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Legumes and beans are two of the most nutritious foods available as they are plant-based, high in protein, and very effective to satisfy hunger. Why are these powerful plant foods not permitted in the Paleo diet?

The concept behind this Paleo food plan is that most of the health issues we face today result from foods and items that are relatively new in the history of humanity. Therefore, it is believed that the Paleo diet is all about eating the same foods our ancestors in the cave ate. Foods that we could hunt, fish, gather, or pick – without cereal grains or even beans.


In November 2013, Dr. Stephan Guyenet posted an article explaining the evolution of legume consumption. He proves contrary to popular belief that legumes are integral to our diet.

Dr. Guyenet has also pointed to numerous hunter-gatherer communities that ate significant amounts of legumes. These include the Kung San from the Kalahari desert (who depended heavily on a legume known as the Tsin beans) and the Aussie Aborigines (who took advantage of the seeds and gums from Acacia trees, a legume).

It is believed that legumes are, in fact, “Paleo.” But even if Paleolithic people did not eat legumes, is this reason enough to stay clear of these foods? If so, then why shouldn’t we be avoiding black coffee, dark chocolate tea, and alcohol? What’s with the plethora of muffins, bread, packaged snacks, desserts, and even candy (no, I’m not lying) which claim as “Paleo” that have become popular recently? 

Our forefathers were not baking using nut flour, munching down on truffles, or sipping “Paleo” drinks. However, even the most fervent self-described Paleo adherents usually consume at least a portion of these beverages and food items and do not find a contradiction.

As we mentioned, Paleo is best viewed as a model or starting point rather than as a rigid system based on (sometimes incorrect) opinions about the food our ancestors consumed. Mark Sisson said something very similar in an article on his blog:

The anthropological record provides the basis for further investigation of nutrition science, but it is not a diet prescription.

One more crucial question to consider aside from whether a food can be described as “Paleo” is its impact on human health. Fortunately, concerning legumes, we have access to several research studies that can help us answer this question.


Another reason why the Paleo group does not enjoy beans: is lectins or carbohydrate-binding proteins, which plants have developed to deter predator insects. “Lectins can attach to nearly all tissues in our bodies and cause havoc,” Loren Cordain, Ph.D., in his book The Paleo Diet (John Wiley and Sons 2002).

Due to the lectin component and the lectin factor, many contemporary Paleo experts, such as Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, and Esther Blum, ban beans and legumes. “Grains contain lectins, which could harm the gut lining and cause inflammation. This is a new symptom of autoimmune disease that includes insulin resistance as well as liver diseases,” writes Wolf in The Paleo Solution (Victory Belt Publishing in 2010).

The lectins found in beans and other food items can also contribute to the conditions mentioned above in her memoir, Cavewomen don’t Get fat (Gallery Books 2013, 2013.). Blum calls lectin “gluten’s companion” and mentions that “lectin overdose” can trigger various health issues, such as digestive inflammation.

2.1. Axit phytic

Similar to pseudo-grains and grains, legumes also contain phytic acids. The phytic acid bonds to the foodstuffs, which prevents you from taking these nutrients. It does not take any nutrients already present in your body. However, it can make the bowl of lentils less nutritious than what the Nutrition Facts panel would have you believe.

It is frequently cited as a major disadvantage of these foods. However, the reality is somewhat more complex. Some Paleo foods, such as nuts, are also a good source of nutrients. In terms of mass per gram, most nuts indeed have some phytic acid than many grains and legumes. It is why nuts are fine to eat, while lentils can be problematic.

Legumes, rather than labeling any quantity in phytates to be harmful, it’s better to state that the impact on the body depends on the quantity you consume. Phytic acid might have some health benefits when consumed in small quantities. Therefore, it is not a good idea to ignore it as just an unavoidable toxin.

The main thing is the amount you consume, which is why nuts are acceptable when consumed in moderation, but beans and legumes are a no-no. The distinction is that kale and nuts are not the mainstays of people’s healthy diets. However, if you relied on almonds as your primary source of nutrition, you would suffer from the same ailments.

Legumes and beans, in contrast to vegetables and nuts, are the main source of calories for a lot of people across the globe, and eating food that is high in phytic acid as a staple of unhealthy nutrition. If you replace meat or animal fats with soy or lentils, you are drastically reducing your intake of nutrients. 

Plant proteins are not that nutritious in the first place. Phytic acid stops the body from getting the nutrients they have. If you don’t eat them along with other sources of fats, the deficiency of fat in your diet will prevent your body from absorbing and making use of them.

