UACES Facebook Latest Diet Craze - Lectin-Free
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Latest Diet Craze - Lectin-Free

Be sure to get all the facts before depriving yourself of certain "bad" foods.

Nashville, Ark. – Have you read or been told to avoid lectin in your diet? According to a recent article, lectin claims to cause serious intestinal problems. Lectin is a natural protein found in plants and animals. These foods include grains, beans, fruits and vegetables; the base of an overall healthy diet. It may leave you thinking, “What can I eat?”

            There are many kinds of lectins and each food has different concentrations. To date, some studies have been done on animals (not humans) and have shown problems in digestion. They remain partially undigested in the intestine. Studies conducted have been limited to animals and in test tubes, not actual humans. In fact, dietary lectins and their role on human health remain largely unstudied. Here are some claims that have been associated with lectins:

  1. They make you gain weight. Not true. Multiple studies have shown that an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption does not have an effect on body weight. In a long-term study (12 years) an increase in whole grain foods helps lower body mass index and waist circumference in both children and adults. In addition, people who eat more legumes (chickpeas and lentils) tend to experience weight loss.
  2. They cause inflammation. Questionable. Again, the research is limited; therefore, it is not fact. We do know that people who eat more fruits and vegetables lower their risks for certain chronic diseases associated with inflammation. Lectin found in wheat has only been shown to cause inflammation in a test tube, not in humans.
  3. They are toxic. A “fad” diet in Japan encouraged people to eat raw kidney beans. People began having intestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Concern arose that lectin was causing the problem. Once the beans were cooked, the problem went away. Cooking destroys the lectin, making them completely safe to eat. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends boiling beans for at least 30 minutes before eating.

            What happens if you remove lectin-containing foods from your diet? You will be missing out on some very important nutrients, which can cause major health problems. Fruit and vegetables have been associated with reducing cardiovascular disease, hypertension. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a carotenoid which has been associated with decreased risk of certain cancers, decreased triglyceride levels, and decreased cardiovascular disease. Eggplants contain phytonutrients that improve memory function, urinary tract health, and heart health. Eliminating whole grains from your diet would limit the intake of B vitamins, protein, iron, and fiber. The benefits from these foods far outweigh the negatives.

            As with any “fad” diet or latest “so-called” nutrition advice, be sure to get all the facts before depriving yourself of certain “bad” foods. Be wary of diets that tell you to stop eating specific foods (unless you have a diagnosed medical need). Keep in mind, most foods can be enjoyed in an overall healthy diet plan. Even that occasional piece of chocolate cake!

            Information for this article was adapted from a similar article “Busting a New Food Fad Lectin-Free Diet “written by Paula Karamihas, MS, dietetic intern at University of Maryland.  For more information on eating healthy check out the website or visit the Howard County Extension Service located on the second floor of the courthouse. You can also call our office at 870-845-7517.

Recipe of the Week

            This recipe is a great way to include brown rice in your diet. Use this recipe as a side dish for almost any meal. It goes great with fish, chicken or pork.

Basic Fried Rice

Non-stick cooking spray

2 cups chopped vegetables (use leftover vegetables, fresh or frozen, any combination)

1 tablespoon Stir-Fry sauce (commercial or make your own)

1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder

1 ½ teaspoons onion powder

2 cups, cold, cooked brown rice

1 egg, beaten

            Spray skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Stir-fry vegetables in skillet. Add stir-fry sauce, garlic powder, and onion powder. Stir.

            Stir in cooked rice. Push to sides of skillet, making a hole in the center. Drop beaten egg into the center of the pan and scramble. Stir in rice and vegetables. Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition information per serving: 160 calories, 2 g. fat, 5 g. protein, 29 g. carbohydrate, 3 g. fiber, 55 mg. sodium. Excellent source of vitamins A and C.

Stir-fry Sauce

2 tablespoons sodium-free beef bouillon

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon dark molasses

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Dash of black pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup water

2 tablespoons cornstarch

            Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and boil gently, uncovered for 5 or more minutes or until sauce is reduced to ½ cup. When cooked, pour into lidded jar and keep in the refrigerator. Stir before serving.

Nutrition information per tablespoon: 5 calories, 0 fat, 0 protein, 1 g. carbohydrate, 0 fiber, 30 mg. sodium

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


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