How To Remove Lectins From Tomatoes
Rich pasta, smoky BBQ sauce, cool cold-cut sandwiches – food wouldn’t be the same without tomatoes. This fruit is a bit of an oddball, boasting savory flavors that turn deep and rich the longer it’s cooked (let’s just admit it: apples just can’t compare).
Tomatoes have been used across the globe to add indescribable flavors to entrees, sauces, appetizers, sandwiches, and even desserts. They’re an indispensable piece of a flavorful diet. And in this article, we’re going to explain how to remove lectins from tomatoes.
Recently, some concern around tomatoes has surfaced. This is due to chemicals known as lectins. Certain researchers believe these chemicals induce chronic illness and issues with digestion. Lectins occur in more than just tomatoes: nuts, beans, and grains also carry them.
But what are lectins? Are they dangerous? And can they be removed from tomatoes? We’ll answer all these questions below, so keep reading.
What are lectins?
The term “lectins” describes a class of several different chemicals. Each is slightly different, but their role is the same: natural pesticide.
In the wild, plants aren’t sprayed with pesticide to ward off bugs. For a plant to survive to maturity, it must attempt to defend itself without synthetic or human-distributed pesticides. Many plants accomplish this through biological pesticides. These chemicals poison insects that attempt to eat the plant, sometimes instantly.
Chemically, lectins are proteins. The chemicals help bind a plant’s carbohydrates together in addition to warding off bugs.
Because we’re much larger than insects, our bodies can sustain more damage (and more poison). This allows us to eat plants containing lectins without any apparent symptoms – at first. Some research has begun to connect lectin consumption to digestion health and chronic diseases. We’ll discuss these symptoms in the next section.
Many foods contain lectins, and not all of these are plants. Grain-fed animals can also carry lectins in their byproducts. Poultry, for example, is generally higher in lectins than some plants; milk and dairy products can carry lectins as well.
Here are some of the foods known or believed to contain high levels of lectin:
- Legumes (beans, peanuts)
- Some nuts (cashews, almonds, etc.)
- Some seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, etc.)
- Most grains (oats, quinoa, rice, wheat, etc.)
- Most dairy
- And, of course, tomatoes
Some individuals have gone as far as eliminating all lectin-containing foods from their diet in an attempt to avoid this natural pesticide. But is that necessary? If you know how to remove lectins from tomatoes and other foods, then no, avoiding them is not needed.
Are lectins dangerous?
Yes and no – they’re dangerous if consumed raw, but harmless when cooked. The majority of lectin-containing foods must be cooked in order to be consumed. Once you know how to remove lectins from tomatoes, you can consume as many as you can (healthily) eat.
Studies do suggest raw lectins are responsible for celiac and autoimmune diseases. Lectins from tomatoes have been seen bonding with intestinal walls rather than continuing through digestion, though opinions are split regarding whether this could impact digestion negatively. Some evidence seems to support lectin-induced diabetes and inflammatory conditions (again, scientists don’t all agree on this interpretation).
Overall, more research needs to be conducted to fully understand the potential negative side effects of consuming raw lectins.
Cooked, however, lectins are nearly harmless. Researchers agree that lectin-containing foods are healthy after sustaining a small amount of heat in the cooking or baking process. In fact, many of these foods provide anti-inflammatory benefits and can increase heart health.
Are lectins dangerous? Yes – raw. But not when cooked.
How do you remove lectins from tomatoes?
If you love pasta, you’re probably relieved to hear that lectins can be eliminated from your favorite fruit (the tomato). Simply cooking tomatoes can eliminate lectins.
Because very few studies have been conducted on lectins, it can be difficult to draw conclusions regarding how long tomatoes must be cooked (or what temperature they must be heated to) in order to diminish lectins. Medical professionals generally recommend cooking tomatoes as you normally would to decrease or eliminate these chemicals. Conventional cooking and baking methods have been proven to remove or reduce lectin content to a safe, consumable level.
What about favorite foods that commonly contain raw tomato? Here’s how to substitute for raw tomato in your favorite dishes and sauces:
- Instead of serving pico de gallo, make homemade salsa and chill it overnight for your taco toppings. Salsa must be boiled, which removes lectins.
- Rather than adding tomato in a cold sandwich, place a slice of tomato on an open-face grilled cheese (under the cheese) a la tomato bruschetta. Melting the cheese in the oven also heats the tomato, reducing lectin content.
- If you enjoy raw cherry tomatoes in your pasta or salads, try roasting them in the oven before adding them to your dish. Just drizzle with olive oil and bake for 15-20 minutes at 400F, or until they begin to wilt and wrinkle.
Raw tomatoes are one of the best parts of summer, but unfortunately, they can cause health problems. Consuming them in moderation may be acceptable – more needs to be studied before anyone can say for certain. However, cooking tomatoes can quickly and easily decrease lectin content and make them safe to eat.
Medical research has helped us identify the causes of many diseases: diabetes, heart disease, celiac, and more. Sadly, research often ends with a warning against favorite foods. Tomatoes have made the inevitable list of “foods that may cause health problems,” and should be consumed carefully.
But hope isn’t lost for the tomato. With a short boil, roast, or bake in the oven, its flavors can be redeemed without the poison of lectin. If you’re concerned about lectin consumption, consider switching from fresh to cooked tomatoes today. You may find your health improving – without giving up this delicious culinary staple.