So the diet plan you choose based on the foods that contain these ingredients can result in serious nutritional deficiencies. Regarding the phytic acid content, having some lentils for an occasional snack once or twice a week is unlikely to be any more harmful than eating some cashews. Though it is not how people eat lentils.

2.2. FODMAPS – Problem with beans in Paleo Diet

In addition to their phytic acid content, legumes are also FODMAPS. It means that they contain a type of carbohydrate called galacto-oligosaccharides. This carbohydrate can cause unpleasant digestive problems for some people, especially people who already have IBS or similar digestive problems.

There is no need for everyone to avoid them. However, it is an issue for those suffering from digestive problems that predate the onset.

2.3. Lectin in Paleo Diet

Another disadvantage of these food items is the content of lectins. Lectins are protein components found in a variety of food items. However, they are not all harmful. Different people react differently to various types of lectins. It is why some people can eat nightshade while others react to them.

Potentially toxic lectins can be found in legumes, grains, and dairy products. Within our bodies, they cause damage to the walls of the digestive tract, contributing to a leaky gut and complications with digestion and autoimmune. Although many lectins can be destroyed with proper preparation techniques, many people find cooking techniques difficult to master.

Likely, we will not cook any legumes or beans you purchase from the restaurant in this manner. So making legumes and beans a regular part of your diet could irritate the gut and permeability.

If you are considering a less-carbohydrate variant of diet Paleo, you should be aware of the high levels of carbs in numerous legumes and beans: They are often touted by vegetarians as being a “protein food source”. Though this is not the case with things like bread and veggies that typically lack protein. A cup of beans, for instance, is about 220 calories, with 170 of them coming made up of carbohydrates.

Some legumes contain more protein than others. Although there is nothing wrong with including healthy starches in your diet, having beans as a main source of calories could result in more carbs than your body requires. In the long run, this eating habit can lead to weight gain and metabolic problems such as insulin resistance.


3.1. Peanuts – From Paleo Diet Perspective

Peanuts are the most intelligent kind of legume, not just due to their name. As with other legumes, peanuts can be problematic because they are a source of lectins and phytic acid. However, peanuts also add a new addition to the table of aflatoxins. Aflatoxins aren’t part of the peanut but are caused by a mold that grows on peanuts (like other crops that aren’t cultivated by a legume, such as corn).

This kind of mold thrives on plants stored in humid, warm locations, and it is so difficult to eradicate it that the FDA is declaring it an “unavoidable contamination.” All-natural or organic peanut butter and peanuts are identical because peanuts must be transported and stored. If you need to pick your peanuts right at the source, they are most likely receiving aflatoxins.

Certain studies have associated long-term exposure to aflatoxins with an increased risk of developing cancer-related diseases and a higher chance for those suffering from Hepatitis B. The number is particularly higher in countries where peanuts are a common food. Peanuts are a highly sensitive legume, particularly for those who suffer from mold allergies.

In contrast to other kinds of lectins, peanuts are extremely difficult to eradicate through cooking. As we will see below, the right cooking techniques will eliminate many of these irritants in the gut. However, peanut lectins are highly resistant to heat, so roasting or cooking the nuts won’t do much to remove them.

3.2. Soy – From Paleo Diet Perspective

Another legume that is worthy of special attention is soy. Certain vegans live completely on soy-based products, such as soy milk, breakfast cereal, edamame salad at lunch, and tofu stir fry for dinner. Soy is adored by modern-day diet manufacturers because it is a low-cost crop and extremely easy to flavor and transform into nearly everything.

But in the end, a “cheap” crop will come at a high cost regarding the quality of the soil it grows in. Also, the “convenient” product suddenly becomes less attractive when you consider the negative health effects of eating it.

In addition to the same physical phytic acid and lectins as other legumes, soybeans have one specific drawback: unpleasant phytoestrogens. As with environmental estrogens, chemicals mimic the effects of estrogen within the body. The issue with this is that their imitating estrogen is only enough to fool your body into believing that they are. They are not performing any of the crucial functions that estrogen performs.

The specific mechanisms behind how they accomplish this are complicated. Still, the result is that they can cause hormonal issues. They inform your body that it is enough estrogen when in reality, it does not.

For males, this hormone imbalance can lead to the development of typically “feminine” features, such as breasts and fat deposits in the hips. It may affect fertility and cause many menstrual and other reproductive issues for women. The most alarming thing is that phytoestrogens have been linked with breast cancer and disrupt the thyroid’s normal function.

It is not necessary to be alarmist (eating soy-based products alone will not likely cause major issues). However, in a world brimming with chemical hormone-disrupting substances and environmental estrogens, soy is a source of straw for the camel’s back. Unlike many other environmental pollutants, it’s an entirely avoidable straw.

