Friday 27 April 2018

The thing is... Your 30 second guide to everything: Lectin-free

Illustration: Eorna Walton
Illustration: Eorna Walton

Emily Hourican

What: We all know about gluten-free (see also dairy-free, wheat-free and sugar free), but lectin-free is the latest in a long and exhausting line of fad diets. As for what they are - lectins are a type of plant protein, found in grains, beans and pulses, among other things, particularly in their raw or undercooked state, and they're in the firing line.

Why: In some forms, some kinds of lectins are undeniably toxic (raw kidney beans, for example). However, these are not the forms in which we usually consume them. And other forms aren't toxic at all. However, right now, according to growing numbers of a certain type of excitable nutritionist, all lectins are to be avoided.

Why Now: Suspicion of lectins isn't new, but it's gathering pace, with those inclined against it saying it is being linked to obesity, irritable bowel syndrome and various types of inflammation, while the removal of lectins from the diet is being touted as a miraculous cure-all for arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and even cancer. For others, this is simply another piece of nutritional absurdity.

How: Harder than it sounds. For a completely lectin-free diet, you need to avoid nearly all wholegrains, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, dairy and eggs. Oh, and goji berries.

Who: The meat industry, which must be delighted. Probably Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen, who won't eat anything from the nightshade family, and are half-way to being lectin-free already. Sellers of nutritional supplements - after all, with a can't-eat list that long, we're going to need a bit of help.

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