Lectins, Phytates and Gluten Free Diet

If you are following a gluten-free diet, you may have heard of lectins and phytates, two compounds commonly found in grains and legumes. While they offer some health benefits, they can also be problematic for some people. Today, we’ll talk about lectins and phytates and their potential effects on nutrient absorption and digestion.

beans, peas, chickpeas in glass jars. lectins phytates and gluten free diet blog post

What are lectins and phytates?

Lectins are a type of protein that can be found in many plant-based foods, including grains and legumes. These proteins act as natural defense mechanisms for plants, helping to protect them from insects and other pests. However, some research suggests that lectins may also negatively affect human health by binding to the lining of the digestive system.

Phytates are another class of compounds commonly found in plant-based foods. They bind with minerals such as iron, zinc, and calcium in our bodies, which can prevent their absorption by the body’s cells. 

While this can lead to mineral deficiencies over time if left unchecked, there is evidence suggesting that phytates may also offer certain health benefits.

It is important to note that some lectins and phytates are more problematic than others depending on factors like food preparation methods or individual tolerance levels. 

That said, being aware of these compounds and taking steps to minimize your exposure where possible can help support optimal nutrient absorption and overall health.

bowl of vegan pumpkin chili with a miniature pumpkin on the side


Common food sources of lectins

Some common food sources of lectins include legumes such as beans, lentils, soybeans, and peanuts, as do nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, and dairy. On the other hand, chickpeas, mung beans, and adzuki beans contain much less.

As per the National Library of Medicine, certain fruits like bananas with brown spots or bruises on the skin, also contain lectins.

While it may be challenging to eliminate these foods from your diet altogether, reducing intake or finding alternative options can help mitigate any potential adverse effects associated with excessive consumption of lectins.

Lectins and the digestive system

This is especially problematic for people with leaky gut syndrome, gluten intolerance or other digestive issues.

In addition to damaging the lining of our digestive system, lectins can also interfere with nutrient absorption. They can bind to vitamins and minerals in our food, which can decrease the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food.

On the other hand, some types of lectins may even have health benefits when consumed in moderation. For example, some studies have suggested that consuming small amounts of red kidney beans (which contain a type of lectin called phytohaemagglutinin) may help regulate blood sugar levels.

If you’re concerned about the effects of lectins on your digestion and nutrient absorption, you can take steps to reduce your intake. 

Cooking foods that contain high levels of lectins (like legumes) under high pressure, like the Instant Pot, is one option; soaking or sprouting these foods before cooking may also help break down some of the lectin content.

Listening to your body and how different foods make you feel is important. For example, if you notice symptoms like bloating or discomfort after eating certain foods high in lectins, like legumes, reducing your intake could be helpful.


On the other hand, phytates have been shown to reduce mineral absorption by binding with minerals such as iron and zinc. This means that even if these minerals are present in food sources, they may not be effectively absorbed by our bodies due to phytate interference.

instant pot warm white bean salad on a platter

How to reduce lectins in your food

Reducing lectins in your diet can be challenging, but it is not impossible. Here are some tips to help you reduce the amount of lectins in your food.

To decrease their lectin content, try soaking or sprouting grains and legumes before cooking. This process breaks down the lectin proteins making them easier to digest.

Secondly, consider opting for pressure-cooking rather than boiling or steaming, as this has significantly reduced the amount of lectins present in foods such as beans and potatoes. 

Thirdly, limiting your intake of nightshade vegetables like tomatoes and peppers may also help since they contain a type of lectin called solanine that can cause digestive distress for some individuals.

somali lentil stew in a bowl with lemon slices

Food sources of phytates

Phytates are commonly found in plant-based foods, particularly grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Some studies estimate that the average person consumes 1-2 grams of phytic acid daily.

Whole grains like oats and brown rice typically have higher phytate levels than refined grains like white bread or pasta. Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans also contain high amounts of phytic acid. Nuts like almonds and walnuts are high in phytates too.

Soaking, fermenting, or sprouting these foods can help reduce their levels of phytic acid by activating enzymes that break it down. 

Potential benefits of lectin and phytate consumption

Lectins, for example, can act as antioxidants and may help reduce inflammation. They have also been shown to aid in weight loss by promoting feelings of fullness and reducing cravings.

Similarly, while phytates can inhibit mineral absorption, they possess anti-cancer properties and may help lower cholesterol levels. Additionally, whole grains (which contain phytates) are an excellent source of fiber which is crucial for digestive health.


Lectins and phytates are antinutrients that can interfere with nutrient absorption in our bodies. However, they also have potential health benefits when consumed in moderation and prepared correctly. Try one of our Instant Pot Recipes to help you reduce lectin and phytate consumption.

To sum it up, understanding how lectins and phytates work in our bodies is vital for maintaining good health while following a gluten-free diet. By making informed food choices and preparing them correctly, we can reap their benefits without compromising nutrition and our digestive system.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of onlyglutenfreerecipes or its staff.

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