How to handle lectins and other anti-nutrients in your food

Despite claims by a currently popular diet book author, there’s no cause for alarm.

What are lectins and anti-nutrients, you ask?

Recent hype is stirring the (bean) pot (pardon the pun!) and claims are being made that anti-nutrients cause harm to our body. These foods include the legume family (beans, peas, lentils), whole grains, dairy products and certain vegetables.

Is this true? Should you avoid them? To gain a better perspective, let’s dissect the current science on this topic.

Avoiding what we know are healthful foods like legumes, whole grains, dairy and vegetables seems extreme — no? Yes! We have a huge body of established research that links each of these foods to many health benefits, so we don’t need to avoid them. They actually help reduce our risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

So what’s all the hype about, and should we believe it? Many foods that have positive health benefits also have a few negative ones. Understanding those is important to your health, and will help guide you to make wise food choices.

Anti-nutrients can block absorption of other nutrients. Lectins, phytates, oxalic acid are all examples of anti-nutrients. Even the famed “super food” kale has an anti-nutrient in it that can cause the development of goiters. But don’t stop eating kale now! You would need to eat a truckload of kale to actually promote the formation of a goiter.

The good news is that knowing how to properly handle these foods can help reduce the potential negative consequences. Make sure to eat a variety of foods and not just the same ones over and over. That helps ensure you will not get too much of any anti-nutrient.

Lectins, eaten in modest amounts, assist with normal digestion, absorption of nutrients and maintenance of a healthy gut.

Lectins have recently been thrust into public consciousness by Kelly Clarkson and other celebrities who are promoting new diet book by Dr. Stephen Gundry called “The Plant Paradox.” Although many claims are made, there actually is no scientific evidence — not even one study — that conclusively proves Gundry’s claims.

His hypothesis may prove to be a disservice to people whose health will no doubt suffer from this restrictive way of eating.

If you do want to lower the amounts of antinutrients in your diet, follow these simple steps:

Do not eat any raw (uncooked) beans or whole grains of any kind.

Soak your beans overnight, then rinse and boil with new water.

Rinse whole grains before cooking them.

Use canned beans. The canning process lowers anti-nutrients.

Disclaimer: This is not a paid endorsement.

Kim Larson is a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified health and wellness coach and founder of Total Health. Visit www.totalhealthrd.com

or www.facebook.com/totalhealthnutrition for more. Follow her on Twitter @healthrd.

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