If you have a thyroid disorder or an autoimmune condition and are struggling to lose weight, headlines of singer Kelly Clarkson’s dramatic transformation using the Plant Paradox diet might leave you wondering if it could leave you svelte too.
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Cleveland Clinic dietitian Dana Bander, MPH, RD, LD, CDE, says it’s entirely possible, though she cautions that the eating plan, based on “The Plant Paradox” by Steven Gundry, MD, isn’t a silver bullet ― let alone a proven, best choice.
“We all have very different compositions,” she says. “Different diets work for different people. Some people would thrive on it. But others would not like the foods on the diet and do horribly.”
The Palm Springs cardiac surgeon advocates an eating plan that shuns lectins, a type of protein found in common foods, like wheat, beans, potatoes, nuts and dairy. His controversial theory maintains eliminating (or finding substitutes for) these foods helps you lose weight and recover from chronic health conditions.
The more likely reason Clarkson successfully lost weight and improved her thyroid health on the Plant Paradox, she proposes, may be because the diet eliminated heavily processed foods that plague the Standard American Diet.
“People are eating all of these processed foods and are getting sick,” Bander says. “We’re seeing them in their 30s, 40s and 50s and they have illnesses of old age because they’re eating junk. What the Plant Paradox does is takes folks off of all the processed foods and puts them on whole foods. People are going to feel better, and they’re going to lose weight.”
- Kelly Clarkson Just Lost 37 Pounds on This Diet—But Should You Try It?
- What Is The Plant Paradox About?
- What are Lectins—and Are They Bad for You?
- What Foods Contain Lectins?
- Debunking The Plant Paradox: What’s Fact, What’s Fiction?
- Mayo Clinic Q and A: What are dietary lectins and should you avoid eating them?
- The Lectin-Free Diet: Is it Just Another Fad?
- Similar articles
- So, what are lectins?
- What is the lectin-free diet?
- Can it actually help you lose weight?
- Should you ditch lectin?
- Exactly What To Eat When You’re Going Lectin-Free
- Eat Your Beans but Skip Reading Dr. Steven Gundry’s ”The Longevity Paradox”: Flaws and Fruits
- What are lectins?
- The downsides of a lectin-free diet
- But … it seems like it worked really well for Clarkson
- The Gundry Diet Is Trending. But Does It Actually Work?
- Is The Gundry Diet Healthy?
- What Is The Gundry Diet?
- What You Eat
- What You Don’t Eat
- Pros and Cons
- The Bottom Line
- The food pyramid like you’ve never seen it before
- Who is Dr Gundry?
- Dr Gundry’s new food pyramid
- Intermittent fasting
- Go lectin-free
- Limit protein
- Also limit dairy
- Alcohol is allowed
- Foods to avoid completely
Are lectins really a problem?
While the Plant Paradox preaches lectins are “edible enemies” and designed to prevent predators (including humans) from devouring plants, Bander says there’s no hard evidence supporting they’re truly toxic.
“Not very many people believe that lectins are a problem,” she says. Lectin-bashing is widely controversial and flies in the face of age-old vegetarian populations in many parts of the world, such as India, that have successfully thrived on a diet rich in lectin-containing beans.
Many dietitians point out that cooking also reduces the lectin levels in foods dramatically, and no one’s noshing on raw chickpeas or red lentils.
Kicking traditional diets to the curb
If you’re watching the numbers on the scale, you might be tempted by fad diets. But Bander says a better approach is to choose an eating plan you can stick with.
“I don’t like diets because people are waiting to go off their diet and go back to eating the way they always did,” she says. “You need something that’s sustainable.”
When evaluating a diet, Bander recommends asking yourself: “Can I imagine myself doing this in three months? In six months?” If you can’t, you’ll gain the weight back. And that ruins your metabolic rate.
“We see people who’ve been yo-yo dieters for all their lives who can’t lose a darn thing on 1,000 calories a day,” she says.
A better approach for people with autoimmune diseases, Bander says, is to get healthy on the inside. “Even if you don’t lose weight, you’ll handle your thyroid or the pain in your joints.”
A more realistic, proven option
If you truly need the notion of a diet to give your eating structure, the one to pick is the Mediterranean Diet, Bander says.
“I believe in getting away from processed foods. The Mediterranean Diet is a good example,” she says. “You have to embrace vegetables and also prepare your own foods.”
Sound daunting? Bander suggests the best way to get started is to simply get started. Make one small change at a time.
“If you do these major overhauls like Kelly Clarkson, you might not be able to maintain it all at once,” she says.
Instead, just make one positive change. Start with whatever you can do: Wander around the farmer’s market or grocery store and pick out one new vegetable that you’ve never tried. Or maybe prepare it a different way. Oven-roast your veggies instead of always thinking “vegetables” means “salad.”
“You want it to be something you’re 99 to 100 percent positive you can do,” Bander emphasizes. “You want to build on positive change. If you can do that one thing successfully, then you can add … and add.”
Kelly Clarkson Just Lost 37 Pounds on This Diet—But Should You Try It?
Though she’s a Grammy-award winning artist, Kelly Clarkson seems like the girl next door thanks to her down-to-earth approach on weight and body image. In fact, Clarkson shared last year that she’d made the decision to not work with those who pressured her about body weight. So Kelly’s noticeably slimmer physique at the CMT awards in early June naturally got people wondering about her diet.
Kelly says a thyroid condition triggered her to adopt a “clean eating” plan, which she based on Dr. Steve Gundry’s book The Plant Paradox. Since then, Gundry’s book has been flying off the shelves, and the terms “plant paradox” and “lectin-free diet” are trending online. Clarkson is quick to say that “weight loss wasn’t the goal,” but her eating changes have resulted in a 37-pound weight loss—so what exactly is The Plant Paradox, and is it an approach we should all be following?
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What Is The Plant Paradox About?
The Plant Paradox is based on Dr. Gundry’s theory that plants are smarter than we give them credit for and, like animals, they have defense mechanisms they use for survival. One of the primary forms of chemical and “biological warfare” that plants use on the human body to defend themselves is lectins—a group of proteins that can leak through intestinal walls into the bloodstream, where they disrupt neural and hormonal communication between cells and trigger confusion within the immune system to cause inflammation.
Dr. Gundry suggests that lectins—and these changes—are at the root of autoimmune conditions, weight gain, and most chronic health issues. The problem is, humans haven’t gotten smart enough to stop eating the foods that contain them.
Kelly Clarkson is finally talking about her apparent weight loss https://t.co/A6oZK25jvl pic.twitter.com/M9LWt44N4K
— New York Post (@nypost) June 9, 2018
What are Lectins—and Are They Bad for You?
Lectins are found in most foods—but particularly plant foods—and they are highest in legumes, whole grains, and some vegetables and fruits. Lectins are classified as “anti-nutrients” which means they are compounds known to reduce the body’s absorption or usage of a food’s nutrients.
From a biological perspective, lectins serve as a defense mechanism within plants to protect them from insects, fungi and pathogens, and some lectin-containing foods can cause illness if eaten raw or undercooked. Dr. Gundry’s focus in The Plant Paradox is that plants use lectins as ammunition to attack the body and to deter humans from eating lectin-containing foods. He advises that humans should consume a lectin-free diet to heal the body and to restore health.
What Foods Contain Lectins?
Lectins are found in 30 percent of our food supply, so a “drastically-reduced lectin diet” is probably a better name than a “lectin-free diet.” Here are foods with little to no lectin recommended in The Plant Paradox, followed by foods high in lectin to avoid.
