How do you feel about lectins?

People have been asking me to weigh in on the lectin controversy.

The lectin-free diet is the latest fad that has swept the nation.

A former heart surgeon, Dr. Steven Gundry, has implied that lectins are the main danger in the American diet.[1]

Full disclosure, I haven’t read his book, and it’s not on my reading list. Not that I don’t think it would have any value or insight, it just doesn’t interest me.

Anytime anyone, no matter who they are, espouses a “diet” implicating one thing as the cause of all or most disease, I feel it is mostly a marketing ploy to create sensationalism.

When I was studying journalism in college, I learned that sensationalism sells. That means the hot topic, whatever it is, generates buzz and is really good for grabbing people’s attention, but not necessarily so good for the masses to ingest in large quantities….kinda like lectins.

Singling out nutrients can create unnecessary fear and abnormal eating behaviors.

I’ve witnessed this over and over again with each new fad diet that plants itself in the people’s consciousness every few years. Fear of fat, fear of carbs, fear of grains, fear of meat, fear of tomatoes, fear of cholesterol, and now fear of lectins…

Lectins are proteins in plants. They are part of the plant’s defense system to ensure the seed of the plant makes it through the digestive system of the animal that eats it, so it can be planted in a pile of poop, and potentially grow into a new plant.

Here’s a more scientific explanation:

“Lectins are abundant in raw legumes and grains, and most commonly found in the part of the seed that becomes the leaves when the plant sprouts, aka the cotyledon, but also on the seed coat.” [2]

According to Dr. Gundry, lectins are implicated in a host of diseases from weight gain to inflammation and autoimmune conditions.

He’s correct about lectins being dangerous.

“When consumed, lectins in their active state can cause negative side effects. The most publicized accounts report severe reactions in people eating even small amounts of raw or undercooked kidney beans. They contain phytohaemagglutinin, a type of lectin that can cause red blood cells to clump together. It can also produce nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, and diarrhea.” [3]

The foods with the highest lectins (beans and grains) were never ever traditionally eaten raw. There’s a reason why you’ve never seen a raw kidney bean salad, at least not on my website – it’s toxic!

Beans (and grains and nuts and seeds) were traditionally prepared in specific ways to make them easier to digest without high levels of toxicity. This includes soaking, boiling, pressure cooking, and stewing as lectins are water-soluble.

I cover proper cooking techniques for beans here:

Are beans healthy for you? Only if you follow these steps…

And, how to neutralize anti-nutrients in grains here:

Are you confused about grains? You are not alone.

Dr. Gundry also recommends to NOT eat nightshades.

I understand that fear. I avoided nightshade plants for many years when I was Macrobiotic. Nightshades contain alkaloids that can be quite toxic. But, once the liver gets the support it needs and can detox more efficiently, and the digestive system is working well and can discard the waste, and those nightshades are traditionally prepared to deactivate the alkaloids, you don’t have to fear them either.

You can learn more about that here: Do you eat this toxic food?

I’m sure there is a LOT of great content in the good Dr’s book – even with fad diets and sensationalistic scare tactics, there is always something good to glean.

But, there’s nothing to fear.

Always remember to keep it simple; cook and eat a wide variety of foods the way they were traditionally prepared.

Here are a couple of delicious recipes that are properly prepared to reduce the “dangerous” lectins, and increase their wonderful benefits to your health.

Spiced Black Bean Soup

Fire Roasted Red Peppers


[1] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319593.php

[2] https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-lectins

[3] https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/anti-nutrients/lectins/