Articles and Guides/ Latest Posts/ Popular Guides

The 4 Gut-Healthy, Gluten-Free and Lectin-Free Grains

February 20, 2022 (Last Updated: June 16, 2024)
The 4 gluten free and lectin free grains

If you are trying to avoid gluten and reduce lectins in your diet, this article will help you understand what grains you can still include in your diet and how to prepare them.

The only gluten-free grains that are also lectin-free are millet, fonio, sorghum, and teff.

Is gluten a lectin?

Gluten is a type of lectin. Lectins are the defensive mechanism of plants developed millions of years ago to protect themselves and their off-springs from being eaten by insects, animals, and, more recently, humans.

According to Dr. Steven Gundry, lectins are a long-term defensive strategy, found in all plants but highly concentrated in only a few. 

Some of the plants with a high-lectin content are wheat, rye, beans and legumes, and nightshades. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “when consumed, lectins in their active state can cause negative side effects.

The most publicized accounts report severe reactions in people eating even small amounts of undercooked or raw kidney beans. They contain phytohaemagglutinin, a type of lectin that can cause red blood cells to clump together. It can also produce nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, and diarrhea. Milder side effects include bloating and gas.”

If you are gluten intolerant, you are probably familiar with gluten-free pseudo-grains like buckwheat and quinoa.

Does quinoa have lectins?

Unfortunately, yes, quinoa has a high lectin content, which can be reduced by fermentation and pressure cooking. According to Dr. Steven Gundry, “it is highly recommended to consume pressure-cooked quinoa in moderation — and only if you absolutely must. Otherwise, it’s best to avoid quinoa lectins altogether.”

The same goes for buckwheat.

Do oats have lectins?

Yes, oats contain harmful lectins, and most of the time, they are also contaminated with gluten. If, for some reason, you don’t care about the other lectins in oats, make sure you get oats that are labeled gluten-free, especially if you are celiac. Remember, gluten is a type of lectin.

List of grains and pseudo-grains that are high in lectins and gluten:

  • wheat
  • rye
  • barley

List of grains or pseudo-grains that are gluten-free but high in lectins:

  • quinoa
  • oats
  • buckwheat
  • amaranth
  • rice
  • corn

List of grains / pseudo-grains that are gluten-free and low in lectins:

  • millet
  • fonio
  • sorghum
  • teff

Millet, Fonio, Sorghum, and Teff – The 4 Lectin-Free and Gluten-Free Grains

Before we get an overview of each of these four grains, this is what’s generally common about millet, fonio, sorghum, and teff:

  • They are ancient grains, originating in Africa
  • While conventionally they are called grains, millet, fonio, and teff are technically seeds
  • They are considered environmentally friendly crops
  • They are gluten-free and lectin-free
  • They have a better glycemic index than other more popular gluten-free and gluten-containing grains
  • Consumed in moderation, they can be part of a healthy lectin-free and gluten-free diet
  • They are packed with fiber and nutrients
  • They are extremely versatile: in their grain form, they can be used to replace morning cereals, porridge, rice, and quinoa.
  • While they are growing in popularity for culinary use around the world, they are still more difficult to find and can be more expensive than other more common grains
  • The nutritional value of these 4 gluten-free and lectin-free grains can be enhanced through fermentation.

This article is about millet, fonio, sorghum, and teff in the form of grains, not flour. All these grains can be ground into flour; for an overview of gluten-free and lectin-free flours, check our article: Quick Guide to Lectin-Free, Gluten-Free Flours

Note for people with celiac disease: Due to cross-contamination, you will still have to make sure these grains are handled and processed in a gluten-free facility and the packaging is labeled gluten-free.

How do lectins affect us?

Lectins are large, sticky proteins that will bind to sugar and will try to damage the mucosal lining of your gut.

A healthy gut can withstand a certain amount of lectin attack. Still, if your diet is heavy in lectins and your gut is already damaged from an unhealthy lifestyle, the lectins will trigger the production of a protein called zonulin, which will make holes in your gut wall. 

Have you ever heard of “leaky gut”? Pieces of bacteria will then be allowed to enter your bloodstream and lymphatic system and unleash your immune system, which will result in widespread inflammation and set the stage for auto-immune diseases. 