Foods with Little or No Lectin
- Cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, and other vegetables without seeds
- Most fruits, in limited amounts
- Some starchy vegetables (particularly those with resistant starch)
- Most oils, tree nuts, and seeds
- Wild-caught fish, grass-fed meat, and pasture-raised poultry
- Goat and sheep milk and cheeses, milk, and cheese without A1 protein
Foods High in Lectins
- All forms of grains, including whole, refined, and flours (wheat, quinoa, all forms of rice, oats, corn and corn products)
- Beans, lentils, and peas
- Soy foods like edamame and tofu
- Fruits often referred to as vegetables such as cucumber, tomato, all squash, peppers, melons, and eggplant
- Vegetables with seeds or beans, such as green beans and sugar snap peas
- Peanuts, cashews, chia, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds
- Cow’s milk, and most products made with cow’s milk (including yogurts, ice creams, and cheeses)
Lectins and Leaky Gut
Most lectins can’t be digested, but when eaten in appropriate amounts, this isn’t usually a problem in a healthy gut. Along with non-digestible fibers, many lectins will travel through the digestive tract to eventually become waste products. However, when gut microbes are reduced or unbalanced, gaps are created in the intestinal walls.
This allows nutrients to be absorbed through intestinal walls as in a healthy gut, but these gaps also allow undigested and foreign compounds to “leak” into the body—sometimes referred to as leaky gut. This leaking can trigger an inflammatory response within the body when certain lectins are consumed in excessive amounts or when an individual has a sensitivity to particular lectins.
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Debunking The Plant Paradox: What’s Fact, What’s Fiction?
There’s nothing I love more than new research changing the way we think about nutrition and health—BUT it’s got to be from a professional source and have substantial, credible references to back it up. So, I was intrigued to learn more about Dr. Gundry’s theories because of his medical background and the numerous references given throughout the book.
However, what I found when reviewing many of those citations was that he repeatedly takes the liberty to embellish scientific study results or to spin results slightly toward his viewpoint. In addition, he cites websites such as ProteinPower, Dr. Axe, and as credible sources for health information—sources that wouldn’t even fly on a high school research paper.
There are some bits of truth within his book though, and Dr. Gundry’s lectin-free diet recommendations appear to be the answer to weight and health issues for many. So before jumping on The Plant Paradox bandwagon, let’s take several of Dr. Gundry’s key points and separate what’s backed by scientific research from what’s a a half-truth or exaggeration.
1. Lectins cause inflammation.
This is partly true. There are numerous studies suggesting that lectins can trigger an immune response in certain individuals with a lectin sensitivity, food allergy, or autoimmune condition. These people would likely benefit from eliminating certain lectin-containing foods. There are at least 119 types of identified lectins, though, so even sensitive individuals may not have to eliminate all lectin-containing foods.
In terms of lectin being inflammatory for the general population, there are few, if any, humans studies to support this—only ones done in a lab or on animals. Additionally, there is overwhelming research to suggest that key lectin-containing foods have an anti-inflammatory effect. In fact, increasing overall consumption of fruits and vegetables is actually associated with decreasing inflammatory markers in the body and reducing risk for many inflammation-related conditions. Intake of lower-glycemic, whole-grains is also associated with reduced inflammatory markers.
2. Lectins cause weight gain.
Dr. Gundry states that lectins “stimulate weight gain,” but this has not been proven to be true. In fact, there’s substantial research to suggest the opposite. Higher whole-grain and legume intakes is associated with having a lower BMI, and increasing consumption of beans, lentils, and peas appears to support weight loss. Increased fruit and vegetable intake has not been found to cause weight gain and is associated with weight loss maintenance.
3. Lectins are “toxic” to the body.
This is true; large amounts of certain raw lectins can cause nausea and vomiting. Raw red kidney beans are an example that can trigger illness due to toxicity from a certain lectin. But who eats kidney beans raw? Proper cooking reduces those lectins in red kidney beans to safe levels, and cooking drastically decreases lectin levels in all food.
Furthermore, lectins may actually have therapeutic uses in the body. One of the most promising is in treating cancer since certain lectins have demonstrated potential to kill cancers cells and halt cancer growth.
4. Lectins are the cause of most health issues.
This is not true. The current consensus is that the powerful positive benefits associated with antioxidant compounds, fiber, and other nutrients in lectin-containing foods like produce, legumes, and whole grains greatly outweighs any potential negatives. In fact, increasing overall consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes. Higher whole-grain consumption is associated with a lower risk of cancer and heart disease, and higher legume intake with reduced cholesterol, improved blood pressure, and better glucose response.
The Bottom Line: There’s nothing that I love more than challenging existing science knowledge, but The Plant Paradox hasn’t presented me with compelling credible research to advocate a lectin-free diet for the average person. I can’t agree that lectins are at the root of health issues, and I definitely can’t agree that health will improve by avoiding lectin-containing foods like legumes, whole grains and many vegetables and fruits
Mayo Clinic Q and A: What are dietary lectins and should you avoid eating them?
DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I keep reading about weight loss and other health benefits from a diet where people eliminate lectins. Is there any truth to the claim that a lectin-free diet can cure autoimmune diseases and other health problems?
ANSWER: No scientific evidence exists to show that eliminating dietary lectins will cure any medical disorders or conditions, including autoimmune diseases. But your diet certainly can have an effect on the way you feel, especially if you have a chronic condition. If you have a medical concern triggering symptoms that seem to be related to the foods you eat, consider talking with a registered dietitian, who can review your diet and offer suggestions for modifying it in a way that may help ease your symptoms.
Lectins are naturally occurring proteins that are found in most plants. Some foods that contain higher amounts of lectins include beans, peanuts, lentils, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, fruits, and wheat and other grains. Lectins serve a protective function for plants as they grow. They don’t have any nutritional value when consumed in foods.
Some research seems to indicate that taking in large quantities of raw lectins could have negative health effects. The amount you’d need to consume each day to get to that level, however, is much higher than a typical diet would include. And studies have shown that lectins break down when processed or cooked, so the risk of adverse health effects arising from lectin-rich foods that aren’t raw is not cause for concern.
In addition, most foods that contain lectins are recommended as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. There’s a well-established body of scientific evidence that clearly supports the benefits of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The health benefits you receive from including those foods in your diet outweigh any perceived benefits from avoiding foods with lectins. With that in mind, a diet that avoids lectins is not one most dietitians would typically recommend.
Also, if you’re eating a diet that includes a variety of foods and you’re having symptoms that make you feel unwell, it often can be difficult to pinpoint the specific source of the problem on your own. It could be an allergy or a food intolerance, or it may not be related to your diet at all.
If you’re in that situation, consider working with a registered dietitian, or a health care provider and a dietitian team, to sort out the cause of your symptoms. Some medical centers have dietitians that specialize in gastrointestinal issues, and those professionals can be particularly helpful in these kinds of cases.
A dietitian may recommend, for example, a short-term elimination diet, excluding certain categories of foods that tend to cause allergic reactions most often. Once those foods have been taken out of a diet, they then can carefully be reintroduced in an effort to identify possible causes of food-related symptoms. Based on that or on other evaluations, a dietitian then can make recommendations that fit the situation.
Rather than using a generalized approach and trying to apply it to everyone — such as avoiding all food with lectins — a diet that’s structured and overseen by a dietitian and based on scientific evidence can be customized to accommodate a person’s individual sensitivities. That type of systematic approach typically yields better long-term results than just avoiding a certain kind of food or a food ingredient and hoping to feel better. — Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., Endocrinology/Nutrition, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
The Lectin-Free Diet: Is it Just Another Fad?
