Lectins – What are they? Should we avoid?

To bean or not to bean?

Many of us on an all-meat diet struggle to articulate the nutritional reasons to justify why we eat the way we do. Until doing a bit more research, I was the same way. After almost an entire year of being carnivorous, explaining my lifestyle to someone was always followed by a confused or terrified stare, like I was telling the person I was a serial killer.

“You only eat meat? Why?”

“Uh, I just feel better on a daily basis, I guess.”

“Oh.” (immediately either scurries away or changes subject because of being weirded out)

Ultimately, being on the carnivore diet means restricting the consumption of all vegetables. We all know we feel better eating this way, but wouldn’t it be nice to back up our way of eating with a scientific, biological basis? Perhaps one piece to the puzzle of feeling phenomenal is the near-absence of dietary LECTINS.

Lectins are TOXIC antinutrients. They are carbohydrate-binding proteins that are found in especially high levels in plants. Tomatoes, potatoes, legumes, wheat, peanuts, soybeans, etc.

As a carnivore, seeing the glaring “CARBOHYDRATE” in that definition is enough to make you shudder, but once you find out the purpose of lectins, it’s enough to make you think twice about consuming them.

Lectins in plants are defense agents- used against pests, insects and other microorganisms. Their goal is to stop plants from being digested. Lectins are resistant to human digestion and they enter the blood unchanged. Because they can’t be digested, they are potentially hazardous to our intestinal lining. When normal food passes through our digestive tract, rapid cell reproduction makes it possible for any damage that occurs to be quickly repaired.

When lectins are present in our intestines, they slow down or halt this biological process. Our cells aren’t able to regenerate quickly enough, and this is what leads to what is known as a leaky gut. This is what allows undesirable things to pass back and forth between our gut wall. It also inhibits the absorption of proper vitamins and minerals.

The attack of lectins on our gut wall often leads to action from our immune system, which is a natural reaction to inflammation caused by these plant agents. Look at all the n=1 reports of Crohn’s disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (also intestinal tract issues) being cured by the carnivore diet. This tells me the consumption of various high lectin-plants and these inflammatory illnesses are potentially linked.

Legumes with super-high levels of lectins, such as red kidney beans, are extremely toxic when raw. The FDA even recommends that you boil raw kidney beans for 30 whole minutes to totally destroy the toxin phytohemagglutinin, which is one of the most dangerous and notorius lectins.

Other beans and vegetables are usually prepared with far less concern for lectin content, which leads us to ask: With all these lectins passing into our bloodstream, what are they doing to our bodies?

Reading the work of Yale MD Steven Gundry, known for the book The Plant Paradox, leads us to ponder the possibility of lectins causing us harm. The book specifically warns us against eating wheat, beans, and peanuts, among other plants. Gundry claims that simply eating tomatoes “incites a kind of chemical warfare in our bodies, causing inflammatory reactions that can lead to weight gain and serious health conditions.”

There are many ways to limit your lectin intake, such as sprouting your beans, soaking, cooking, and fermenting! But that sounds like a lot of work, and many stubborn lectins can survive these processes. An easier way to have a healthy supper would be to throw a ribeye steak on the grill.

There is still lots of information that isn’t known about lectins, so take this article as nothing more than a precautionary measure, that maybe we should be a bit more careful about eating various vegetables. Keep calm, carry on, and remember to do your own research when it comes to your dieting!

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