According to Dr. Steven Gundry, in The Plant Paradox book, avoiding lectins in your diet will remove the root cause of “leaky gut” and will give your gut lining a chance to recover. 

1. The millet grain

The millet grain
The millet grain

What is millet grain?

Millet is a small, round, ancient grain from the Poaceae family. Technically, millet is a seed, but it has a grain’s nutrient profile. Millet is probably the most known of the four lectin-free and gluten-free grains and is gaining more popularity in the West.

Millet has been around for a very long time, used in cuisines around the world, especially in Africa and Asia, tracing back thousands of years. It was the primary grain in China before rice became popular, and it is still the primary grain in many countries in Africa.

It was also popular in the Roman Empire and Eastern Europe, where polenta and bread were made of millet. Millet is still very popular in Russia and Ukraine, and other countries in Eastern Europe.

Millet is also considered a sustainable crop, resistant to drought and pests, and surviving in harsh environments.

Is millet healthy?

Compared to other grains, millet has a relatively low glycemic index, which is less likely to spike your blood sugar.

Not only is millet a high-protein, high-fiber, and rich in antioxidants grain, but it is also an alkaline food, so it is easy to digest.

While millet has an excellent nutrient profile for a grain, it should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Millet contains anti-nutrients and goitrogenic polyphenols that can harm your health if consumed in excess.

What can I use millet grain for?

  • to replace rice, as a side dish (it has a lower glycemic index)
  • to replace couscous (which is made of wheat, so not gluten- or lectin-free)
  • to replace quinoa (millet is alkaline, while quinoa is acid, also quinoa has lectins)
  • to make porridge (as a substitute for oatmeal, which is not lectin-free and often contaminated with glyphosate)
  • to make faux cornbread or polenta
  • as flour, can be used to make bread and other baked goods
  • in the form of flakes, can be used to replace oats in oatmeal cookies or pancakes

Just remember, make sure you don’t consume millet in excess. I eat it in different forms, about five times a month.

Where can I find millet?

Millet is quite popular and easy to find in stores worldwide, but if no store carries millet around where you live, you can always order it online.

Since millet is a so-called naked grain, it doesn’t have a hull and is naturally grain-free and lectin-free.

How to cook whole grain millet?

Millet can be cooked on the stove or in a pressure cooker.

The typical ratio of liquid to millet is 2:1, but from my personal experience, this can slightly differ, depending on the brand of millet, but also the texture you desire. Sometimes I end up adding up to 4 cups of liquid.

If you are making porridge or even polenta, some extra liquid will be required to create a creamy texture.

When cooked on the stove, millet tends to get a porridge-like texture, so if I want to cook millet for a salad or replace couscous or white rice, I prefer to cook it in a pressure cooker. Times and liquid ratios might differ depending on the pressure cooker you have and the required texture.

Below is my current method of making fluffy millet that will work well for salads and couscous-type of dishes.

How to cook millet in a pressure cooker:

  • Toast 1 cup of millet until fragrant, for 2-4 minutes (use the sautee option if you have one), add 2 cups of water, and pressure cook for 10 minutes.
  • Another version is to wash the millet well until the water comes clear, drain, and pressure cook with 1 3/4 cups water.
  • In both cases, Let the pressure release naturally, then fluff with a fork.
  • To reheat cooked millet, you have to rehydrate it with a little water.

How to cook millet on the stove:

  • This method is more appropriate for porridge and creamier textures.
  • Toast 1 cup of dry millet for 2-4 minutes until fragrant.
  • Add 2 cups of water and simmer on low heat until all the water is absorbed, you might need more liquid if the millet grains are still hard.
  • From experience and to my taste, I always end up adding a little bit more liquid, depending on what I’m planning to use the millet for.
  • If I make porridge, I add about one more cup of liquid: coconut or hemp milk (see my homemade hemp milk recipe), and continue to simmer until soft and creamy.

2. The Fonio Grain

The fonio grain
The fonio grain

What is fonio grain?

Fonio is a type of millet with a much smaller grain, native to West Africa. Aside from being gluten-free and lectin-free, fonio is also a nutritional powerhouse.

Unlike the common millet described above, fonio is considered an underutilized crop and is not readily available in the Western world. Viewing its environmental benefits and nutritional profile, this might change soon.

Is fonio healthy?

