A Complete Guide to the Plant Paradox Diet

Updated on October 19th, 2020
Plant Paradox Diet

It’s no wonder that a diet steering you away from seemingly healthy vegetables is called the “plant paradox” diet. Also known as the Gundry diet after its cardiac surgeon founder, Dr. Steven Gundry, M.D., this diet skips a plant protein in specific lectins and vegetables.

The advantages and brickbats alike are vast, and it’s challenging to wade through it all to know whether or not your body will gain from this diet. But that’s where we come in. Read more to learn everything you need to know about the Plant Paradox Diet.

What is the Plant Paradox Diet?

The Plant Paradox Diet was first mentioned in the book by Steven Gundry, a former physician and cardiac surgeon called “The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in ‘Healthy’ Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain.”

The book’s premise is that most plant foods harbor lectins, which are antinutrients that cause a host of chronic diseases, including weight gain. While it’s true that most plant foods have lectins, there’s little proof to support the theory that lectins are as dangerous as Dr. Gundry espouses.

Nonetheless, some people, particularly those with preexisting digestive issues, respond well to a lectin-free diet [1]

What are lectins?

Lectins are proteins present in many foods, but primarily in grains, legumes, and nightshade veggies like eggplants and tomatoes.

According to Steven Gundry, lectins are toxins that plants produce to survive and shouldn’t be taken because of the many complications they are responsible for, including intestinal damage, inflammation, and weight gain.

Although some lectins are harmful, most foods that contain lectins are nutritious, boasting fiber, vitamins, protein, antioxidants, and minerals [2]. 

For instance, raw kidney beans — which are loaded with nutrients — also have phytohaemagglutinin, a lectin that can be extremely dangerous if taken in large quantities. However, cooking kills this lectin, making cooked kidney beans perfectly alright.

Gluten-having grains also have lectins, and according to Steven Gundry, should be skipped. Yet, some individuals, such as those with celiac disease, certain autoimmune diseases, or gluten intolerance, benefit from a gluten-free diet; gluten is regarded safe for most.

Plant Paradox Diet–approved foods.

If you’re deciding whether or not to adhere to a lectin-free diet, consider this the list of “okay” foods. This list is not complete, but it’s an excellent place to start [3]. 

1. Oils

  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Macadamia oil
  • Rice bran oil
  • Sesame oil

2. Sweeteners

  • Xylitol
  • Stevia
  • Erythritol
  • Monk fruit
  • Inulin

3. Nuts and seeds

  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Chestnuts
  • Pecans
  • Hemp seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Psyllium
  • Sesame seeds
  • Brazil nuts

4. Flours

  • Almond flour
  • Coconut flour
  • Hazelnut flour

5. Dairy Products

  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Cream cheese
  • Sour cream

6. Fish and seafood

  • Salmon
  • White fish
  • Shrimp
  • Crab
  • Canned tuna
  • Scallops
  • Lobster
  • Oysters
  • Mussels
  • Calamari
  • Anchovies
  • Sardines

7. Vegetables

  • Avocado
  • All Berries
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Bok choy
  • Cauliflower
  • Swiss chard
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Arugula
  • Celery
  • Collard greens
  • Carrots
  • Onion
  • Beets
  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Okra
  • Mesclun
  • Spinach
  • Romaine
  • Garlic

8. Non Veg

  • Poultry
  • Mushrooms
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Goose
  • Duck
  • Ostrich
  • Quail
  • Lamb
  • Meat

Foods to skip on the Plant Paradox Diet

If you’ve decided to stick with the Plant Paradox Diet, you will have to be prepared to skip all of these foods from your diet, too. In addition to lectin-containing foods, this list also includes other pro-inflammatory processed foods that may increase the risk of chronic inflammation.

Refined starches and sugars

  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Potato chips
  • Potatoes
  • Tortillas
  • Bread
  • Cookies
  • Pastries
  • Cereal
  • Crackers
  • Agave
  • Sugar
  • Maltodextrin

Vegetables

  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Peas
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Green beans
  • Legumes
  • Zucchini
  • Chickpeas
  • Tofu
  • Soy
  • Edamame

Oils

  • Grapeseed oil
  • Soy oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Corn oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil

Nuts and seeds

  • Sunflower
  • Pumpkin
  • Peanuts
  • Cashews
  • Chia

Fruits

Most fruits are off-limits

Grains (including sprouted)

  • Whole grains
  • Quinoa
  • Rye
  • Bulgur
  • Oats

Other health benefits

The Plant Paradox Diet may provide multiple benefits, such as improving digestive health and insulin sensitivity.

1. May aid insulin sensitivity

Limiting grains and sugary items, and most starchy foods may improve your insulin sensitivity. The insulin hormone regulates your blood sugar levels [4].

Sugary foods, starchy foods, processed grains — especially those with protein, little fiber, or fat — rapidly spike your blood sugar levels, causing a surge in insulin.

2. May boost digestive health

One of the Plant Paradox Diet’s key benefits and other lectin-free diets is improved digestive health, particularly for people struggling with lectin sensitivity or digestive disorders.

Although not everyone is sensitive to lectins, few individuals react negatively to them, particularly to gluten or the lectins in nightshade vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants.

3. May aid autoimmune conditions

The AIP (autoimmune protocol) is a lectin-free eating pattern similar to the Plant Paradox Diet.

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The autoimmune protocol is a kind of paleo diet that can help manage autoimmune conditions like IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), Hashimoto’s, and celiac disease.

In most individuals, wheat and other lectin-dense grains trigger inflammation that can result in gut dysfunction, alterations in immunity, and the development or worsening of autoimmune or inflammatory conditions.

4. Potential downsides

The Plant Paradox Diet has multiple downsides, chief among them its massive food restrictions.

It takes away a wide variety of foods, from seeds and legumes to nightshade vegetables to conventionally raised meats. While this may help individuals with lectin sensitivity, you are unlikely to see several benefits if you are not sensitive to lectin.

Most of these banned foods are nutritious and contain relatively few lectins, particularly after cooking them.

For example, legumes and beans are rich in vitamins, protein, fiber, and minerals. Moreover, the majority of their lectins are neutralized when they are correctly made by cooking and soaking.

 Bottom Line

The Plant Paradox Diet removes lectins, an antinutrient that may be harmful to people with lectin sensitivity. As such, it bans beans, legumes, grains, and numerous vegetables.

However, there’s very little proof that anyone without lectin sensitivity should cut these foods from their diet. These foods provide beneficial antioxidants, fiber, and nutrients.

What’s more, you can eliminate or reduce most lectins via cooking. While the Plant Paradox Diet may enhance insulin sensitivity and offer some advantages for weight loss, most people may find it too restrictive, as well as expensive.

If you’re experiencing chronic digestive problems and considering this diet, be sure to consult your medical practitioner first.

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