In addition to hormones, soy is also a source of trypsin inhibitors. These affect the digestion of proteins and boost the body’s requirements for various essential micronutrients, including Vitamin B12. Vitamin D. Soy protein powder is more harmful as it is a processed, artificial food that should not be in any diet.

Refrain from drinking the shake after a workout. Boil some eggs, or pick up a sardine can. Alternatively, drinking a large dose of processed soy daily is not recommended. There are many reasons not to.

3.3. Soy and Peanut Oils – From Paleo Diet Perspective

One of the ways that people consume beans and legumes (sometimes without being conscious of what they’re eating) is via oils. Peanut oil (a popular ingredient in many Asian eateries), soybean oil, and other oils similar to vegetable oils are extremely common cooking ingredients, based on the assumption that they are not animal fats, they must be “heart-healthy.”

However, these oils could be more harmful to you than the plant they originate from. Even the oils produced naturally have significant amounts of PUFAs and Omega-6 fatty acids, both of which can be inflammatory. Because PUFAs are extremely volatile fats, they can be easily oxidized and produce harmful free radicals, which are harmful to the body.

If you cook with oil, the process is accelerated, creating more free radicals. This radical is the main driver of oxidative stress and inflammation. It is also the primary cause of the aging process and numerous chronic degenerative illnesses.

Even if you do not buy or cook using vegetable oils, you can still consume it by purchasing peanut butter. If you have been able to bring home an all-natural PB jar and observed that the oil rises toward the very top, it is necessary to stir it before you eat. If you stir that fat back into your peanut butter, you are saturating your lunch with an additional amount of oxidized acidic fats.

These additional acidic fats are why individuals prefer pouring the oil out of the jars of almond butter to create a more creamy texture. They include healthy saturated fats such as coconut oil. Nut butter generally is a bad choice for a meal since it can make it easy to overindulge. However, If you like these, switching out the PUFAs with saturated fats is always a healthier option.

Peanut oil is a problem even though it results from a relatively simple process. Soybean oil is more threatening due to how it’s processed. From beginning to end, soybean oil is the product of modern monoculture agriculture. Socrates, as well as Plato, could eat olive oil for dinner. But soy oil was an entirely new concept to them since the technology to make it simply wasn’t there.


Similar to pseudo-grains, it might make legumes and beans easier to digest by cooking the traditional way. That is why Asian cultures experience fewer negative effects from eating traditional foods such as natto. Proper preparation (as opposed processed in a factory) could make these food items significantly less troublesome.

The degree of difficulty depends on your tolerance to the foods. We should avoid soy and peanuts regardless of the cooking method we choose. It is nevertheless beneficial to know how to reduce the risk of these foodS.

A variety of traditional cooking methods can be quite effective in reducing the amount of phytic acid. 

  • Soaking is a great start. It will aid in reducing some of the phytic acids, but it doesn’t entirely remove them. 
  • Sprouting is the most efficient method for legumes, decreasing the amount of phytic acids by between 25 and 75 percent.
  • The process of sprinkling legumes or beans is quite simple: you have been able to keep it in a moist environment and let them have access to air. 
  • Fermentation is also a great way to reduce the phytic acid in various foods and increase your gut flora as an added benefit. It is important to note that the phytic acids in soy are extremely difficult to eliminate, which is a reason to stay away from it as much as possible.

Following any soaking or fermentation after soaking or fermentation, you must cook your legumes before they are edible. This process provides an additional layer of protection since heating most legumes and beans (with one exception – peanuts which contain lectins that can withstand the process of cooking) can destroy the majority of the lectins they contain. Since there is no consumption of raw beans or legumes, the worry regarding their lectin content is significantly lessened.

Traditional cooking methods do not transform beans or lentils into magical healthy food. Paleo is not about perfectionism. Therefore, if you need to make foods with $20 in food budgets for the week, a few bags of black beans or lentils can do less harm than ramen and peanut butter.


Ultimately, most legumes and beans could have more negative effects than positive ones. When consumed as a food staple, they stifle more nutritious food sources like animal products. Together with the phytic acid and the lack of fats in legumes, this could create a perfect mix of nutritional deficiencies.

It is important to note that peanuts (which are high in aflatoxins as well as heat-resistant lectins), as well as soy (which is a source of phytoestrogens), are especially harmful. They are one of the foods to avoid. Other legumes are not likely to cause as much harm. However, that fact does not make them ideal staple foods for an active and healthy lifestyle.

A healthy diet made up of high-quality animal products is more nutritious and does not require the tedious and lengthy process of soaking, sprouting, and fermenting. Plus, it tastes better.

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