For as long as we can remember, gluten has been considered gut healthenemy number one. So, when your stomach swells and the cramps kick in, it’s very easy to point your finger at the bread basket. Don’t get us wrong, Coeliac Disease is a very real condition that affects more than 1 in 100 Australians. However, there’s also a significant amount of Australians who incorrectly self-diagnose themselves with gluten sensitivity.
So, what’s the deal? If you experience the symptoms of gluten intolerance straight after eating something made from wheat, the proof is literally in the pudding, right? Well, not necessarily. Turns out, you may have been going after the wrong guy all along! Thanks to the release of a new book called The Plant Paradox by cardiac surgeon Steven Gundry, there’s a new gut health saboteur on our radar. It’s called lectin and it’s found in plants.
What is lectin?
Yes, you read that correctly. That ‘food baby’ feeling that leaves you doubled up in pain on the couch could be a result of eating plants. Put simply, lectin is a plant protein that binds to carbohydrates. According to Gundry, it’s extremely toxic when consumed in large amounts and can cause “chemical warfare” in your gut. This inflammation can lead to weight gain and conditions like autoimmune disease, diabetes, leaky gut syndrome and heart disease.
Here’s where it gets scary — you’ll find lectin in pretty much every level of the food pyramid. It’s found in particularly high amounts in legumes like black beans, kidney beans and soybeans, as well as in grain products. You’ll also find it in certain fruits (including citrus fruits and berries) and vegetables (particularly tomatoes.) Oh, and it’s also in dairy products like milk and eggs. See what we mean? It’s everywhere!
Gundry says that in an ideal world — yes, you would cut lectin out of your diet completely. But he also acknowledges that because it’s so commonplace, it’s not always going to be possible. Luckily, he proposes a few practical ways you can reduce your lectin intake.
Peel and de-seed your fruits and vegetables before you eat them, as this is where the majority of lectins are found.
Go for seasonal produce where possible, as they tend to contain fewer lectins.
Cook legumes in a pressure cooker, as this is the only method that completely destroys lectins.
Consider switching back to white from wholegrains, especially when it comes to rice! You can find out more about why you may want to do that here.
Like with gluten, certain people are more sensitive to lectin than others. As always, chat to your GP or nutritionist first before you cut anything out of your diet.