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Assigning Inflammation Scores to Foods (Lectin Point of View)

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:

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Do you have lectin sensitivity or autoimmunity? Which foods will cause inflammation? Read on for a helpful list of good and bad foods.

This post is only applicable to people with inflammatory or autoimmune issues.

The SelfHacked Lectin Avoidance Diet goes into more details about how to know if you are sensitive to lectins and what to do about it.

Symptoms of Lectin Sensitivity

See if you’re lectin sensitive.

If you have autoimmune issues or other inflammatory conditions then you are probably getting inflammation from food.

The RS diet is pretty good in general because it cuts out dairy, gluten, and a few other harmful offenders, but if you’re still having issues it means you need to take it to the next level.

Here’s a list of symptoms that are common in people with lectin sensitivity. This list is not comprehensive.

I reckon that up to 40% of the population has some level of lectin sensitivity, but maybe only 25% have it to a level that causes significant discomfort.

Lectin sensitivity is on a spectrum, where people are sensitive to it in varying degrees. The more symptoms you have the higher the likelihood of lectin sensitivity.

Symptom List for Lectin Sensitivity

  • Immune imbalances (see if you’re Th1 dominant or Th2 dominant) or any autoimmune condition – very common.
  • Bloating – very common
  • Gut problems: Gas/Abdominal discomfort/Irritated GI tract – very common
  • Fatigue in the day – even with 8 hours of sleep. Especially post-meal fatigue – very common
  • Brain fog – very common
  • Excessive anxiety, perfectionism, procrastination, paranoia, OCD and in an inability to let go. These are indicative of low serotonin.
  • Skin problems (not acne) – indicative of an immune imbalance. Skin problems can include various fungi, eczema, psoriasis, etc. – very common
  • Not handling glucose or carbs well (getting hypoglycemic often)
  • Joint discomfort
  • Pain in random places like backaches, etc. (that aren’t a result of a serious injury, obviously)
  • Weight problems: Inability to put on weight or stubborn weight loss
  • Water retention, puffiness around the eyes, extremities
  • Some types of headaches/migraines
  • Sleep and circadian issues

Scoring Foods

It’s a mistake to think that foods either cause inflammation or don’t. I find foods lie on a spectrum of how inflammatory they are.

So I’ve decided to make a completely subjective list of foods categorized by how much inflammation they cause me. This will allow the reader to know what to look out for. Obviously, this isn’t even close to an exact science, so self-experimentation is necessary.

There seem to be lots of similarities with regard to which foods lectin sensitive individuals tolerate. I see people cutting out gluten or dairy and they are fine, so you only need to keep looking at lower scores if your inflammation continues. This list includes the wisdom of the masses and reports from my clients but is weighted heavily to my own experience.

When I get inflammation I get extremely tired because it targets my hypothalamus. The more tired I get and the longer it lasts after eating a certain food, the more inflammation I get from that food.

The reason I made this list is because some people have to break a strict lectin avoidance diet sometimes and knowing relative inflammatory scores of different foods is important.

There’s no guarantee that you won’t get inflammation from the least inflammatory foods on this list – it just means you’ll be less likely to and the inflammation will be less severe. You could be more or less intolerant of these foods, but I felt a rough guideline could be useful. If you’re getting inflammation from the 1’s on the list then you need to do an elemental diet.

Note that I’m Th1 dominant, so the list might vary if you are Th2 dominant, but much of it will be the same. Some people have full-blown IgE-related allergies to foods in the #1 category, but this is a different type of inflammation than what I’m referring to. This list doesn’t take into account histamine intolerance.

If I eat too much fructose or saturated fat, I get systemic inflammation, but it isn’t an autoimmune reaction. This list is only concerned about autoimmune reactions, so coconut oil would get the best rating even though consuming it gave me systemic inflammatory problems.

I may change the categories of foods based on more experiments and I also hope to fill it in more as time goes on, so do a recheck.

Soaking grains will generally move it to one category lower. The more you soak the grains and legumes the better. Sprouting may take it down 2 levels.

1) Least Inflammatory

All oils are good, with olive oil, caprylic acid, ghee, and hemp oil being the best choices.

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Salmon (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Sardines (I get a stomach ache from canned sardines, but not inflammation. I’d like to experiment with fresh sardines) (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Beef or chicken liver
  • Pea protein
  • Rice Protein
  • Hemp protein
  • Collagen
  • Raw Honey (not cloudy)
  • Hi-Maize resistant starch
  • Waxy Maize
  • Glucose/dextrose
  • Bee Pollen (too much hurts my stomach)
  • Animal fat (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Caprylic acid
  • Safflower Oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Hemp oil (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Ghee
  • Coconut oil (from a lectin point of view)
  • Black Cumin Seed Oil
  • Romaine lettuce (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Cucumbers (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Celery (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Broccoli Sprouts (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Sunflower Lecithin
  • Brewer’s Yeast
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Italian Seasoning (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Curry (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Stevia
  • Xylitol
  • Trehalose
  • Caffeine-free kombucha (better for Th1 dominant, not for histamine intolerant)
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Leafy Greens
  • Steamed kale (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Steamed spinach (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Sauer kraut (better for Th1 dominant, not for histamine intolerant)
  • Pickles (better for Th1 dominant, not for histamine intolerant)
  • Mushrooms (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Steamed broccoli (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Steamed collard greens (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Steamed green beans
  • Decaf tea (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Carob (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Mustard (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Sriracha (1.5 )(here because it makes food taste really good)
  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon
  • Most spices
  • Spirulina

