The Hidden Danger in Vegetables?

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Your mom said it.  Your doctor says it.  Everyone knows it.  EAT YOUR VEGETABLES.  It’s great advice.  Vegetables contain fiber and nutrients our bodies need.  They’re healthy right?  Most of the time the answer is a resounding yes.  Did you know, though, that sometimes vegetables can harm your health?

As controversial as that sounds, it’s true.  Read on to learn about the hidden dangers lurking in our colorful friends.

How Can It Be?

Imagine a world millions of years ago.  Plants were the only inhabitants.  They didn’t have predators so they were able to reproduce at will and without interruption.  Fast forward a couple million years later and all of a sudden, plants are being invaded by insects, animals, and eventually humans.  Over those millions of years, plants suddenly had to develop defense mechanisms to protect against being eaten and dying out completely. 

Surprisingly enough, plants are pretty sophisticated.  They’ve developed quite a few tricks to dissuade being eaten by predators.  Sometimes they camouflage themselves, or develop a thick skin, or produce toxins to make anyone who eats them sick.  More often than not, they developed something called lectins. 

What’s a Lectin?

According to WebMd, a lectin also known as the “antinutrient,” is a type of protein that binds to certain carbohydrates.  Almost all organisms on the planet contain lectins.  Some lectins are safe, but some can pose health risks depending on how they’re consumed and what binds to them.  Digestive enzymes in our gut don’t break them down but learning to avoid them or cook them properly can diminish the danger they can pose to individuals. 

How does that happen?  It’s a plant after all.  Plants shouldn’t be dangerous to humans since we’re so far above them on the food chain, right?  Maybe, maybe not.  Our digestive system is a pretty intricate operation.  The walls of the intestine are only about one cell thick – not very strong for keeping bad things in the digestive tract where they belong.  It needs to be this thin to allow vitamins and minerals and all the good things from our food to pass through to our bloodstream so they can go do the job of nourishing the body. 

Leaky gutAccording to some doctors, when you eat a plant that contains a high amount of lectins, one of the negative results is that this sticky, large protein travels through your digestive system looking for some sugar molecules to travel with.  Once they find what they’re looking for, it’s game on and the lectins ride with the sugar molecules through the intestinal walls, leaving gaping holes behind.  These holes then allow other things to seep through, such as  toxins and bacteria, creating a condition you may have heard of – Leaky Gut and creating an inflammatory response in the body.

Lectins Can Also Affect Brain Health

brain gut connectionEven more concerning is the link some scientists are finding between excessive lectin intake and the brain.  According to an article printed in Science Daily , the increased use of toxic herbicides combined with increased lectin intake caused symptoms of Parkinson’s such as tremors and slowed body movement once the toxins traveled from the gut to the brain.  According to the researchers:  “This study gives solid evidence that lectins, while in the presence of certain toxins, may be one potential culprit for the cause of Parkinsonism.”

Lectins are also being linked to a more common problem we all experience from time to time – brain fog.  As stated above, lectins can be a cause of leaky gut syndrome.  With more understanding regarding the connection between gut health and brain health, doctors and researchers are examining how leaky gut affects the brain and can be a cause of neurodegenerative disease such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, mood disorders and mental health issues. 

Why Is It A Big Deal Now?

As little as 50 years ago we did not see the rise of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases that we’re seeing in record numbers now.  If plants have always contained these lectins, how are they suddenly causing a problem?  The answer is simple – our lifestyles have created the perfect storm.  Changes in how and what we eat over the last several decades have caused us to fall prey to the very plants that are touted as being good for us. 