Fonio is probably the healthiest of the four gluten-free and lectin-free grains described in this article. Like its cousin millet, fonio has a low glycemic index, and it might not affect blood sugar like other grains.

It is also rich in vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium, and it’s also a good source of plant-based essential amino acids like methionine, leucine, valine, and cystine.

What can I use fonio for?

Like millet, fonio doesn’t have much of a taste, but a nuttiness can be added if lightly toasted before adding liquid. You can enhance its neutral taste by mixing it with pestos, spices, and sauces.

You can use fonio:

  • to add to salads and serve as side dishes
  • to make porridge
  • to replace couscous, rice, or quinoa
  • to replace flour when milled
  • to add to vegan meatballs

Where can I find fonio?

Unfortunately, fonio grain is not very easy to find. You might be able to find it in specialty stores, especially those with a focus on African cuisine, but your best bet is ordering online.

How to cook fonio grain?

Fonio is very easy to cook. It just needs about 5 minutes on low heat. Before boiling it, you can lightly toast it to bring out a more earthy, nutty flavor.

To cook fonio on the stove, add 2 cups of water to 1 cup of fonio and simmer until the liquid is absorbed. It doesn’t take too long. Since the cooking time is short, I never cook fonio in a pressure cooker.

New article about fonio

For more detailed information about fonio, check out this article: A Simple Guide to Fonio (Plus Recipes to Get You Started).

3. The Sorghum Grain

The sorghum grain
The sorghum grain

What is sorghum grain?

From the Poaceae family, like millet, sorghum is one of the top five cereal crops globally, originating in Africa.

Sorghum is an ancient grain packed with nutritional value and one of the four gluten-free and lectin-free grains.

You can buy sorghum in the whole grain form and as ‘pearled sorghum’ (hull has been removed). I mainly use pearled sorghum in my cooking, but whole grain sorghum is excellent for making popped sorghum.

Sorghum grain is the biggest among these four gluten-free and lectin-free grains.

Is sorghum healthy?

We can consume sorghum grain in moderation as part of a healthy diet as with any grain. Naturally a gluten-free and lectin-free grain, sorghum is one of the most nutritious grains you can consume.

Sorghum is rich in protein, fiber, and antioxidants and packed with iron, vitamin B6, niacin, and magnesium. High in potassium and low in sodium, sorghum might help promote healthy blood pressure.

What can I use sorghum grain for?

Sorghum grain is so versatile and can be included in any meal. Taste- and texture-wise, sorghum is my favorite gluten-free and lectin-free grain.

Here are some of its uses:

  • use it to make porridge
  • use it to replace rice, couscous or other grains and pseudo-grains
  • you can make popped sorghum (like popcorn, but much smaller)
  • you can add it to salads or soups
  • sorghum flour can be used in baking

Where can I find sorghum grain?

Sorghum can be found as a whole grain or pearled sorghum (hulled removed). I only use whole-grain to make popped sorghum, and I use pearled sorghum for cooking.

Sorghum grain is relatively easy to find in stores and easily ordered online.

Shop Gundry MD Pearled White Sorghum

Gundry MD Pearled White Sorghum is a great-tasting alternative to couscous, quinoa, and pasta — without any of the lectins, added sugars, gluten, or extra calories. You can buy Gundry MD Pearled white sorghum here.

How to cook sorghum grain?

Making popped sorghum

Does popcorn have lectins? Although gluten-free, popcorn and corn have lectins. But don’t worry, you can make amazing popped sorghum that tastes exactly like popcorn (just much smaller in size).

This is what you need to make popped sorghum, a great lectin-free replacement for popcorn:

  • whole grain sorghum
  • heavy-duty, stainless steel saucepan, with a lid
  • oil is optional
  • flavors: butter and salt

If you are familiar with making popcorn on the stove, use the same method.

Popped Sorghum

Cooking pearled sorghum

While we can cook sorghum grain on the stove, it does take up to an hour. That’s why I prefer to cook pearled sorghum in a pressure cooker.

To cook sorghum in the pressure cooker: rinse well 1 cup of sorghum, and add it to the pressure cooker with 4 cups of water. Pressure cook on high (normal pressure on a manual pressure cooker) for 12-15 minutes.