2) Not Perfect, But Good Enough

  • Anchovies (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Pork
  • Eggs (exclude initially to make sure you don’t have an egg allergy, but otherwise they’re good)
  • Raw honey – cloudy (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Purple sweet potatoes (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Cantaloupe
  • Mango
  • Avocados
  • Papaya (better for Th1 dominant) (or fresh, obviously)
  • Pineapple
  • Blueberries
  • Pomegranate
  • Tangerines
  • Watermelon (seedless)
  • Honeydew
  • Goldenberries (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Cooked tempeh (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Beef gelatin
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Snow peas
  • Green beans

3) OK

  • Fully sprouted lentils or repeated soakings over 48 hours (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Summer Squash
  • Japanese sweet potatoes (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Arrowroot
  • Sunflower seeds (better to have Sprouted sunflower seeds)
  • Flaxseed -preferably sprouted (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Coconut shreds
  • Chia seeds (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Coconut Milk
  • Sesame seeds (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Soaked/sprouted quinoa
  • Hemp seeds
  • Dates (maybe a #3. Better for Th2 dominant)
  • Grapefruit (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Oranges (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Kiwi
  • Guava
  • Pears
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Apples (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Strawberries
  • Plums
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Beets
  • Kale chips
  • Kudzu
  • Jasmine Tea (because of the small amount of caffeine)

4) Avoid If Lectin Sensitive

I don’t actually consume these at night. When I say “I would” it means that you’re only somewhat lectin sensitive or you want to live somewhat of a normal life. If you are as sensitive as me, then I suggest not.

  • Brown rice (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Corn on the cob (Will experiment with Nixtamalization: soaking and cooking in alkaline water) (better for Th2 dominant) – do not consume if you have severe lectin sensitivity
  • Semi-green bananas (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Basmati rice. Placed here because starches are important – do not consume if you have severe lectin sensitivity
  • Parboiled rice. Placed here because starches are important – do not consume if you have severe lectin sensitivity
  • Soaked lentils
  • Taro* – haven’t tried it, but anecdotes support greater tolerance to this
  • Cassava* – haven’t tried it, but anecdotes support greater tolerance to this
  • Plantains
  • Winter Squash
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkin
  • Pistachio nuts (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Skinned almonds
  • Olives (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Wild blueberries
  • Tomato (better for Th2 dominant)

5) Avoid if you have any form of food sensitivities

  • Herring (amines)
  • Sourdough bread
  • Moldy cheeses
  • Ripe bananas
  • Figs (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Raisins
  • Sprouted buckwheat/Go Raw Granola
  • Grapes
  • Whey (different types can be more or less)
  • Hummus without additives
  • Chocolate/Cocoa (including raw cacao) (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Caffeine
  • White potatoes (I’ll be experimenting in the future eating potatoes without the skin) (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Most legumes
  • Beta-lactoglobulin (in all dairy)
  • Oats (better for Th2 dominant) – I seem to be more sensitive than most.
  • Unmodified Potato starch. Placed here because of high RS
  • Orange sweet potatoes (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Tuna
  • Buckwheat (unsoaked)
  • Kefir – I seem to be more sensitive than most. Th2 dominant do better.ant)

6) Never Consume These

  • Yeast (found in gluten-free bread)
  • Gluten-containing grains and all grains not listed elsewhere.
  • Carrageenan
  • Almond milk, nut milks
  • Cashews (better for Th2 dominant)
  • Peanuts (better for Th1 dominant)
  • Pinto beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Various legumes

7) Most Inflammatory

Supplements and lifestyle couldn’t cure me as long as I was consuming these foods.

  • Gluten (wheat being the worst for me). Gluten-containing foods also have WGA, which is quite inflammatory as well and hard to disentangle from the effects of gluten.
  • Casein (in all dairy)

If you have a food you’re curious about, comment below.

Other Things to Consider

Caveats

I can only test what I’m sensitive to and I’m Th1 dominant. My bet is there will be small differences for Th2 dominant people.

The SelfHacked Lectin Avoidance Diet

The SelfHacked Lectin Avoidance Diet Cookbook goes into more details about this. If you would like to better understand about Th1 and Th2 dominance, check out the All About Inflammation Course.

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About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen won the genetic lottery of bad genes. As a kid, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, and other issues that were poorly understood in both conventional and alternative medicine.Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a journey of self-experimentation and self-learning to improve his health--something that has since become known as “biohacking”. With thousands of experiments and pubmed articles under his belt, Joe founded SelfHacked, the resource that was missing when he needed it. SelfHacked now gets millions of monthly readers.Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, author and speaker. He is the CEO of SelfHacked, SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer.His mission is to help people gain access to the most up-to-date, unbiased, and science-based ways to optimize their health.
Joe has been studying health sciences for 17 years and has read over 30,000 PubMed articles. He's given consultations to over 1000 people who have sought his health advice. After completing the pre-med requirements at university, he founded SelfHacked because he wanted to make a big impact in improving global health. He's written hundreds of science posts, multiple books on improving health, and speaks at various health conferences. He's keen on building a brain-trust of top scientists who will improve the level of accuracy of health content on the web. He's also founded SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer, popular genetic and lab software tools to improve health.

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