Factors in increased lectin levels:
  • Year-round access to fruits and vegetables that before we could only get seasonably. This means we’re eating more of these foods and consuming the lectins in much higher numbers.
  • Using microwaves and processed oils to cook foods means we aren’t reducing the lectin content in certain fruits and vegetables that previously we might have when using traditional cooking methods.
  • We consume record amounts of things like wheat, corn, soy, and other grains that are loaded with lectinsWheat field and that we didn’t consume in these amounts in the past. We also have failed to take into account what farmers are feeding their livestock we’re also eating.  So if a cow is fed grains and corn as a primary diet – guess what?  You’re eating the cow and what the cow ate – increasing your consumption of lectins even more.  In the past, livestock was free-range, grass-fed, and didn’t contain the amounts of lectins that they do today.
  • It’s simple.  We are inundated with information about food products daily.  Some are promoted as good and healthy when they’re actually harming us in record numbers.  Whole grains, vegetable oils, sugar-laden snacks – all contribute to a hugely increased lectin consumption.
  • Increased use of antibiotics. While having an antibiotic when we really need one is crucial, how many of us take the time to re-populate our gut with the bacteria that the antibiotic wiped out? Our guts have microscopic critters that help us stay healthy and every dose of antibiotic wipes out everything in its path, including these helpful critters.  Our meat products are also often treated with antibiotics to stave off disease and guess what?  We’re getting those antibiotics too.  Our guts are defenseless against this attack.
  • Medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and the like are also culprits that are damaging our bodies. Frequent use and our tendency to overuse such products increase the damage to the intestinal lining, allowing the lectins to seep into our blood supply and do their damage.  Unfortunately, these medications are designed to reduce inflammation so we get caught in a circle of needing the medications to reduce inflammation but they’re also helping cause more inflammation.

What Can I Do?

While some proclaim that you need to go on a crazy diet and eliminate lectins in their entirety, moderation is really all you need.  The good news is, you’ll know by a physical reaction in your body if you’re sensitive to lectins (read inflammation, pain in your joints, fatigue, etc) and you can take easy and effective measures to reduce the amounts you are consuming.  You can change a few key eating habits and possibly change your life for the better.

It’s impossible to eliminate all lectins from your diet.  Even if you were to stop eating vegetables – which is a horrible idea for many reasons – you’d still get lectins from the animal products you consume as we talked about above.  And some lectins are actually good for you.  Learning to prepare certain high lectin foods properly and reducing the intake of others can greatly help if you’re experiencing symptoms of autoimmune disease or inflammation. 

So let’s start with what to avoid. 
  • Peanuts and cashews. Despite being called a nut, these are really legumes and contain high amounts ofCashew nuts lectin.  According to Dr. Stephen Gundry in his book, The Plant Paradox, he’s seen cashews in particular cause increased inflammation in many of his patients, especially those suffering from Rheumatoid arthritis.  In actuality, according to Gundry, the cashew is a member of the poison ivy family.  You wouldn’t eat poison ivy, so cashews may be something to avoid as well.  
  • Corn is not a vegetable.  It’s a grain and it has a very high lectin level.  Corn is in a shocking amount of processed foods so reading labels will be an important component of limiting your consumption.
  • I know this one may be shocking.  Quinoa has been heralded as a health food, a great alternative to carbohydrate-laden rice.  In actuality, quinoa is loaded with lectins and are not waistline-friendly.   It was consumed by ancient Incas as proclaimed but it was prepared in very specific ways to make it less toxic to humans.
  • Conventional meats. This is another hard one.  But if corn is laden with lectins guess what?  The cows and pigs and chickens and sheep that are fed huge amounts of corn on a daily basis are also carrying a huge lectin load.  Corn is used to make cattle and other meats fatty.  Guess what?  It does the same thing for humans.  That doesn’t mean you can’t eat meat.  I personally love a nicely grilled steak.  It just means you need to try to find meats that are pasture-raised.  (Free-range doesn’t cut it either FYI)
  • Vegetable oils. This one is one you probably are already on board with.  Advertisers tried to convince us years ago that vegetable oil was better for us than other oils but as of late people are recognizing that oils such as coconut, avocado, and even olive are far healthier for us.  Most of these vegetable oils are full of lectins and have come from grains and produce that was sprayed with the toxic chemicals in Roundup—which you then consume. 
  • These foods have the highest level of lectins of any food group.  That’s why they cause digestive issues in so many people such as gas and bloating.  You can still learn to consume these products with the proper cooking methods using a pressure cooker.
  • Most milk products come from cows who consumed corn.  (See above).  Dairy products made from goat or sheep milk are far healthier for us and don’t contain the same level of lectins that cow products do.  Coconut milk, coconut yogurt, and coconut creams are also great alternatives.
  • These are potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, and the like.  They contain high levels of lectin in their skin making them great protection against buggy invaders but not great for your stomach.
  • I know.  This will be another hard one to swallow.  But these are basically the fruity version of the veggie nightshades above.  The skins and seeds hold on to the lectins and cue your body to store fat as well as increase inflammation.  Avoid pumpkins, acorn squash, zucchini, butternut, and others.
Is there anything left?