My sweet spot is 12 minutes, although some prefer cooking it longer. Let the pressure release naturally. If there is still some liquid left, drain it. Fluff with a fork while cooling down.

Cooked sorghum can be frozen or stored in the refrigerator. I rehydrate the sorghum with hemp milk to make porridge and add spices and sweeteners to taste.

You can also use cooked sorghum to make risotto by rehydrating it with vegetable stock.

Recipes using sorghum flour

For recipes using sorghum flour, check out our 10+ Sorghum Flour Recipes (Gluten-Free) round-up.

New article about sorghum

We have published a new comprehensive guide on how to cook sorghum. Make sure you check it out.

4. The Teff Grain

The teff grain
The teff grain

What is teff grain?

Teff, also called lovegrass, is one of the earliest plants cultivated, originating from Africa (modern-day Ethiopia). Like millet, teff is technically a seed, part of the Poaceae family.

Also called ‘the world’s smallest grain, ‘ teff has the smallest grain among these four gluten-free and lectin-free grains.

Is teff healthy?

Cooked teff is an excellent source of protein, dietary fiber, and manganese. Naturally gluten-free and lectin-free, teff is highly nutritious, rich in minerals such as iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, potassium, selenium, and exceptionally high in lysine.

Due to its high mineral content, teff is sometimes used in baby food.

Like all the above cousins, teff has a lower glycemic index than other more popular grains such as wheat, quinoa, and buckwheat. Like the other three grains above, teff can be part of a healthy diet if consumed in moderation.

What can I use teff grain for?

Teff has an earthy, slightly nutty taste.

You can use teff grain:

  • to make porridge
  • as a side dish
  • to add to vegan meatballs
  • milled into flour, for baking

Where can I find teff grain?

Teff grain is not readily available due to its limited production, but you can order it online from vendors selling gluten-free products in most regions worldwide.

How to cook teff grain?

How to make teff porrdige:

Lightly toast the teff grains for about 2 to 3 minutes, then add three times the amount of water, bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes, until all the water is absorbed and you get a creamy consistency. Add sweetener and flavors to taste.

New article about teff

For more detailed information about teff check out this article A Beginner’s Guide to Teff (Plus my Favorite Ways to Use It).

Online resources

If you need help ordering any of these lectin-free and gluten-free grains online, please check my SHOP Page, Flours & Grains Category, for suggestions.

If you are interested in following a lectin-light or lectin-free diet, check out our articles:

*This post contains affiliated links, which means I get a small commission if you choose to purchase something via one of my links, at no extra cost to you.

Gundry MD Ambassador Shop

Stock a gut-healthy pantry

23 Comments

  • Reply
    wendy
    May 7, 2024 at 1:09 pm

    Hello Claudia,
    I quite appreciate your responses – stay curious indeed! Good researchers are on quests to improve their knowledge and deepen their understanding. What we know today about nutrition is always going to evolve and shift with new information, and I have appreciated that tone in some of Dr. Gundry’s recent podcasts. “Stay open and curious” – the best advice! Thank you.
    (on another note – I have discovered Fonio porridge and I am slightly ecstatic! I have missed the cream of wheat cereal which was my fave as a kid, and this is a very close second…dare I say first!)

    • Reply
      Claudia
      May 7, 2024 at 2:18 pm

      Hello, Wendy! Thank you so much for the kind words. Fonio porridge is great, but my favorite one has to be sorghum porridge :)). I think my preference also relates to some childhood tastes and textures it reminds me of. Warm regards, Claudia.

  • Reply
    richard
    November 4, 2023 at 7:43 pm

    Take Grundy with a pinch of salt. Most relevant health professionals and nutrionists agree that lectins are not such a concern and when eating lecting containing foods the good outways the bad. That being said, anyone with GI issues should consider an elimination diet to explore possible food intolerance.

    • Reply
      Claudia
      November 5, 2023 at 3:52 am

      Hi Richard,

      Thank you for your comment. Indeed, a critical approach to any dietary advice is essential, as nutrition is a complex and individualized field.

      To your point about health issues, it’s striking how many individuals—especially those over 35—struggle with gastrointestinal disorders, autoimmune conditions, metabolic syndromes like pre-diabetes and insulin resistance, and various mental health challenges. The link between these conditions and gut health is increasingly evident.

