants contain a small amount of lectin, but lectin can be found in much larger quantities in a few natural foods, including: corn, wheat, white potatoes, legumes, peanuts, cashews, soy, seeds (chia and pumpkin), tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, rice, and quinoa. Secondary sources found to be high in lectin include products from animals raised on high-corn or soy-based diets; this includes most of the factory-farm raised beef, pork, and chicken as well as milk and eggs from these sources.
The Dangers of Lectin
Once consumed and digested, lectins bind to carbohydrates and release toxins that disrupt normal function of cells in your body. This can contribute to inflammation that results in achy joints and muscles, brain fog, and fatigue; this is especially seen in people who also tend to have other food sensitivities.
In addition to causing brain fog and fatigue, lectins are also difficult for you body to digest, especially if you have a lectin sensitivity. If that’s the case, and you are sensitive to lectins, eating lectins can actually cause damage to your digestive system and have been linked to weight gain and certain autoimmune disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis and leaky gut syndrome, both of which further influence the damaging inflammation cycle throughout the body (sounds a lot like the effects of gluten sensitivity in the gut doesn’t it?).
Symptoms of Lectin Sensitivity & Intolerance
Some common questions, when talking about a negative reaction to lectin, include “what are the symptoms?” and “how will I know if lectins are causing inflammation or causing me to experience symptoms associated with leaky gut?”
Some of the most common symptoms associated with a lectin sensitivity or lectin intolerance are similar to those you might see with chronic inflammation, including fatigue, bloating and gas, joint pain, and skin irritations.
Lectin can also cause problems with how your body absorbs essential nutrients from foods and is often referred to as an antinutrient; over time, this can lead to deficiencies in a number of vitamins and essential minerals, including magnesium, calcium, and boron.
If you have a lectin sensitivity or any type of food sensitivity or allergy, or even if you suspect you might, we recommend you supplement your diet with a high-quality multivitamin, and make sure the multi only includes vitamins and minerals that are sourced from natural, whole food sources — that makes a huge difference in terms of how your body absorbs and uses these essential nutrients.
Here’s why: We know that vitamins and minerals are better absorbed by our bodies when they come from natural, whole food sources, not from synthetic or inorganic sources used in most minerals in multivitamin tablets. That’s why Smarter Nutrition’s Multivitamin sources all minerals only from organic sources, including broccoli, spinach, okra, peaches, pears and pumpkin seeds.
Smarter Multi also:
- Uses the scientifically determined list of vitamins and minerals we are all deficient in and helps put them in your body where you need them.
- Gives the perfect “shortfall amount,” that we don’t get from food, so you get just the right amount of vitamins and minerals every day.
- Separates the vitamins and minerals to preserve the fragile plant-based nutrition for maximum absorption.
- Delivers its vitamins in a ginger oil base for easier of digestion and maximum nutritional freshness every day.
- Instead of using a hard-pressed tablet like conventional multis, Smarter uses “soft minerals” — a fine, free-flowing, loose packed powder that is quickly and thoroughly absorbed once ingested.
Dr. Nancy recommends taking this totally unique multivitamin every day — because daily deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals will take a toll on your health over time. And they’re so easy to avoid with this multi.
The Benefits Associated with Lectins
So, now that we’ve talked about how lectins can cause issues for our digestive and immune systems and could contribute to inflammation, why would anyone want to eat them, right?
Well, just like there is research indicating the negative effects of lectins, there is research that points out the pros of eating lectins might actually outweigh the cons, and this is where the controversy lies.
In fact, lectins are actually involved in regulating some aspects of your immune system and are really effective in protecting your body from the harmful effects of viral and fungal infections and specific types of bacteria, including those that contribute to E. Coli and staph infections. And new research continues to examine how effective lectins are in helping to kill cancer cells and assist with slowing or blocking the growth of tumors.
So, lectins can contribute to inflammation, digestive issues, autoimmune disorders, including leaky gut syndrome and lead to a number of health issues caused by poor absorption of nutrients — but it can also help protect from harmful microbes that cause a number of serious illnesses and might even assist in protecting against cancer.
So should you eat lectins or not? What are you supposed to do?
Well, if you have a lectin sensitivity or you are already allergic to or are sensitive to gluten, dairy, or other foods, you are probably going to want to go lectin-free. And whether you are lectin sensitive or not, I want you to avoid all nightshade vegetables. In addition to lectin, they have a number of nutritional components that contribute to inflammation in your body.
Going lectin-free might seem like a really big deal and a tough thing to do, but it’s really not that bad. Fortunately there are a number of organic plant-based food sources that are free of lectin, including: extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, hemp seeds, flax seeds, blueberries, black berries, leafy greens, carrots, citrus fruits, and plenty more.
If you are not lectin sensitive, you can still eat foods that have lectin in them, BUT here’s the secret — you have to cook, sprout, soak, or ferment them. Doing so really cuts down on the amount of lectin in these foods, allowing you to still enjoy and benefit from healthy foods such as chickpeas, kidney beans, quinoa, and chia seeds. Cooking is the most effective method and removes nearly all lectins from your food. Following is a great way to make lectin-free legumes in an instant pot.
Lectin-free Instant Pot Beans
- Rinse and sort your dried beans: make sure you only use organic beans and be sure to pick through or just look over your dried beans to be sure there are no rocks or pebbles in there.
- Add 1 pound dried beans and 8 cups water in your Instant Pot.
- Add whatever seasoning you want — try some onion, turmeric, and fresh cracked pepper
- Cook on high pressure for directed time (see the below cook times)
- Once cook time has finished, let pressure release naturally for at least 20 minutes before trying to do a quick release of pressure.
- Once beans have finished cooking, add in a splash of vinegar, a pinch of sea salt and your favorite herbs.
- You can store them in the fridge for up to a week, enjoy!
Instant Pot Bean Cook Time
- Black Beans: 30 Minutes on High Pressure
- Chickpeas: 40 Minutes on High Pressure
- Kidney Beans: 35 Minutes on High Pressure
- Pinto Beans: 25 Minutes on High Pressure
- Navy Beans: 30 Minutes on High Pressure
We covered a lot of lectin territory today! Now you know that lectin is the little known, naturally occurring protein found in most plants, and especially nightshade vegetables, legumes, and grains — including quinoa and rice, that could be making you sick! We looked at the controversy surrounding lectin, including why some people need to avoid it, because of a lectin sensitivity or lectin intolerance, and how it can also contribute to digestive issues, autoimmune issues, leaky gut, chronic inflammation, and nutritional deficiencies in your body. We discussed the importance of supplementing with a high quality multivitamin sourced from whole, plant-based foods, and we also learned why some health experts believe the benefits of lectin outweigh the negative health effects that lectin could cause.
People who are sensitive to lectin need to remove it from their diet; however, others, who aren’t lectin-intolerant can cook, ferment, soak, or sprout grains and legumes as a way to reduce the lectin content in these foods; cooking is the best way to do this and will remove most of the lectin. Remember, you know your body best and you need to make choices that are best for you — including whether or not you choose to eat foods that contain lectins.