John Egan May 22, 2018 Nutrition Email Print Twitter Pinterest Facebook
This post was most recently updated on June 21st, 2019
Dr. Steven Gundry reigns as the king of the controversial lectin-free diet.
In his 2017 book, “The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in ‘Healthy’ Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain,” Gundry makes the case for avoiding a group of plant-based proteins known as lectins. The lifestyle physician and former cardiac surgeon, whose devotees include actress Gwyneth Paltrow, life coach Tony Robbins and TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, recently followed up that book with a lectin-free cookbook.
The 2017 book argues that lectins are a “hidden toxin lurking in seemingly healthy foods” such as beans, brown rice, nuts, potatoes, quinoa, tomatoes and zucchini — seven staples of a plant-based diet. Gundry says these purported toxins are tied an assortment of inflammation-related health problems, such as cancer and diabetes.
Critics, including many nutrition professionals, insist Gundry doesn’t know beans about lectin. And they condemn his much-hyped lectin-free diet as yet another potentially harmful fad.
In promoting a lectin-free lifestyle, Gundry told Paltrow’s Goop.com that he’s “become convinced that plant lectins and the havoc they promote are the root causes of almost all diseases.” Among other ailments, Gundry links lectins to:
- Damage to the digestive system.
- “Leaky gut” syndrome.
- Weight gain.
To escape those and other consequences of consuming lectins, Gundry recommends dumping foods high in lectins from your diet, such as milk, rice, potatoes, bread, beans, lentils, most nuts, tomatoes (unless peeled and deseeded), cucumbers (unless peeled and deseeded), chia, pumpkin seeds, tofu, soy protein and a variety of sweeteners (including sugar).
So, what can you eat, according to Gundry? Among the foods that make his “yes” list are:
- 12 types of oil (such as avocado, coconut and olive).
- Sweeteners like Stevia and monk fruit.
- Nuts and seeds like pecans, pine nuts, chestnuts, flaxseed, hempseed and sesame seeds.
- Almond, coconut and hazelnut flours.
- More than a dozen types of fish and seafood.
- Plants like algae, asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, leafy greens, mushrooms, seaweed and spinach.
- Pasture-raised poultry, such as chicken and turkey.
- Grass-fed meat, such as beef, pork and lamb.
OK, now that you’re up to speed on some of the foods that get a thumbs-up and thumbs-down from Gundry, should you go down the lectin-free path? Nutrition professionals recommend taking a detour.
“To put it generously, it is fair to say that Dr. Gundry has not made a convincing argument that lectins as a class are hazardous,” T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Thomas Campbell wrote on the website for the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, which advocates for plant-based dieting.
The Campbells call out Gundry for making a variety of assertions about lectins that haven’t been subjected to rigorous scientific scrutiny. Plus, they note that all lectins should not be swept aside with a broad brush, as some of them actually are beneficial; for instance, researchers think lectins might wield antimicrobial and anti-cancer properties.
“The lectin-free diet is a fad that should be ignored. It is basically an attempt to scare you away from eating a healthy, low-fat, plant-based diet and toward eating a fatty, animal-based diet instead,” says Laura Endicott Thomas, author of “Where Do Gorillas Get their Protein? What We Really Know About Diet and Health.” “It is also an excuse for selling some extremely expensive supplements of questionable value.”
On his website, Gundry markets a dietary supplement called the Lectin Shield that promises to protect your body from an overabundance of lectins. The 120-capsule bottle sells for $79.99, or about 66 cents per capsule.
Registered dietitian nutritionist Sharon Palmer, who bills herself as the “Plant-Powered Dietitian,” explains that lectin is an antinutrient found in plant foods that can disrupt our body’s absorption of nutrients. However, experts say, while some antinutrients aren’t good for you, others are. Therefore, shielding ourselves from all antinutrients might not be advisable.
That situation is similar to the concern over lectins being toxic: Some lectins are bad for you, while others are harmless. Raw or undercooked red kidney beans, for instance, do contain toxic lectins. But as long as those beans are properly washed and cooked, then they don’t pose a toxic threat.
“Eliminating whole groups of nutritious foods for reasons that aren’t backed up by any science is unfortunately a common trend, and lectins are the newest ‘toxic’ thing,” registered dietitian nutritionist Kaleigh McMordie says.
McMordie and others emphasize that foods with higher amounts of lectins — and, by association, many whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables — shouldn’t be banished from our diet. In fact, the opposite might be true. Palmer and other experts point out that foods like beans and whole grains have been proven to offer a plethora of health benefits.
“During World War I, the food rationing system in Denmark allowed people to eat all of the grains and potatoes and beans that they wanted but dramatically reduced their access to fats and animal-source foods,” Thomas says. “As a result, Denmark had the lowest death rate in its history. Evidently, that huge increase in the intake of lectins did the Danes no harm.”
Any diet, such as the lectin-free diet, that mandates strict elimination of commonly eaten foods can raise stress and anxiety levels related to food, McMordie says.
“Eating becomes much less convenient and more of a chore for the person who is always trying to find something free of a ‘toxic’ ingredient,” McMordie says. “This type of eating, when taken to extremes, can lead to disordered eating patterns or even a full-blown eating disorder.”
A resident of Austin, Texas, since 1999, John Egan has more than 20 years of experience in journalism, brand journalism, blogging, communications and public relations. Aside from Vitacost, John writes for Credit Karma, LendingTree, CultureMap Austin, Muck Rack and other outlets. From 1999 to 2006, John was editor and managing editor of the Austin Business Journal. John’s interests include sports, movies, music, travel and dining out. A native of Kansas, John earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in communications from Southern New Hampshire University.
A resident of Austin, Texas, since 1999, John Egan has more than 20 years of experience in journalism, brand journalism, blogging, communications and public relations. Aside from Vitacost, John writes for Credit Karma, LendingTree, CultureMap Austin, Muck Rack and other outlets. From 1999 to 2006, John was editor and managing editor of the Austin Business Journal. John’s interests include sports, movies, music, travel and dining out. A native of Kansas, John earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in communications from Southern New Hampshire University.
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Move over, gluten. There’s a new something that could be the cause of all of your wellness woes: Lectins.
Lectins are a naturally occurring protein found in beans, legumes, whole grains, and some vegetables. Lectins recently hit the big time after Steven Gundry, MD, a cardiac surgeon, singled them out in his book The Plant Paradox. In the book, he says that lectins are dangerous because they increase inflammation, and cause digestive woes and chronic diseases. Oh, and they can make you fat. Yikes.
That’s prompted a lot of people to cut out foods high in lectins from their diet (including Kelly Clarkson, who says she lost 37 pounds without exercising after reading The Plant Paradox). But is it really worth it—and are there any downsides you should know about? Here’s what you need to know about following a lectin-free diet.
What are lectins?
Lectins are a class of plant proteins that bind to certain sugars. Lectins may be a defense mechanism for plants to keep insects and animals from eating them. They’re sometimes called “antinutrients,” according to Dr. Gundry, because they interfere with nutrient absorption and digestion.
Foods high in lectins
- Beans and legumes, including soy and peanuts
- Whole grains
- Nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers
- Cow’s milk and eggs (because dairy cows and commercial chickens are fed lectin-containing grains like wheat and corn)
Are lectins bad for you?