The answer is a resounding yes!  Below is a list of low-lectin foods that can be consumed safely, taste great, and are great for you!

  • Good fats. These are those fats such as extra virgin olive oil, avocados and avocado oil, coconut milk and oil, MCT oil, perilla oil, walnut oil, macadamia oil, eggs from pasture-raised chickens, and fish oil. 
  • Leafy greens. Green leafy vegetables are a great source of fiber and polyphenols.  Lettuces of allGreen leafy vegetables varieties, spinach, endive, parsley, and other leafy greens are great choices.
  • Cruciferous veggies. Great sources of fiber and vitamins, these vegetables help calm inflammation and build your immune system.  Include choices such as cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, asparagus, artichokes, garlic, celery, beets, and more.
  • Remember, peanuts and cashews although typically called nuts are not nuts.  Include varieties such as macadamias, walnuts, pistachio, pecan, coconut, and hazelnuts in your diet.  They’re a great snack and most can be turned into flours for cooking and baking. 
  • While most grains are off the table if you’re trying to limit your lectin intake, there are a couple that you can consume safely.  Millet and sorghum are the two grains that do not contain lectins that cause a reaction.  They’re also great sources of fiber and nutrients.
  • Resistant starch such as sweet potatoes, yams, plantains, cassava, tapioca, jicama, and taro root. These are full of minerals and high fiber and are a great source of food for the good bacteria in your gut.
  • Wild-caught seafood, pastured chicken, and grass-fed meats. We’ve talked about this one a little bit already.  Making sure your meats are wild-caught or grass-fed is important because any lectins the animal ate, you’re then eating and any antibiotics the animal was fed you’re then ingesting.  Avoiding these things is important. Grass fed cows
  • Other treats! Fruits in season, goats or sheep’s milk dairy products, 72% or higher chocolate, red wine – these are all treats you can enjoy that are relatively lectin-free.

Want to give lectin-free eating a shot?  Try out this recipe from Dr. Steven Gundry’s website. Dr. Gundry is a cardiothoracic surgeon and expert in lectin-free living. 

healthy carrot muffinsCarrot Cake Breakfast Muffins

1 ¼ c almond flour

2 T coconut flour

½ t baking soda

1/8 t salt

1 ½ t ground cinnamon

½ t ginger ground

¼ t nutmeg

2 eggs

1/3 c oil such as avocado or MCT

2/3 c unsweetened coconut milk

1/3 c sweetener such as monk fruit

2 t vanilla

2 large grated carrots

¼ c chopped walnuts or pecans


Heat oven to 350 and line a muffin tin.

Combine almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, salt and spices

In a different bowl combine the sweetener and wet ingredients

Whisk together the wet and dry ingredients

Fold in the nuts

Divide the batter into the muffin tin

Bake 12 to 17 minutes. 

While we all have to make the choices for our health that work for us, it is a fact that lectins are a serious problem for some people, and choosing to eliminate them from the diet can help with the symptoms of inflammation, autoimmune disease, and chronic pain.  Incorporating a mindfulness practice can also help manage symptoms of chronic pain and inflammation.  Mindfulness and stress reduction work hand in hand with reducing inflammation in the body.  Studies have linked high levels of stress to autoimmune condition flare-ups so keeping stress in check and adopting healthy lifestyle choices are key to eliminating pain and inflammation.  Check out our Stress Free Me sessions, our Weight Wellness sessions, or Optimal Health sessions for some great audios such as Detoxifying the Body, Food Chemistry, Sugar Awareness, Reactive Foods and Weight Loss, and more.  

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Privacy Policy

We know that you care how your information is used, and we appreciate your trust that we will use it carefully and sensibly. This notice describes our privacy policy. By visiting us, you are accepting the privacy policy described below.

