Are lectins bad for you?

I’ve heard that beans aren’t good for you because of their lectin content. Is that true?

Ironically (considering the bad press they've gotten lately), lectins are found in just about everything you eat, including dairy! Eliminating lectins from your diet would leave you little to feast on. Not only that, but some lectins are actually beneficial--like those that bind to carbohydrates and help reduce the glycemic effect of whatever you just ate*

Research in nutritional science does not support the view that the lectins in beans are dangerous. To the contrary, thousands of studies have demonstrated the health benefits of legumes, despite (and possibly even because of) their lectin content.

For instance, one study (Legumes: The Most Important Dietary Predictor of Survival in Older People of Different Ethnicities**) found a 7-8% reduction in mortality for every 20g increase in bean consumption--that's about how much you get in one WellBean!

Mushrooms contain a lectin that has been found to inhibit cancer cell proliferation ***. Considering the numerous studies showing mushrooms to be nutritional powerhouses, you'd be crazy to eliminate them from your diet.

I could go on and on with the lectin research citations, but hopefully you get the point.

Of course, if you are allergic to a lectin found in a certain food, you should avoid that food. And please don't eat raw beans, particularly kidney beans, as they contain a troublesome lectin (which is easily deactivated by cooking).

There's one other case in which you might want to avoid legumes: if you don't mind high blood pressure and being overweight, you are fiber-phobic****, and you want to die young of heart disease, by all means, don't eat beans! :-)

* Rea, Ramona L., Lilian U. Thompson, and David JA Jenkins. "Lectins in foods and their relation to starch digestibility." Nutrition Research 5.9 (1985): 919-929.
**Darmadi-Blackberry, Irene, et al. "Legumes: the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities." Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 13.2 (2004): 217-220.
***Carrizo, Maria E., et al. "The antineoplastic lectin of the common edible mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) has two binding sites, each specific for a different configuration at a single epimeric hydroxyl." Journal of Biological Chemistry 280.11 (2005): 10614-10623.
****Papanikolaou, Yanni, and Victor L. Fulgoni III. "Bean consumption is associated with greater nutrient intake, reduced systolic blood pressure, lower body weight, and a smaller waist circumference in adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2002." Journal of the American College of Nutrition 27.5 (2008): 569-576.

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