Lectins are thought by some to act as an inflammatory toxin. “One of the claims is that they incite ‘biological warfare’ in the body to cause weight gain, digestive problems, acne, arthritis, and brain fog,” explains Christine Palumbo, RD, a registered dietitian and Nominating Committee member for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Those are some pretty hefty allegations, and they’re not totally false. Red kidney beans in particular contain a type of lectin called phytohaemagglutinin. It can be toxic even in small amounts—but only if you were to eat the beans raw, which you’d probably never even consider doing. Cooking them deactivates the lectin and renders it harmless, according to the FDA. (The one exception is dried kidney beans cooked in a slow cooker, where the temperature isn’t high enough to deactivate the lectin.)
Some studies have also found that certain lectins can cause damage to the digestive tract. But most experts agree that the findings aren’t really applicable to humans. “They’ve looked at purified, isolated lectins, not lectins in the context of food. And they’ve been done in test tubes or on animals,” explains Megan Meyer, PhD, director of scientific communication at the International Food Information Council Foundation. “I haven’t seen anything with human studies, or even in clinically relevant situations that look at lectins in the diet.”
How to follow a lectin-free diet
If you’re worried about how lectin-containing foods are affecting your health, then you can reduce the lectins in your diet by steering clear of processed or packaged foods that contain them. Sometimes they’re obvious—like a jar of tomato sauce or canned black bean soup. But sometimes they’re sneaky: There might be a soy-based thickener in your store-bought salad dressing or a corn-based sweetener in your breakfast cereal, for instance.
Dr. Gundry realizes it’s hard to eliminate lectin-containing foods altogether, so he recommends soaking beans and grains before cooking them to help reduce the amount of lectins. He also says that pressure cooking, peeling and deseeding, and fermenting can help.
What to eat on a lectin-free diet
The FDA says that cooking the beans deactivates the lectin and renders it harmless. (The one exception is dried kidney beans cooked in a slow cooker, where the temperature isn’t high enough to deactivate the lectin.) Based on British studies, the FDA also advises soaking beans in water for at least five hours, drain the beans, and boil them in fresh water for at least 30 minutes.
That said, there are plenty of lectin-free foods to enjoy. Check out this complete lectin-free food list, which includes:
- Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts
- Olive oil
- Leafy greens such as spinach, kale and Romaine lettuce
- Herbs such as parsley, mint, basil, and cilantro
Are there risks of a lectin-free diet?
Well, no, a lectin-free diet probably won’t hurt you. But it probably won’t do you any good, either, say Palumbo and Meyer. Not only would it be really difficult—there’s no good evidence showing that you might benefit. “These fearmongers who want to sell books, they’re charlatans,” Palumbo says. “They’re looking for that little something that they can inflate into a dramatic claim. It’s taking a little bit of correct information, but it’s not the whole story.”
What’s more, there’s a good chance that you’d miss out on some important nutrients. Whole grains, beans, and vegetables are rich sources of fiber, which is universally recognized as important for maintaining a healthy weight, lowering the risk for heart disease, and promoting healthy blood sugar levels. “So the research points to the converse, Meyer says. “These foods help us, they don’t hurt.”
The one exception? If you struggle with digestive problems and haven’t found relief by eliminating other foods (like gluten or FODMAPs), there’s no harm in seeing whether getting rid of lectins might help, Palumbo says. Just make sure to work with a registered dietitian, preferably one who specializes in digestive issues. They can oversee your diet to ensure that you’re eliminating foods in right way and that you’ll still get all the nutrition you need.
Marygrace Taylor Marygrace Taylor is a health and wellness writer for Prevention, Parade, Women’s Health, Redbook, and others.
- Lectins are proteins in plants that potentially cause inflammation and weight gain
- A California cardiologist first promoted the idea of cutting out lectin foods for weight loss and better health
- But lectins are found in lots of otherwise-healthy foods, including vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds.
- Experts agree that most people might miss crucial nutrients if they try a lectin-free diet
Keto, paleo, gluten-free. There’s always an “it” diet that pops up every year, sporting an extensive list of can and can’t-eat foods that makes grocery shopping a minefield.
In his book, The Plant Paradox, Steven Gundry, M.D., a cardiologist and heart surgeon based in Southern California, claims that any food with the plant protein lectin is your worst enemy when it comes to weight loss.
But here’s the thing about lectins: They’re found in foods you’ve always thought good for you—like whole grains, squash, tomatoes, beans, nuts, and a lot of animal proteins. And that’s just the short list.
Gundry claims that humans weren’t intended to eat foods containing lectins and that eliminating those foods can decrease inflammation, boost weight loss, and lead to an overall healthier lifestyle. But is this really legit? We talked to Gundry and a few experts to find out.
So, what are lectins?
Lectins are proteins naturally found in many foods, especially grains and beans. They like to bind to carbohydrates, which can help cells interact and communicate with each other.
In plants, lectins play defense, Gundry tells WomensHealthMag.com. They’re how plants protect themselves against being eaten. By making insects and animals feel sick to their stomach, lectins discourage them from eating lectin-filled plants again.
“Anytime a diet starts to take out a massive amount of food groups, it’s a little faddish by nature.”
In humans, Gundry says that eating lectins provokes an inflammatory response—which can lead to weight gain and other serious health conditions, such as leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
What is the lectin-free diet?
“The lectin-free diet takes out high lectin foods like grains, quinoa, legumes, and nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant,” says registered dietitian Amy Goodson.
Also on the do-not-eat list: dairy, out-of-season fruit, and conventionally-raised meat and poultry. Womp, womp.
Instead, the diet suggests you load your plate with low-lectin foods like leafy greens, veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, and asparagus, mushrooms, nuts and seeds, millet, pasture-raised meats, and wild-caught fish.
Can it actually help you lose weight?
Gundry says that he’s personally lost 70 pounds on a lectin-free diet, and that he’s put many of his patients on this plan as well. “The amazing thing is when people change nothing except removing major lectins, they start losing weight and they still are eating lots of calories, but we’re not storing it as fat anymore,” Gundry says.
He also cites a 2006 study that indicates that a lectin-free diet can have a positive effect on people with cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome (a group of conditions indicated by increased blood pressure, high blood-sugar levels, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels).
However, other experts are skeptical about how effective it is. “Anytime a diet starts to take out a massive amount of food groups, it’s a little more faddish by nature,” says Goodson. “The benefits of eating whole grains and vegetables, which provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber, significantly outweigh the risk that a small amount of lectin will cause GI issues.”
“We should eat more, not less produce.”
Plus, most foods with lectins can be super beneficial for weight loss, says Samantha Cassetty, R.D. For example, one 2017 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition linked whole grains with weight loss. And another study published in the same journal found that people who consumed pulses over a six-week period (a.k.a. beans, lentils, chickpeas) lost significantly more weight than those who didn’t consume any pulses.
However, Leah Kaufman, R.D., has seen weight-loss success in patients with IBS through eliminating certain lectin-containing foods via a low FODMAP diet, which cuts out foods like beans and starchy vegetables.
Goodson does admit that lectins can be troublesome in high quantities, or when you eat lectin-rich foods raw. “But I don’t know who eats chickpeas or quinoa raw,” she says. In fact, simply soaking beans and grains overnight and cooking them reduces the amount of lectins that can cause GI distress. Peeling and de-seeding nightshades can help too.
Plus, there are many different types of lectins. Some are anti-microbial and may have anti-cancer potential (woot!), while other lectins aren’t so good for you. But research is a little iffy on both sides. “The majority of research have been animal and in vitro studies, not studies in humans,” says Goodson. So take the findings with a grain of salt.
Should you ditch lectin?
While going lectin-free may help some people, it likely won’t solve everyone’s stomach issues. “It’s not one of those things that should be applied globally,” says Goodson. “If you’re having serious issues, talk to your doctor or see a registered dietitian.”