1.  What Personal Information Do We Collect?

  • Information You Provide.  We receive and store information you enter.  For example, when you search for or buy a product or service, or when you supply information such as your address, phone number or credit card. You can choose not to provide certain information, but then you might not be able to take advantage of some of our features.  We use the information that you provide for such purposes as responding to your requests, customizing future shopping for you, improving our website, and communicating with you. We do not store your credit data in our system after the sale – it is used for checkout purposes only. In addition, if you choose, we may share your information with other companies who provide goods or services that you are interested in.  Please see the “opt-in/opt-out” selection in Section 4 of this policy.
  • Cookies. Like many websites, we use “cookies”.  Cookies are small programs that we transfer to your hard drive that allow us to recognize you and to provide you with a customized shopping experience.  If you do not want us to use cookies, you can easily disable them by going to the toolbar of your web browser, and clicking on the “help” button.  Follow the instructions that will prevent the browser from accepting cookies, or set the browser to inform you when you receive a new cookie.  In addition, you may visit this and other websites anonymously through the use of utilities provided by other private companies.
  • Other Information: Every computer has an IP (Internet Protocol) address.  IP addresses of computers used to visit this site are noted.  In addition, we automatically collect other information such as email addresses, browser types, operating systems, and the URL addresses of sites clicked to and from this site.
  • Information from Other Sources.  We might receive information about you from other sources and add it to our account information.  This may include updated delivery and address information from our shippers or other sources so that we can correct our records and deliver your next purchase or communication more easily.

2.  How Do We Use Your Information?

  • Customized Shopping.  We use your information to better serve you by providing a customized shopping experience.  As noted above, you may “opt-out” of this customization, or even visit and shop anonymously.
  • Agents. We employ other companies and individuals to perform functions on our behalf. Examples include delivering packages, sending postal mail and e-mail, and processing credit card payments. They have access to personal information needed to perform their functions, but may not use it for other purposes.
  • Special Offers.  We may send you special offers from time to time, unless you choose to “opt-out” of receiving such offers.  In addition, we may also send you special offers from other companies.  Again, you may “opt-out”.  If we send you offers from other businesses, we do not share your personal information with them.  The offers come directly through us.  Please see the “opt-in/opt-out” selection at the end of this policy.
  • Business Transfers. As we continue to develop our business, we might sell or buy stores or assets. In such transactions, customer information generally is one of the transferred business assets. Also, in the unlikely event that we are acquired, customer information will be one of the transferred assets.
  • Law Enforcement.   If we receive a lawful court order to release account or other personal information then we will comply with the law.  We will also release information when necessary to protect the life, safety or property of others. This includes exchanging information with other companies and organizations for fraud protection and credit risk reduction.

3.  How Do We Protect the Security of Your Information?

  • We work to protect the security of your information during transmission by using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) software, which encrypts information you input.
  • We use encryption to protect your information contained in our customer list.
  • We use a firewall to protect against unlawful intrusion.
  • We limit access to your information on a “need to know” basis.
  • We reveal only the last five digits of your credit card numbers when confirming an order. Of course, we transmit the entire credit card number to the appropriate credit card company during order processing.
  • It is important for you to protect against unauthorized access to your password and to your computer. Be sure to sign off when finished using a shared computer.
  • No system can guarantee absolute security, just as the finest lock can not guarantee physical security.  However, we take every reasonable precaution to assure that your data is secure.

4.  Your Choice:  Opt-in or Opt-out. It is your choice whether to receive emails or special offers from us or others.  The following section provides you with this choice.  Please note the default settings.

  • Please send me email or other mail informing me of special offers of your products and services.
  • Please do not send me email or other mail informing me of special offers of your products or services.
  • Please send me email or other mail informing me of special offers of related products or services from other companies.
  • Please do not send me email or other mail informing me of special offers of related products or services from other companies.

5.  Children:  We do not sell products or services to children. If you are under 18, you may use this site only with involvement of a parent or guardian.

6.  Other Websites:  Various Web sites may be linked to from this site.  If you link to another site, your privacy depends on the policy of that site.  We strongly urge you to check their privacy policy.  Not all sites guarantee that they will not share your personally identifiable information with others.  You may also wish to consult privacy guidelines such as those recommended by the Online Privacy Alliance (

7.  Contact Us:  If you would like to learn more about our privacy policy, or to access your personally identifiable information contained on our website, you may contact us via the Contact Us page. You will be required to provide identifier information to assure that this information is not released to others.  We reserve the right to modify this policy in the future.  If we do so, notice will be posted on our home page.