Lectins are the proteins that are found in plants and are carbohydrate binding in nature. Lectins developed as the plant’s natural response for self defense. They are found mostly in all plants but contain the highest amount in raw legumes like beans, legumes, peas, soybeans , peanuts and whole grain like wheat.
Since Lectins are plants’ way of defending , they resist being broken down in the gut and cause many digestive related issues. Lectins are stable in acidic environments and can also interfere with the absorption of the minerals like iron, zinc, phosphorus and calcium. Lectins binding to the cells lining in the digestive tract disrupts the absorption of the nutrients and affect the intestinal flora. Binding of the lectin to the cell for a long time in the stomach causes the body to trigger the auto immune responses causing the rise of the inflammation like rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes.
If Lectins are that bad, then how can we reduce it ? Not to worry, Lectins are water soluble and exposure to water removes it away. Cooking lectins especially with high heat methods like pressure cooking will inactivate the lectins. When preparing the legumes, make sure to soak them for several hours and then boil in high heat or best to pressure cook them. Same follows for the lentils and other legume family members as well. If you remember how your grandma used to cook kidney beans for the “quanti” day /legumes day in Nepal ,that is the way you want to cook your legumes. Best would be to soak overnight and wash the beans often and cook in a high heat pressure cooker.
Happy eating plant based diets!