Plus, only 10 percent of Americans get the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables, says Goodson, so we should eat more, not less produce. “If you look at the benefits of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for heart health and lowering disease risk, I’m going to argue that a little bit of fruit and vegetables are going to help people versus harm them,” says Goodson.
The bottom line: Unless you struggle with digestion issues, you’re probably better off sticking to a diet that’s easier to follow for the long run. After all, that’s what leads to weight loss that lasts.
Christine Yu Christine Yu is a freelance writer, yoga teacher, and avid runner who regularly covers health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness for outlets like Well + Good, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, and Outside. Elizabeth Bacharach Elizabeth Bacharach is the Assistant Editor at Women’s Health where she writes and edits content about mental and physical health, food and nutrition, sexual health, and lifestyle trends across WomensHealthMag.com and the print magazine.
Exactly What To Eat When You’re Going Lectin-Free
One of the most controversial topics we covered in 2017 was the lectin-free diet. Lectins trickled into our daily conversation after we met with Dr. Gundry and read his best-selling book The Plant Paradox.
The book identifies lectins as a class of plant proteins that our bodies do not well tolerate (read our interview with Dr. Gundry in full here). Lectins are in everything from tomatoes and peppers to brown rice and quinoa. Dr. Gundry’s claims that removing them our diets could solve for many modern health woes had many of us ready for a lectin-free lifestyle. It also left us with the burning question: what the heck can we eat now?
Gundry’s new cookbook, The Plant Paradox Cookbook, promises to answer that question and more. Here are some foods we found in the book we thought were interesting. We didn’t expect to find a few of these classic indulgences on such a restrictive diet and the last five foods might be brand new discoveries for many..
Mozzarella + Parmesan Dr. Gundry is very specific about which dairy products are allowed. Lo and behold, two the most important(?) cheeses are lectin-free. Source from the correct animals and geography and you’re set. (See The Plant Paradox for details.)
Steak + other meats Yes, steak…but it must be grass-fed and grass-finished to be free of the lectins that come from a grain-filled animal’s diet.
Eggs Eggs too are included in the lectin-free way of life, but must be pasture-raised. Notice a pattern here? Like most all-natural diets, the lectin-free diet involves some very savvy shopping skills to properly enjoy meat, eggs and dairy.
champagne That’s right, on special occasions, Dr Gundry says a glass of bubbles (or red wines from Oregon and South America) is best. The lectin-free diet is sounding better and better!
coconut cream Dairy-free dieters, meet your new obsession. If you’ve not already discovered coconut cream, now it your chance to try. Whip it to replace whipped cream, pour it in recipes to replace heavy cream for dense nutrition and creamy texture.
algae oil Algae oil has becoming a popular cooking oil in the wellness world lately for it’s superior nutritional benefits. It’s rich in the omega-3 fat, DHA.
hemp tofu Hemp is an incredible source of protein, clean fats and minerals. If you’re avoiding soy, but love tofu – try hemp instead.
monk fruit There are a slew of great sweeteners without sugar on the market know. Just be sure they’re chemical free and – if you’re going lectin-free, go with monk fruit. Also sold granulated in tiny packets just like sugar.
brazilian cheesy bread We love this grain-free treat from Dr. Gundry’s new cookbook. Get the recipe here.
So what exactly are lectins?
Lectins are a type of naturally occurring protein found in many foods including legumes, grains, seeds and certain vegetables with smaller amounts present in eggs and dairy products.
They act as a glue binding carbohydrates together, which can help cells interact and communicate with each other.
RELATED: What Is The Ketogenic Diet And Should You Try It?
What is the premise of a lectin-free diet?
Dr. Steven Gundry says that plants use lectins to protect themselves against being eaten. He claims that in humans, eating these lectins results in Leaky Gut Syndrome and causes a range of unpleasant symptoms and autoimmune issues.
While there’s little science to back up this link, it’s true that some lectins can be harmful to humans. But it’s down to how they’re consumed.
“In some cases, it causes irritation of the gut lining and can lead to symptoms such as bloating, vomiting and diarrhoea,” Charlene Grosse, accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association Australia, told Women’s Health.
“This can particularly be seen when eating raw/uncooked legumes, as the lectin in these foods bind to and effect the lining of the gut, causing vomiting and diarrhoea in the consumer. However the reality is, that we don’t often eat food high in lectin (e.g. kidney beans) in their raw state, and once soaked and cooked, the lectin content is significantly reduced.”
What does the diet involve?
The lectin-free diet removes out high lectin foods like grains, quinoa, legumes, and nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. It also advocates ditching dairy, out-of-season fruit, and conventionally-raised meat and poultry.
Instead, they suggest piling your plate with low-lectin foods like leafy greens, cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, and asparagus, mushrooms, nuts and seeds, millet, pasture-raised meats, and wild-caught fish.
Gundry also offers a variety of supplements that claim to neutralise or reduce the negative effect of lectins.
RELATED: A Third Of Premature Deaths Could Be Avoided If We All Cut Out This Food
Are there science-backed health benefits of this diet?
Some research has shown both negative and positive effects of lectin, but the majority of studies have been done with isolated lectins, not actual foods, and have been conducted in test tubes or in animals, not in people.
“There is strong scientific evidence to support the health benefits of foods such as legumes, vegetables, nuts etc,” Charlene says. “However there is very little evidence surrounding the harmful effects of lectin.”
What are the risks associated with following a lectin-free diet?
“Removing lectin filled foods over a long period of time is likely to result in potential deficiencies, due to the vast array of vitamins, minerals and nutrients that these foods contain,” Charlene says. “Therefore the benefits of consuming these foods far outweigh any concern for the level of lectin that they contain in their raw state.”
Eat Your Beans but Skip Reading Dr. Steven Gundry’s ”The Longevity Paradox”: Flaws and Fruits
One of those physicians, Steven Gundry, MD, created much controversy in 2017 with the hypothesis that lectins in plant foods were the source of many chronic illnesses as outlined in his book, The Plant Paradox. Dr. Gundry references his “published” research and although a search on Pubmed reveals that his last peer reviewed full paper was on aortic surgery published in 2004. He has prepared an abstract of his results that is uniformly viewed in the scientific community as incomplete data not subject to the scrutiny of peer review. It also contains the unfortunate typo “Pant Paradox” in place of Plant Paradox.
Although The Plant Paradox spent weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list, it was not met without criticism. T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and Thomas Campbell, MD, authors of The China Study, identified serious flaws in the references used to support Gundry’s claims. Their concluding statement was “We can only hope that this newly invented fad, based on such unethical and self-serving behavior, will pass quickly”.
David Katz, MD, founder of the True Health Initiative, also questioned Gundry’s work. Dr. Katz concluded that “So, do you need to fear lectins now? Dr. Gundry, who reportedly will be happy to sell you supplements to replace the nutrients present in the foods he is telling you not to eat, says: yes. I say: hold your breath, and count to a thousand while contemplating the theoretical toxicities of oxygen. Long before you finish, the truth will likely come to you in a gasp”.
Michael Greger, MD evaluated the book in a video titled “Dr. Gundry’s The Plant Paradox is Wrong”.
Recently, Stephan Guyanet Ph.D. published a detailed review of the book and gave it a grade of scientific accuracy of only 26% on a scale of 1–100, suggesting it is more fiction than fact.
I had the opportunity to both write about the book, identifying groundless claims, and to debate Dr. Gundry on national TV. I wrote that “If this were a joke it would be a bad one. As a best-selling book praised by people who reach millions and millions of loyal followers, it is dangerous and akin to pointing out the risks of oxygen which is known to have the potential to damage tissues.”
