The McDougall Newsletter - May 2017
  May 2017 Printer Friendly PDF Vol. 16 Issue 05

Lectins: Plants' Self-Defense System Circuitously Kills People

Plants have evolved to synthesize a variety of toxic substances to cope with their environment abundant with predators (insects, animals, etc.) and microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, etc.) and, thereby, fight an ongoing battle for survival. Lectins are a class of these natural disease-fighters consisting of proteins. Ubiquitous found in the plant kingdom these precisely synthesized proteins (lectins) combine with specific sugars (such as those on the surface red blood cells). (The word "lectin" is derived from Latin—"Legree," which means to pick or select.)

The first such carbohydrate-binding proteins, lectins, were found in 1888 in the seeds of the castor bean. Lectins have gained the most attention since their discovery as a result of their ability to bind to and agglutinate (clump together) red blood cells, and have been used for blood typing (ABO classification and others); hence the lectins are also commonly called "hemagglutinins."

Common dietary staples, such as cereal grains, legumes, and fruits have relatively high concentrations of a variety of different lectins. Although all foods contain some lectins, only about 30% of the foods we eat have potentially troublesome amounts. Legumes (including beans, soybeans and peanuts) and grains (wheat is commonly singled out) have the greatest content, followed by dairy, seafood, and plants in the nightshade family (such as potatoes).

Featured Recipes

Recipes this month are from our recipe collection as well as our Recipe App.

Summertime Chowder
Quinoa Garden Salad
Sunshine Fruit Salad

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