Thanks to the recent surge in content and public interest with regards to dieting and nutrition, a large part of America is aware of different forms of diet. Words such as Keto, paleo, and gluten-free are all popular in the US, and many swear by these diet regimes. Every summer seems to bring with it a new “IT” diet that everyone is talking about. Most of these diets aim to help with weight loss, prevent obesity, and promote a healthier lifestyle. Many of them also put out Can-Eat and Can’t-Eat lists, which forbid people from gorging on certain foodstuffs. The Anti-Lectin diet is one such new diet on the block that is gaining a lot of attention. So, what is the anti-lectin diet, and does it work? Here’s a look at this new dieting trend, how it works, and whether it is backed by medical professionals.
What Is the Anti-Lectin Diet?
Mentioned in the book, The Plant Paradox, written by cardiologist Steven Gundry, this is a new dieting trend sweeping across the US. Gundry, who is a cardiologist based in California, claims that food items containing lectin harm the body, and must, therefore, be avoided. Lectin is a plant protein found in several whole grains, nuts, and beans, which is claimed to prevent weight-loss. The anti-lectin diet came as a revelation to a lot of people because it forbids the eating of a lot of items that were considered to be healthy. For instance, lectin is found in beans, tomatoes, squash, nuts, and whole grains. Gundry claims that humans as a species are not designed to intake and digest lectins. Therefore, according to him, by eliminating them from our diet, we can prevent inflammation, boost weight loss, and get healthier. However, do these claims hold up?
What Are Lectins?
Lectins are plant-based proteins found naturally in grains and beans. They bind to carbs, making it easier for them to interact and communicate with other cells. Within plants, lectins help in improving the plant’s defense. Gundry explains that plants prevent getting eaten by making their eater fall sick, and that is made possible by lectin. He goes on to state that this is why in humans, lectin leads to inflammation, weight gain, and IBS. So, what can we do about this?
How Does the Anti-Lectin Diet Work?
Anti-Lectin diets aim to consciously remove all high-lectin foods from the menu. Such a diet would exclude legumes, nightshade veggies, peppers, and quinoa. The Can’t-Eat list also includes dairy, some types of meat, and even poultry. The diet aims to substitute these food groups with low-lectin foods such as cauliflower, asparagus, mushrooms, millet, and wild fish. Gundry claims that he was able to shed 70 pounds using this lectin-free diet. He claims that people can lose significant amounts of weight by removing high-lectin foods and eating a high-calorie diet. The difference being that the fat they eat no longer gets stored in the body. Gundry also quotes a study from 2006 that states that a lectin-free diet can help alleviate cardiovascular diseases and metabolic syndrome.
What To Eat and What To Avoid
Foods to eat
- Pasture-raised meat
- A2 milk
- Leafy veggies
- Broccoli and Brussels sprouts
- Asparagus and Celery
- Garlic and onion
Foods to avoid
- Legumes – beans/ peas/ lentils/ peanuts
- Peppers and tomatoes
- Off-season Fruit
- Whole Grains
- A1 milk
Is It Too Good To Be True?
However, experts from all over the world are very skeptical about how effective this diet really is. Dieticians have stated that any diet which removes too many food groups from the eatable list
Is most likely a fad. Over the decades, studies have proved how useful and healthy it is to eat whole grains, veggies, and poultry. They provide a lot of vitamins, minerals, and fiber to our diet. Though these might contain a little lectin, experts are not convinced that taking them out of our diet is a necessary step. As per a 2017 study, whole grains help with weight loss., while another linked pulses to weight-loss.
Meanwhile, certain other doctors have found that avoiding lectins in patients suffering from IBS led to weight-loss. Also, most researchers agree that lectin can cause issues when consumed in large quantities. Furthermore, studies also show that consuming lectin-rich food like quinoa or chickpeas raw can lead to problems. However, merely soaking overnight or cooking reduces lectin in these food groups, making it possible to eat them without any worries. Similarly, peeling and seeding squashes and tomatoes can prevent lectin increase in the body. Another medical issue at hand is that there are various types of lectins. While some are bad for health, there are several that have anti-microbial and even anti-cancer properties.
Promised Benefits Of an Anti-Lectin Diet
- Helps people lose weight
- Alleviates problems associated with inflammation, gastrointestinal difficulties and IBS
- Beneficial to people with multiple sclerosis (MS)
Risks Associated With the Anti-Lectin Diet
- Not enough research proving its benefit for a wider population
- Extremely restrictive plan, making it difficult to follow on a long-term basis
- Whole grains help with diabetes and cancer and is a healthy food group
- Fruits and veggies contain a lot of essential nutrients and vitamins
- Difficult for vegetarians and vegans as they get their proteins from legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains
- Might result in constipation due to less fiber intake
- More expensive as it requires specialty milk, meat, and supplements
Should You Go Lectin-Free?
Research on both sides is quite confusing, honestly. While there are studies that show that certain types of lectin can be harmful, there is no conclusive evidence. Furthermore, following a strict lectin-free diet will require you to cut out a lot of essential food groups. Many of those foodstuffs have excellent uses and benefits, which will be hard to replicate with other groups. Therefore, the decision to ditch lectins ultimately might not be easy or very fruitful. While doing so has helped some people improve their gastrointestinal problems, it hasn’t helped out many others. Most experts feel that ditching lectins should not be a global solution, but rather one that is meted out after a lot of thought. The best thing to do would be to approach a dietician, nutritionist, and doctor before you make the call yourself.
Studies have shown that only 10% of the American public eats enough veggies and fruits. In such a scenario, we should really think about adopting a diet that further cuts out options for us. Instead of rushing into a decision after watching a video or seeing someone lose weight, it would be best to make an informed decision. Have a talk with your doctor to understand whether you need to take such a drastic step. Also, be prepared to substitute the lost food groups with equally nutritious low-lectin foodstuffs. What do you think about the anti-lectin diet?