The Longevity Paradox: 3 Major Flaws
I approach most new ideas with an open mind but also carry the credo “be open minded but not so open that your brains fall out”.
With that in mind, I was looking forward to some improvements in Dr. Gundry’s new tome. In fact, beans and other legumes seem to have been resurrected on page 229 as long as pressure cooked or from Eden Foods, a Michigan-based company I love. Beyond that, is it more of a Poopadox?
I will leave it to Dr. Guyanet and others to evaluate every reference in the book, but I was sincerely hoping that Dr. Gundry had upgraded his shoddy attempt to support his views with the many erroneous references in his Plant book. The new book is not much better. Without casting stones unnecessarily, most medical doctors attempting to write serious books follow a system of references called the APA style guide and quote actual scientific studies in that format. For reasons that can only be attributed to laziness, Dr. Gundry lists many trade websites from Science Daily, Medical News Today, Bloomberg’s, and Science Magazine that are used for Tweets but not for serious science writing. In Chapter 2, for example, Protect and Defend, Science Daily is listed as a reference 6 times, USA Today once, and Joseph Mercola once. Furthermore, the URL’s are listed in a print book making verification onerous. In a technique also used by Gary Taubes in the past, Dr. Gundry will list an entire book as a reference with no page number, again making it nearly impossible to verify the claim. He does this in Chapter 1, Ancient Genes Control Your Fate, reference 19.
Are the statements in the book accurately referenced or are there more shenanigans like in The Plant Paradox? Turn to Chapter One, reference. Dr. Gundry indicates that “it was those holobiomes and their genes that were making us age so quickly, not our human genes” referring to the trillions of bacteria and genes in the colon, skin, mouth and other sites. Is reference 1 about the microbiome, genes, or other flora that live in or on us? Not at all. It is an analysis from the database of nurses and physicians followed by the Harvard School of Public Health relating habits like eating potato chips, poor sleep, and lack of exercise to long-term weight gain. No measurement of the microbiome was performed. No measurements of genes were performed either and the reference fails to support the statement in the book. Indeed, eating fruit was associate with maintenance of a more ideal body weight, a point to consider below. Bad form Dr. Gundry.
One more reference early in the book might make you wonder about the authenticity of the research in The Longevity Paradox. In Chapter 1, the book indicates that “as a 2016 study on the impact of diet on longevity concluded, “nutrient uptake depends on your microbiome” and indicates it is supported by reference 5. This seems a rather reasonable statement and the word “your” suggests the study was about human physiology. Except the study was not in humans and did not conclude that with that statement. The study was performed in nematodes, or worms, 1 mm in length, that are used for basic science experiments. A rather big leap of faith to “your microbiome”. The conclusion actually stated the following “Our study shows that the longevity difference when feeding B. subtilis to C. elegans instead of E. coli is not a mere consequence of one diet being more nutritious than the other, but rather due to one diet containing factors that are detrimental to the worm. We also showed that signaling pathways that affect longevity can have more or less of an impact depending on the diet worms are fed. Our study illustrates the importance that the microbiome can have on influencing life expectancy.” Not your life expectancy, but that of worms. It is not OK to be in the “ballpark” when writing books advising the public on diet and lifestyle without indicating that the data might need to be confirmed humans. Again, shoddy, if not shitty, research again.
As a final note, I challenged Dr. Gundry to his face about the errors that abounded in The Plant Paradox and he responded that a Harvard student was paid to do it and had made errors. He never released a corrected version of that book and he has learned nothing in the process.
Shame, shame Dr. Gundry.
2) A Theory of Heart Disease Without Any References
On pages 97–101, Dr. Gundry provides a theory of atherosclerosis that he provides to support the central role of avoiding lectins for health, the thesis of his The Plant Paradox. He provides ideas about molecules called Neu5Gc and Neu5Ac and how the differences amongst species. As humans do not make Neu5Gc, or so he asserts, eating lectins, and particularly grain lectins, bind to our tissues which “lays the groundwork for heart and autoimmune diseases in spades”. How many references to scientific studies are provided in these 5 pages to support this novel and bold assertion? Zero! I was intrigued enough to do my own literature search and can confirm zero exist. This is another example of hypothesis or fiction presented as an established fact because Dr. Gundry has a white beard like Santa and a medical degree. Shame, shame.
3) Fruit, the Evil Food Since the Garden of Eden
In chapter 8, The Longevity Paradox Foods, Dr. Gundry provides a section on “Gut-destroying Bad Bug Favorites”. He focuses on sugars, including the sugar in fruit, as the main issue. His claim is that “fruits, sweet treats, and real of fake sugars…are a driving factor of the obesity epidemic”, seemingly equating an apple and a Milky Way bar (page 207). He advised avoiding grapes, mangoes, ripe bananas, lychees, apples, pineapple, and pears, listing the grams of sugar in each as if the sugar added to an energy drink had the same influence on the body as an apple. This is another section devoid of medical references.
However, is there science to support eating fruit of all kinds? The recent Global Burden of Disease Study identified inadequate fruit intake as the third most powerful factor in 11 millions deaths annually worldwide due to dietary factors. The fact that fruit was found to be protective against the development of diabetes mellitus type 2 in a 7 year study of over 500,000 participants was not referenced. The data that increased intake of fruit is associated with less erectile dysfunction in young men was not acknowledged. Once again, claims are made, references are bogus or omitted, and Dr. Gundry fails to deliver the punch. Fruit punch. Shame, shame.
While there are aspects of the book that are admirable, like warnings about saturated fat and meat intake, The Longevity Paradox provides no new insights that are worthy of consideration. It appears as a vehicle to induce the reader to buy supplements and branded olive oil that Dr. Gundry sells conveniently matched to the books premise. He tried no harder in this book than in The Plant Paradox to base his hypotheses in science studies properly referenced.
My recommendation, borrow my copy of The Longevity Paradox and spend your money on grapes and apples.
In a recent interview with NBC’s Today show, singer Kelly Clarkson said her 37-lb. (17 kilograms) weight loss was a happy side effect of a diet she followed primarily to overcome her thyroid problem.
“I literally read this book, and I did it for this autoimmune disease that I had, and I had a thyroid issue,” Clarkson said. “I’m not on medicine anymore because of this book.” And along the way, she also lost weight, she said.
Clarkson was referring to the book “The Plant Paradox” (Harper Wave, 2017) by Dr. Steven Gundry, which was published last year and was followed by a cookbook this April.
The book comes with a big, controversial claim: Gundry says a broad group of plant proteins called lectins — found in grains; beans and legumes; nuts; fruits; nightshade vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes; and dairy — are the root of modern illnesses, ranging from obesity and gastrointestinal issues to autoimmune disorders and allergies. Lectins, according to Gundry, bind to sugar molecules in cells throughout the body, altering their function.
“Kelly Clarkson is a great example,” Gundry told Live Science. “All she did was to remove these foods from her diet, and her thyroid problem went away.”
But Gundry’s dietary recommendations have baffled other doctors. “This is against every dietary recommendation represented by the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and so on,” said Dr. Robert Eckel, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado and a past president of the American Heart Association.
Gundry said the idea is based on ample research, but other scientists strongly disagree. “It’s kind of controversial. There are some studies on lectins since the 1970s, but they are very inconsistent, and a lot of them are in very isolated environments like in test tubes or animals,” said Ariana Cucuzza, a dietitian nutritionist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “So, translating to humans can be very confusing, and people don’t really know how it affects us.”