      Many who turn to Dr. Gundry’s work, and to health coaches like myself, have often exhausted conventional avenues without relief. Dr. Gundry’s “The Plant Paradox” delves into how a compromised gut, often a consequence of our modern lifestyle, struggles with foods high in lectins. It’s not just about the lectins, though—they are but one aspect of a broader discussion on diet and health.

      “The Plant Paradox” program is designed to rehabilitate the gut through phased dietary changes: a brief elimination phase, a more extended lectin-free phase, and a maintenance phase that reintroduces lectin-rich foods in gut-friendly ways, such as pressure cooking, fermentation, and proper food preparation techniques.

      Moreover, for those who’ve adopted a gluten-free diet yet still feel unwell, this could be an indication of the body’s negative response to other components like lectins, often abundant in gluten-free products.

      Reading “The Plant Paradox” can offer a comprehensive framework for individuals seeking to revitalize their health, though it’s always encouraged to tailor any dietary approach to one’s unique needs and circumstances.

      I hope this offers a clearer picture of the potential benefits of considering Dr. Gundry’s insights, and why exploring such options could be transformative for those who haven’t yet found relief through traditional methods.

      Warm regards,
      Claudia

  • Reply
    Amy
    September 6, 2023 at 7:25 pm

    Hi, Can you please explain further how corn has gluten in it? Thank you

    • Reply
      Claudia
      September 7, 2023 at 1:31 pm

      Hi Amy, corn doesn’t have gluten, but is high in other type of lectins. I just checked the article and I see where the confusion is coming from. I’ll fix that. -Claudia

  • Reply
    Helaine Brown
    July 10, 2023 at 12:04 am

    Will soaking a slice of vegetable with the skin on it since I heard the skin has a lot of nutrients (example-squash) for 24-48 hours and then washing it and cooking it remove the lectins? If I want to eat the vegetables raw, is soaking it for 24-48 hours enough or maybe adding a protealitic such as pineapple, kiwi, papaya although I read it is not good to take these for too long a period of time. You have typed above to soak only overnight; when I talked with a Natural Health Professional about beans and rice, I was told 24-48 hours for soaking. My point is to please be thorough in your information response.

    • Reply
      Claudia
      July 10, 2023 at 3:33 am

      Hi Helaine, that’s an interesting question, but I don’t think you can compare beans or grains with vegetables like tomatoes and zucchini (which are fruits in fact). It’s one thing to soak a bean or a grain (they are seeds), they will absorb the water and eventually they’ll germinate… and another thing to soak a fruit. The nutrients you find in the skins of tomatoes (phenolics, flavonoids, lycopene, ascorbic acid and antioxidant activity) you’ll find plenty in other foods… without the lectins.So you won’t miss nutrients if you have a diverse diet and eat a lot of whole foods. As per soaking the beans, if you pressure cook them, soaking them overnight (which usually is about 14-16 hours) and changing water 4 times, will be enough. Those people recommending soaking for 48 hours, will cook them on the stove. It’s not all black and white. The world of nutrition is complex and we should stay open and curious. Do whatever feels more in line with your intuition. And your body will give you feedback. If I eat a bell pepper with skin, without pressure cooking it, I can’t digest it, but if I peel the skin or pressure cook it, I’m fine. The same with tomatoes and cucumbers for me. I hope this helps. -Claudia

  • Reply
    Tom
    July 3, 2023 at 6:08 am

    Hi Caludia, what empirical scientific evidence exists that these grains are low in lectin and others are not? It would be nice to see peer reviewed scientific research to back up these claims. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Claudia
      July 3, 2023 at 8:41 am

      Hi Tom, all the information about lectins I trust is based on Dr. Steven Gundry’s reaserch of lectins for more than 20 years. He also has access to all papers ever published about lectins and you can find all the references in his book The Plant Paradox. But, if you want to do your own research (quickly from what available online), you can start with a paper called “The Dietary Intake of Wheat and Other Cereal Grains and their Role in Inflammation (12 Mar 2013), from National Library of Medicine. It’s actually a very interesting paper, check out the paragraph 4.1 Dietary WGA. I hope this helps. If you want to dig further, these are hundreds of references in the book mentioned above. -Claudia

    1 2 3

    Leave a Reply