5 things to know about Lectins & Leaky Gut

As dietitians, we often get asked about whether Lectins are poison or whether Leaky Gut is an *actual* thing.

So we thought we would clear the air with our top 5 things to know about Lectins & Leaky Gut.

  1. What are Lectins?
    • Lectins are a type of protein, mainly found in plants and act as a defence mechanism against predators. They exist in SO many plant foods that we eat. Think- legumes like beans, lentils and peanuts, whole grains, fruits & veggies. The list really does goes on!
  2. Can Lectins cause gut symptoms if you eat them?
    • Technically yes, but in reality and how we normally eat foods as humans, no! Lectins have the ability to bind to sugar molecules which also gives them the ability to interact with other proteins and cells in our bodies. This is where the plant defence mechanism comes into play, as these interactions can cause digestive problems for humans who eat them A handful of studies have reported that people who ate RAW kidney beans (NB: the raw part here) had digestive issues like nausea and vomiting. When eaten raw. Who on this legume loving earth is eating RAW kidney beans?!? You’d break tooth before you could swallow ffs.
  3. What is leaky gut?
    • Leaky gut isn’t an *actual* medical term. It’s referred to by some “practitioners” as a more ‘permeable gut’. For example: for people with coeliac disease, when they eat gluten, this increases the permeability of the gut lining. The tiny little cells in the gut aren’t as tightly packed (if you will) and larger molecules in your digestive tract (from food) can pass through more easily into the bloodstream. But this is not a normal state for your gut. In the case of a person with coeliac disease, gut permeability reduces once the person stops eating gluten.
    • There are instances in a human’s life where gut permeability will shift, so unless you often have gut issues, don’t worry too much about this.
    • Also, for MOST people, when lectin containing foods are prepared how a regular human would consume them (see next point), it is safe (aka will not cause “leaky  gut”) and in fact, incredibly HEALTHY, to eat foods that contain lectins. Yes, there will always be some outliers – every single human is different.
  4. How to remove/reduce lectins in these plant foods?
    1. Soak your legumes & grains overnight and rinse the liquid off thoroughly before you use them.
    2. Cook your legumes & grains well- boiling, steaming or pressure cooking will help remove the lectins.
    3. Fermenting your legumes and veggies – examples include sauerkraut, pickles or tempeh!
  5. Why should you actually eat MORE foods that contain lectins?
    • Foods that contain lectins actually have an incredibly diverse array of positive nutrients that in research are shown to be VERY beneficial for your health. As seen in every ‘Bluezone’ diet in the world- they have one of the highest lectin containing diets- go figure! Think fibre (and prebiotic fibre), minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, carbohydrates and are often an incredibly affordable source of plant protein (legumes are anyway).


So the moral of this story is, ignore gym bros on the internet and really question sensationalised quotes from “Doctors” online.

If you want a super simple way to help increase your plant intake each day, we have a rainbow plant tracker on both of our apps! Just head to the ‘Before you eat’ section! We hope this little article with the 5 things to know about Lectins & Leaky Gut has helped calm some nerves about them.

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