In the absence of conclusive research, Gundry uses data from his own patients as evidence. (Gundry, a former heart surgeon, now works in private practice.) Recently, at an American Heart Association conference, Gundry presented the results of his study of 102 people on a lectin-free diet. After nine months, 95 of the people showed a reduction in biomarkers of inflammation and autoimmune diseases. But scientific presentations that are not yet peer-reviewed and published are inadequate evidence, Eckel said. Moreover, Gundry’s study does not include a control group, and it is impossible to make any conclusions based on limited data in a presented abstract, he said.
“I’m not saying this is definitely wrong. I’m saying, at this point, there’s not adequate research to make any conclusions,” Eckel told Live Science. “At the same time, it opens up the door to do controlled studies that may lead to finding something novel and applicable.”
What are lectins?
Lectins are found in almost all foods. These proteins bind to carbohydrate molecules (such as sugars) and have a variety of important functions in plants, animals and humans. There are many types of lectins, and a few are toxic at high levels, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “High levels” is a key phrase here; because lectins bind to carbohydrates available around them, the idea is that if there are a lot more lectins than carbs in the body, the leftover lectins may attach to the body’s cell membranes and alter the cells’ functions.
The most well-known toxic type of lectin is called phytohaemagglutinin, which is found at relatively high levels in raw beans. Eating as few as four raw kidney beans can cause vomiting and a host of other gastrointestinal symptoms, according to the FDA.
So, yes, you should not eat raw beans. You have to fully cook them to reduce their lectins.
“Most lectins are found in legumes. If you are cooking beans, grains and vegetables, the lectins are pretty much wiped out, and they are not going to affect your body,” Cucuzza told Live Science.
But you might ask why you should take any chances with lectins. Why not just avoid anything containing these proteins?
The downsides of a lectin-free diet
There are several pieces of evidence hinting that we may need some lectins in our diet.
The sugar-binding activity of these proteins means that in ordinary amounts, lectins may even be necessary for normal digestion and absorption of foods. “It is true that lectins can be toxic — purified lectins may cause problems,” said Dr. David Jenkins, a professor of nutritional sciences and medicine at the University of Toronto. “However, we have also evolved to eat foods that contain lectins. Lectins in modest concentrations in otherwise-healthy people may have advantages in reducing too-rapid nutrient absorption.”
In other words, adopting a diet that eliminates lectins may alter nutrient absorption and result in severe nutrient fluxes, Jenkins told Live Science.
There are also serious concerns about whether a lectin-free diet provides all the essential nutrients, Cucuzza said. “Any time you are cutting out groups of foods, there’s a possibility that you cut out things that are also good for you,” she said. “Lectin, especially, is in so many fruits and vegetables that have disease-preventing characteristics. Tomatoes, for example, have a strong antioxidant called lycopene that can actually have a number of positive effects on the cardiovascular system.”
Moreover, many studies looking at many thousands of people have documented the importance of plant-heavy diets for living a long, healthy life. And these diets would contain an abundance of lectin-containing foods.
“When you are eating plant-based , you are getting all of those anti-toxins and the variety of nutrients that are important for the gut microbiome to flourish and to live a long, healthy life,” Cucuzza said.
But … it seems like it worked really well for Clarkson
Is a lectin-free diet responsible for Clarkson’s great results?
Her weight loss may have more to do with eliminating carb-heavy foods and processed foods, Cucuzza said. If you are lectin-free, you wouldn’t eat pizza, for example.
“A lot of lectin-containing foods, like grains and legumes, are also high in carbohydrates, so I would anticipate that people following a lectin-free diet are probably eating less of the foods high in carbs and high-glycemic foods,” Cucuzza said.
What about Clarkson’s thyroid problem? We don’t have any details about her issue, but thyroid problems are relatively common among women. One in 8 women will develop a thyroid disorder during their lifetime. (The rate for men is five to eight times lower.) Thyroid disorders cause hormonal problems in the body, and they can be caused by a range of factors, including an autoimmune disease.
In some cases, it’s plausible that a bad reaction to something in the diet could cause inflammation in the body and lead to an autoimmune disorder, Cucuzza said.
“What I’ve found in my patients with autoimmune issues or hormonal deregulation is that it really comes down to inflammation,” Cucuzza said. “Usually, a good first step is to review your diet … making sure you are eliminating processed food — high-glycemic choices like white flour and pasta — and focusing more on a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meat and healthy fats.”
Typically, to find out whether a particular ingredient in the diet is causing a reaction, dietitians start eliminating foods and then reintroduce them one by one to check for a reaction to each item.
“Lectins can come later as part of the process of elimination, but I don’t think it’s an appropriate first step for most people,” Cucuzza said. But judging from the sales numbers for Gundry’s “The Plant Paradox” (listed on Amazon as the No. 1 best seller in the “Diet & Weight Loss” category) and associated cookbook (which sold more than 20,000 copies in its first week), thousands and thousands of people are looking into a diet that might be good for only a few people.
“Unless nothing else has worked for you, I don’t think it should be something you consider, especially not without consulting with a dietitian,” Cucuzza said.
Original article on Live Science.
The Gundry Diet Is Trending. But Does It Actually Work?
Kelly Clarkson credits the Gundry diet with her newfound weight loss and it was one of the top trending diets of the year. But what the heck is it? And what do lectins have to do with… well, anything? We break down this buzzy new eating plan, including what the experts have to say.
What is it? According to diet creator Dr. Steven Gundry, a group of proteins called lectins are wreaking havoc on our health. The former cardiac surgeon argues that by eliminating lectins (found in nightshades, grains and dairy, amongst other foods), you can lower inflammation, lose weight and boost your wellness. He even credits the diet with curing his arthritis, high blood pressure and migraines, while he shed 70 pounds in the process. His book detailing the diet, The Plant Paradox, is a best-seller.
So, what’s on the menu? Low-lectin foods like leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower), avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds, pasture-raised meat and wild-caught fish. (And this special bread—kinda, sorta.)
That doesn’t sound too bad. So what can’t I eat? Nightshades (think: tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant), dairy, grains, raw legumes, conventionally-raised meats and out-of-season fruits.
Oh, I don’t want to do that. And you probably shouldn’t. There haven’t been any human studies to back up Dr. Gundry’s claims and multiple health experts that say that the diet is bogus. Although lectins can cause health problems when eaten in high doses, most people don’t consume enough of them for it to be an issue. “Anytime a diet starts to take out a massive amount of food groups, it’s a little more faddish by nature,” registered dietitian Amy Goodson tells Women’s Health. “The benefits of eating whole grains and vegetables, which provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber, significantly outweigh the risk that a small amount of lectin will cause GI issues.”
Bottom line: Give this one a miss. Instead, try a healthy eating plan that focuses on whole, nutrient-rich ingredients and doesn’t eliminate entire food groups like the Mediterranean diet or the Nordic diet. Sorry, doc—we’re keeping pasta and wine on the menu.
Is The Gundry Diet Healthy?
Is The Gundry Diet healthy?
We’re going to let you in on a little secret. Most popular healthy diets that are touted for weight loss—from Paleo to Mediterranean and vegetarian—share many of the same basic principles.
All involve eating whole foods (as opposed to packaged and processed) and filling your plate with quality sources of protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and vitamin-, mineral-, and fiber-rich vegetables. (Again, we’re talking about the ones that fall somewhere on the healthy spectrum, not unhealthy fad diets like, ahem, the Grapefruit Diet.)
However, each proposes a slightly different path that leads to fulfilling those principles.
