Paleo – Lectins & Phytic acid and Protease inhibitors.

The science behind ‘’Paleo’’. A brief over-view.
I often find people confused over ‘’why Paleo’’ and think that it is just another ‘’fad’’ with no real basis….although I think Pete Evan’s TV programmes have helped somewhat.
The web site  is very informative as well.
There is actually good scientific basis for this method of eating.
The reason for avoiding grains on Paleo is the anti-nutrients and gut irritants they contain so as to protect the lining of the gut by eliminating foods that can damage it.
These ‘’anti-nutrients’’ are Lectins & Phytic acid and Protease inhibitors.

Lectins are a family of carbohydrate-binding proteins. They are found in all foods, but the highest amounts are found in legumes and grains.
Gluten is the best-known lectin, but far from the only one.
Foods with high concentrations of lectins, such as beans, cereal grains, seeds, nuts and potatoes, may be harmful if consumed in excess or improperly processed.

Adverse effects may include nutrient deficiency, immune/allergic reactions and bloating.
Possibly, most effects of lectins are due to gastrointestinal distress through interaction with the epithelia cells of the gut.

They may also contribute to leaky gut syndrome. This is when the cells in your gut to pass the lectins through your intestinal wall into your bloodstream, which causes inflammation (often skin reactions) and can also provoke your body into an autoimmune response.

Therefore ‘’Paleo’’ avoids over consumption of glutens but often allow the consumption of the pseudograins.

Biologically speaking, cereal grains are the seeds of grasses, and belong to a group called monocots. In contrast, pseudograins are the seeds of broadleaf plants, and belong to a different group called dicots. The three major pseudograins are amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa. These do contain lectins but are often better tolerated than cereal grains.

Paleo does include sweet potatoes, squash, chestnuts, tapioca, plantains, bananas and often white rice and white potato (cooked).

A note on rice. Rice is a grain so not strictly ‘’Paleo’’, but as it does not contain gluten it is often used in gluten free diets. However it does contain other lectins…in the outer part, which can be troublesome to SOME people.

So white rice is just starch – no gluten, no lectins… if you suspect a problem, use white rice, but in this case make sure you are supplementing with minerals to help replace nutrients.

Phytic acid is another compound that humans can’t digest. It is found in nuts & seeds.
Phytic acid is a strategy employed to prevent the nut or seed from sprouting before the ideal conditions are present essentially. It binds to the minerals in the food and prevents us from absorbing them, therefore nutrients in foods will do you little good if the phytic acid in the food is preventing your body from using them. Phytic acid can also interfere with digestive enzymes and otherwise irritate your gut.
Germinating seeds and nuts will remove the phytic acid.
Protease inhibitors inhibit some of the key enzymes that help us digest protein they also prevent you from breaking down the proteins from everything else in your gut at the time.
Found in soybeans, and also found in other beans, grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables of the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant) and various fruits and vegetables.
Cooking deactivates most of the protease inhibitors.

However the protease inhibitors in soybeans are not only more numerous than those found in other beans and foods, but more resistant to neutralization by cooking and processing.
Only the old-fashioned fermentation techniques used to make miso, tempeh and natto come close to deactivating all of them.
But given the growing tendency to use al dente cooking and “live food” (raw) vegan diets, more and more people are eating foods with their protease inhibitor content intact.
This in turn may cause problems with protein breakdown/digestion.

Hope this helps a little, if not, do some more research yourself…… can be confusing.

Up-dated June 2016