Can Healthy Food Make You Gain Weight?

by Danny Fernsby
man shows weight loss with oversize pants while holding scale

This sounds ridiculous right? Well, a new diet called the lectin-free diet claims that some “healthy” foods can actually cause you to gain weight. Lectins are found in plants and are proteins that can cause inflammation and weight gain. Lectins are found in many healthy foods like vegetables, nuts, beans, and seeds. There is a chance that you might miss out on some vital minerals and vitamins if you decide to start a lectin-free diet, so why is it still being promoted? Here are a few of the facts that you need to know about lectin-free diets.

This diet may just be another “fad” diet, like a gluten-free diet, no offense to people who are truly gluten intolerant. These generally have a very long list of what you can and can’t eat, and truly just makes life harder for you. A few scientists have claimed that lectin may be a reason why you have a hard time losing weight, although you are on a diet. Lectins are found in foods that are considered healthy, so the question is, are they really counterproductive to weight loss? Many of these foods are basic health diet foods like, whole grains, beans, nuts, and protein found in meat. The studies that claim that lectins are bad for you, claim that humans were never meant to eat products with lectin in them. It really comes down to, is this legit, or is this just another fad diet?

What are Lectins?

Lectins are proteins that are found in many health foods. Lectins are found in a lot of grains and beans. Lectins bind to carbohydrates, meat and food high in lectinwhich help the cells to interact with each other positively. Lectins help plants protect themselves from being eaten. They make animals and insects feel sick so that they will not eat them again. Basically, many plants contain lectin as a survival aspect of their DNA. There are theories that lectins cause inflammation in humans, but do not necessarily make us sick to our stomachs. The unfortunate part, if this is true, is that inflammation leads to weight gain and some serious health issues. These issues include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and what is called “leaky gut” just to name a few.

So, what is a Lectin-Free Diet?

This diet takes out foods that are high in lectin. So, foods like legumes, grains, tomatoes, eggplants, and the likes, are banished from your diet. Dairy is also off the list along with meat and poultry products from your local grocery store. This diet wants you to load your plate with leafy greens, asparagus, nuts, mushrooms, pasture-raised meat, wild-caught fish, and other low-lectin foods. This totally makes sense as we all have access to river front property with hunting access, (insert eye roll here).

Can You Lose Weight From This Diet?

Well, cutting out basically everything that you are currently eating will cause you to lose weight, but will this diet help you lose weight healthily? Studies have shown people losing up to 70 pounds on this diet, but the questions still remains, is it healthy weight loss? When a massive amount of food groups are taken out of your diet, of course you will lose weight. You get more benefits from the foods that this diet says to take out, then you get weight gain caused by lectin. Besides, most of these foods that contain lectin are actually really good for weight loss.

leafy green vegetables and mushroom low in lectinStudies have shown that people who consume more pulses, like beans, lentils, and legumes, lose a significant amount of weight. The lectin-free diet completely cuts these foods out. One aspect that might play on the lectin-free diet side, is irritable bowel syndrome. Many people with IBS may benefit from a lectin-free diet if they are trying to lose weight. Since their stomachs and intestinal systems are sensitive, sometimes this limited diet can help them to lose weight easier than other diets.

When lectins are consumed in large quantities, they can be bothersome to your body. You also shouldn’t eat lectin-rich foods raw. Some examples of these foods are quinoa or chickpeas. Basically, if you cook your beans and other grains, you reduce the amount in lectins in them, making them completely fine to eat without worry of inflammatory properties. There is also more than one type of lectin. Some lectins may be linked to having anti-cancer properties. This is not solid science, but it is proving the point that not all lectins are bad for you.

Getting Rid of Lectin: Should you do it?

I cannot tell you if you should personally go lectin free or not. There is evidence that a lectin-free diet might be very beneficial to some people. There is also evidence it could be bad for some people to have a lectin-free diet. If anything, a lectin-free diet may help solve stomach issues, especially for people with irritable bowel syndrome. As a side note, only about 10 percent of Americans actually get their recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, so cutting out lectins could be very detrimental to your health.

If you are not getting enough vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables, cutting out lectins can cut out these vital nutrients from your diet. If anything, we should be eating more fruits and vegetables, instead of cutting them out. The benefits of fruits and vegetables, once you look at them compared to the effects of lectins, are much more beneficial to you. Lectins are only a small part, if they are even a part, of a weight gain problem. Most likely, if you cut out lectins, you won’t see a difference because the lectins are gone, but because vital nutrients are gone instead.

Always talk to your primary care physician before you start a new diet. If you believe a lectin-free diet may be beneficiary to you, talk to your doctor before you begin this drastic, fad diet.

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