RELATED: Is the Ketogenic Diet Healthy?
In this column, Diets Decoded, we’ll be breaking them down for you one by one so you can figure out which (if any!) is right for you. We’ll quickly explain the facts and then provide quick, actionable tips on how to follow the diet as part of a Nutritious Life.
What Is The Gundry Diet?
Steven R. Gundry, MD is an accomplished heart surgeon based in Palm Springs, California who left the traditional world of treating cardiac disease in 2002 to start his own wellness clinic, the Center for Restorative Medicine. The Gundry Diet is his approach to eating, which he says he’s used to successfully treat “tens of thousands of patients suffering from autoimmune disorders, diabetes, leaky gut syndrome, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.”
He wrote a book, The Plant Paradox, to bring that approach to the masses, and the diet is focused on one major principle: that proteins called lectins found in a variety of foods increase inflammation and are bad for gut health. Eliminating them from your diet, he says, can lead to weight loss, overall wellness, and the prevention of chronic diseases.
What You Eat
Whole, unprocessed foods are key, starting with low-lectin vegetables like greens, carrots, and cauliflower, in-season berries, and avocado. Fish, grass-fed beef, and pasture-raised poultry are on the table, as are healthy oils like olive and coconut. A very small amount of cheese is allowed, as is butter if it’s “French or Italian.” A2 milk is also a “yes” food.
What You Don’t Eat
Gluten is a lectin, so this diet is gluten-free from the get-go. A lot of vegetables that contain lectins are forbidden, like tomatoes, eggplant, (okay, those are fruits, but you eat them like veggies), cucumbers, and peas. Fruit, in fact, is almost entirely out except for in-season berries, and you can’t eat any legumes either—no chickpeas, lentils, or black beans. Also on the “no list”: nuts and seeds like pumpkin and chia seeds and peanuts and cashews, and grains like quinoa, oats, brown rice, and rye. Regular milk and yogurt are also out.
Pros and Cons
The main benefit of the Gundry Diet is that it eliminates processed foods and has followers focus on whole foods that are produced in healthy ways that result in maximum nutrients—like in-season produce and grass-fed beef.
But there are many downsides. There is little to no research that backs up Dr. Gundry’s thesis that humans shouldn’t eat lectins. All we really know for sure is that if you eat high-lectin foods in excess, it can cause digestive distress. (Like, maybe you’ve been bloated after eating lentil soup for lunch a few days in a row?)
RELATED: The Truth About Lectins
And if you cut lectins out, you’re cutting so many incredibly nutrient-dense foods out of your diet. Tomatoes, cucumbers, Greek yogurt, beans, whole grains, fresh fruit…many of these foods are key elements of a healthy diet, providing important nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, fiber, and protein.
The Bottom Line
The Gundry Diet just doesn’t line up with Nutritious Life’s principles because it eliminates so many nutritious foods that work for so many people.
Obsessing over which fruits and vegetables are the healthiest is not worth your time when there are so many other things about eating empowered that are hard to master, like ditching sugar and avoiding overeating. Come on…you should be able to enjoy a delish ancient grain salad filled with produce!
If you’re still worried about lectins, you can significantly reduce the amount of lectins in beans and grains via soaking, fermenting, sprouting, and cooking. (Yes, simply cooking.) You can also peel tomatoes and eggplants.
(Featured Photo: )
The food pyramid like you’ve never seen it before
We all grew up learning about our healthy eating pyramid – veggies, legumes and fruit make up the bottom and largest portion, then comes wholegrains, followed by lean meats and dairy, and healthy fats represent the very top tier.
But forget all this because the pyramid has received a sexy new makeover, thanks to Dr Gundry.
Who is Dr Gundry?
Dr Steven Gundry, M.D., is one of the biggest, and most controversial, names in the health world.
Once a leading heart surgeon, Gundry is now well known for his work as author of New York Times bestseller ‘The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in ‘Healthy’ Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain.’
He’s also the Director and Founder of his clinic, The International Heart & Lung Institute for Restorative Medicine in Palm Springs and Santa Barbara.
Gundry is best known for casting doubt on a handful of foods widely thought to be healthy. His thesis is that lectins, a type of plant protein found in certain foods (think beans, brown rice, chia seeds, nuts, tomatoes, quinoa and many more) actually damage the gut wall by causing inflammation, thus resulting in many modern diseases.
Gundry believes eliminating lectins will not only lower inflammation, but will also help you lose weight and boost your overall wellness.
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He also argues we should also adopt strategic fasting to give the gut time to heal.
Of course, his approach to nutrition has caused controversy in the health space. Scientists and dietitians have classified Gundry’s claims about lectins as ‘pseudoscience’ – beliefs and theories that are considered scientific, but in fact have no basis in scientific fact.
Robert H. Eckel, an endocrinologist and past president of the American Heart Association, stated that Gundry’s diet advice was “against every dietary recommendation represented by the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and so on.”
His work has also been labelled “laughable” and “overwhelming” by other health experts.
Dr Gundry’s new food pyramid
Dr Gundry has claimed the old food pyramid was apparently causing digestive issues, weight gain and fatigue.
In his new model, approved fats, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables make up the foundation. Dr Gundry says these are the most important foods in our diet and therefore can be consumed in unlimited supply. Cruciferous vegetables include spinach, fennel, broccoli, cauliflower and bok choy, to name a few.
The next tier introduces an idea that definitely didn’t exist in the original: intermittent fasting. Dr Gundry believes that our bodies need time to process and digest. Our ancestors couldn’t run to the supermarket when they ran out of food so their bodies adapted to being able to process and store energy when needed. Dr Gundry says this process is one of the keys to great nutrition.
The good news is that it’s still okay to indulge in our grain and bread cravings. We just need to limit these foods to small portions per meal and make sure our grains are lectin free. Lectin-intolerance can cause bloating, nausea and diarrhoea so you can keep your tummy safe by sticking with sorghum and millet – two grains that happen to be lectin free.
Also keep your gut happy with resistant starches such as green bananas and plantains, which feed the good bacteria in our systems. Resistant starches also break down fat and reduce fat storage so it’s important to eat a small quantity every day.
The wellness guru also recommends treating in-season fruits like lollies, and snacking on them accordingly. He also suggests eating green bananas, mangos, papayas and avocados year-round. Apparently these unripe fruits are okay because they haven’t expanded their sugar content.
Of course, Dr Gundry says it’s important to eat protein, but be warned not all protein is your friend. He recommends sticking to wild-caught seafood, pastured poultry, omega-3 eggs and grass-fed, pasture-raised meats, however it’s best to limit your intake.
Salmon is your friend. Source iStockSource:BodyAndSoul
Also limit dairy
The new pyramid is pretty strict in terms of dairy, limiting us to Southern European cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk and buffalo milk.
Alcohol is allowed
At the very top of the pyramid is alcohol! For health, we need to drink red wine, champagne and dark spirits a couple of times a week. Cheers to that!
Foods to avoid completely
There are also some foods that Dr Gundry recommends avoiding completely. All refined starches, sugars and sweeteners are off the menu, as well as some fruits and vegetables, soy, dairy, legumes and seeds, oils and grains, such as the following:
- Nightshades: tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes and peppers
- Beans and legumes: Including soy and peanuts
- Conventional eggs and milk
- Conventionally-raised meats
- Out-of-season fruits
- Grains: especially quinoa and brown rice
Make sure to consult an accredited health professional before making any changes to your diet.
Simple tips for weight loss
Here are some simple tips for weight loss including exercise, portion control and healthy eating.