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The Girlfriend's Guide To Lectin-Free Diets

These food proteins could become the next gluten. But is going lectin-free all it’s cracked up to be?

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illustration of lectin free foods
Marcella Kriebel
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These food proteins could become the next gluten. But is going lectin-free all it’s cracked up to be?

What exactly are lectins?
Lectins are a type of protein found inside foods that we typically consider healthy, like whole grains, nuts, beans and legumes, dairy, eggs — even certain fruits and vegetables.

So what’s the argument against them?
In a book published earlier this year called The Plant Paradox, author Steven Gundry, M.D., argues that lectins cause an inflammatory response inside the body, setting you up for health issues like weight gain and irritable bowel syndrome. According to Gundry, once he cut lectins out of his diet, he lost 70 pounds.

What do other experts say?
Unfortunately not everyone agrees with Gundry’s assessment. First off, there are many different types of lectins, and they don’t all have the same effects on the body. Some foods that contain lectins — like whole grains — have actually been shown to help dieters by keeping them feeling full. And a large scientific review of the effect of dietary pulses (aka legumes) on body weight found that people who consumed legumes lost significantly more weight than those who didn’t.

Plus, cooking or fermenting high-lectin foods actually reduces their lectin content; unless you eat a raw diet, you’re probably not consuming large amounts of lectins to begin with.

The bottom line:
Sure, if you cut lectin-containing foods out of your diet and don’t replace them, then you’ll likely lose weight simply because you’re eating fewer calories. But that kind of diet might be tough to follow in the first place, because you’ll be swearing off many of those filler-upper foods that help stave off cravings for things like, oh, Snickers bars. Not to mention you could miss out on some important vitamins and nutrients.

As always, check in with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about a new diet.