As I am writing this post at the end of 2019, the Plant Paradox Cookbook is the Number 1 Besteller in the category Immune Systems on Amazon. Chances are, you have heard about the Plant Paradox Diet and that’s why you are reading this.
What is the Plant Paradox Diet?
Dr. Gundry, a former heart surgeon, developed the Plant Paradox Diet after studying the way humans have eaten throughout history. He published his book, The Plant Paradox, in 2017. The book talks about the hidden dangers in “healthy” foods that cause disease and weight gain. These healthy foods are lectin-containing foods. The idea is that humans didn’t eat lectin-containing foods until 10,000 years ago, and the abundance of lectins in our modern diet causes weight gain and chronic diseases.
The Truth About Lectins
Grains, legumes, and nightshades are the most common sources of lectins. Lectins are found in the part of the seed that becomes the leaves when the plant sprouts. They protect plants against microorganisms and are resistant to human digestion. Some lectins can cause nutritional deficiencies because of their binding properties. Lectins are categorized as antinutrients since they block the absorption of some nutrients, especially calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. They disrupt digestion and cause intestinal damage. Furthermore, they can enter your bloodstream and stimulate an immune system reaction. Lectins are associated with autoimmune disorders.
What Can You Eat on the Plant Paradox Diet?
The main purpose of the Plant Paradox Diet is to lower inflammation by removing the foods that cause your immune system to react from your diet. The foods you can eat on the Plant Paradox Diet are very similar to the Paleo Diet. They include meat, seafood, poultry, vegetables, some fruits, healthy fats, and some nuts and seeds. The Plant Paradox Diet includes A2 milk (A2 milk is easier to digest for many people).
Differences Between the Paleo Diet and the Plant Paradox Diet
However, there are also some differences. The Plant Paradox Diet includes some dairy while removing nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and cashews. On the Plant Paradox Diet, you also need to avoid most fruits except for avocados and berries. Furthermore, vegetables like cucumbers, peas, sugar snap peas, green beans, and zucchini are off-limit.
The Benefits of the Plant Paradox Diet
Dr. Gundy himself experienced huge benefits from this eating style. He lost 70 lbs, cured his arthritis, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome. Kelly Clarkson, an American singer, songwriter, and television personality, also popularized the Diet with her own story. She lost 37 pounds, gave up her thyroid medication, and cured her chronic disease. Moreover, The Plant Paradox book is filled with positive testimonials about the benefits of the diet.
Here are some of the benefits people have experienced:
- Weight loss
- Reversed autoimmune diseases
- Lowered blood pressure
- Reduced inflammation
Dr. Gundy wrote a paper about how a lectin-reduced diet can cure autoimmune disease. An article from 1999 also studied the effect of lectins and its implications for autoimmune diseases. The article talks about the effect of lectins on the gut lining and inflammation markers. Inflammation is linked to many serious medical conditions like heart disease, cancer, and depression. A diet that reduces inflammation has the potential to improve most chronic health conditions.
The Plant Paradox Diet is not just a new idea from one wacko doctor. Another similar healing protocol backed with tons of research is very well-known. It’s called the autoimmune protocol, which has been promoted by Dr. Amy Myers and Dr. Sarah Ballantyne. You probably have heard of it. The autoimmune protocol eliminates the foods that have been shown to consistently cause inflammation among autoimmune sufferers.
These foods include:
- Nightshade Vegetables
- Seeds & Nuts
- All grains and pseudo-grains
The autoimmune eliminates alternative sweeteners and dairy, which the Plant Paradox Diet allows. Conversely, the autoimmune protocol allows zucchini, peas, and beans, which are not included in the Plant Paradox. However, one of the main overarching principles in both protocols is to reduce the number of lectins you consume.
Autoimmune conditions can’t be cured, but they can go into remission. Diets like the autoimmune protocol and the Plant Paradox have been shown to help keep your symptoms under control.
Criticism of the Plant Paradox Diet
The most popular diets are usually also controversial. The Plant Paradox is no exception. You can’t deny all the success stories that abound on the Plant Paradox Diet. However, many experts argue that the success stories are not due to the absence of lectins, but rather to the absence of pizzas and other junk foods.
Lectins or Leaky Gut
Most lectins can’t be digested, but when eaten in appropriate amounts, this isn’t usually a problem in a healthy gut. They travel through the digestive tracts along non-digestible fibers and become food for your gut bacteria. However, when you have gut permeability (leaky gut), these foreign compounds “leak” into the body and cause an immune reaction. Just like I explain in Paleo 101, the issue is not necessarily the food compound itself, but the fact that your gut lining is damaged.
Since lectins are so widely distributed in food items commonly consumed by humans and have been for many centuries, most nutrition experts assume they don’t pose a significant risk to human health.
