Lectins: Experts weigh in on pros and cons

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Media buzz about proteins known as lectins is causing a food fight in the health community. (KABC)

About 7 percent of Americans suffer from some sort of gluten sensitivity, but one cardiologist feels there is an even bigger dietary challenge with a protein group known as lectins.

"Gluten is the most famous of the lectins but I've discovered tons of other lectins," said Dr. Steven Gundry. "Even gluten-free is actually full of lectins. Lectin is a plant protein that is actually designed to make us fat."

Gundry looks at certain whole grains, beans, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes to name a few as foods that resist digestion and cause gut challenges, inflammation and weight gain.

But dietitian Ashley Koff says there are quite a few lectin foods to like.

"Whether it's fruits and vegetables that have seeds in them, so cucumbers, tomatoes as well as your beans. Beans are so incredibly healthy for you," said Koff.

If you feel lectins are causing an issue, she recommends working with a health pro on an elimination diet to first find out if any or all lectin foods are challenging to you.

"We have to figure out what works for you specifically," Koff said.

"In my judgement, there's probably less than 10 percent of the population is lectin-sensitive," said nutrition expert Dr. Jonny Bowden.

Bowden says the Paleo community boosted the lectin-free craze. They avoid legumes like lentils and beans, which he finds unfortunate due to the nutrition benefits they have.

"Beans are so powerful as antioxidants and sources of fiber, that I would hate to see people not having beans and legumes," Bowden said.

Fiber is key to weight loss, even though most of us don't get enough. The recommended daily intake is 25 to 38 grams. Currently, Americans average just 11 grams daily.
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