In fact, many lectins have health benefits. The body uses them to achieve basic functions like cell-to-cell adherence, inflammatory modulation, and programmed cell death. Like I mentioned earlier in this article, lectins travel undigested through your intestinal tract and provide food for your good gut bacteria. Furthermore, lectins can act as an antioxidant and protect from free radicals.
Risks Associated With a Lectin-Free Diet
The Plant Paradox Diet is a restrictive plan, which may make it difficult for some people to follow it long-term. The plan also limits or cuts out many nutritious foods, such as beans and certain vegetables. I am also very surprised that it doesn’t eliminate dairy. Gluten and dairy are no doubt the most inflammatory foods. Fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, are the most nutrient-dense, important food you can eat. Many fruits and vegetables not allowed on the Plant Paradox Diet are allowed on the autoimmune protocol. Autoimmune sufferers experience relief from their symptoms by avoiding nightshades, grains, and legumes without drastically reducing other lectin-containing vegetables.
Lectin-Free Diets Drastically Decrease Fiber
Legumes and fruits and vegetable peels, despite the lectin content, provide dietary fiber that helps support your gut health. For more information about foods to heal your gut, read my post Most Healing Foods for the Gut.
Diets with an abundance of foods like legumes have been linked with reduced cancer rates and increased longevity.
Human Studies Are Lacking
Most studies about lectins are conducted on animals, not humans. The research is sparse and the claims may be biased. For example, Dr. Gundy claims that legumes cause weight gain when research proves otherwise.
Lectin-Free Diets Reduce Nutrients
Here are some examples of the foods you would be missing out on a lectin-free diet:
- Tomatoes: Lycopene, a beneficial nutrient found in tomatoes. It is a powerful antioxidant that promotes heart health and protects against sun damage.
- Squashes and pumpkins: Contain a wide range of phytonutrients. They also appear to be beneficial for a healthy intestinal ecosystem, despite containing lectins.
- Legumes: Are a valuable source of protein and contain phytochemicals that have been shown to decrease colon cancer rates. Legumes have a protective effect on your gut because they are rich in fibers, such as resistant starch.
Should You Try the Plant Paradox Diet?
When deciding if you should try a diet, it’s a good idea to ask yourself if you can see yourself doing it in six months. Any dietary change has to be sustained long term to remain effective. Of course, you can start by trying it to see if it will improve your symptoms and help you reach your health goals. Just be aware that you may not be able to return to your “regular” eating habits if you want to keep benefiting from the diet.
Solutions for Long-Term Healing
The Plant Paradox for Weight Loss
The Plant Paradox may help you reach your weight loss goals because it removes inflammatory foods and junk foods from your diet. Like many healthy diets, Dr. Steven Gundry’s Plant Paradox diet plan allows for high-quality protein, healthy fats, healthy starch, and plenty of produce. This winning food combination will help you reach your weight loss goals. Just remember that healthy eating has to become a lifestyle for your weight loss to be long term. If your main goal is weight loss, be aware that a lectin-free diet is not necessary. Read the following posts to learn about other ways to maintain a healthy weight:
- Intermittent Fasting for Women
- How to Lose Your Belly Fat in the Next 5 Days
- How I Was Able to Lose Weight on the Paleo Diet
If you are concerned about the effect of lectins on your gut lining, you can reduce lectins without going on the Paradox Diet.
How to Reduce Lectins From Your Diet Without Going On the Plant Paradox Diet
Soaking and cooking is by far the most effective method to reduce lectins from your diet. Soak beans and legumes overnight, and change the water often. Drain and rinse again before cooking. Last tip: Cook your beans and very high heat by using a pressure cooker as the high heat will destroy most of the lectins.
More ways to reduce lectins include:
- Fermentation: Friendly bacteria in the fermentation process digests the anti-nutrients, and can reduce lectins by up to 95 percent.
- Sprouting: Sprouting your grains for up to 48 hours can reduce lectins by around 20%.
- Peeling or rinsing: Lectins are water-soluble, you can peel or rinse the peels of your veggies.
- Deseeding: For example, remove the seeds of your tomatoes.
If you implement these strategies, you may not need to adopt a lectin-free diet.
There is some evidence to support the claim that some lectins contribute to inflammation and autoimmune diseases. However, the general population probably doesn’t need to adopt a lectin-free lifestyle. A diet free of the most common triggers like gluten, dairy, and processed foods may be enough to help you reach your goal weight and feel great without having to avoid long lists of lectin-containing foods. If you enjoy experimenting with various eating styles, you can experiment with the Plant Paradox Diet and see if the benefits are worth it for you. If you feel a bit overwhelmed by the idea of following all the food restrictions, it may be wise to start with a less restrictive plan like the Paleo Diet.