The Plant Paradox – Lectin Free Eating
This article could be a life changing read for the patient who is struggling with chronic inflammation, has issues with leaky gut, or struggles to lose weight even on the healthiest diets. You may find you need to prepare your food a little differently or replace some foods with others. Please read this article (inspired by The Plant Paradox Cookbook, by Dr. Steven Gundry MD) in it’s entirety to get a full grasp of what lectins could be doing to your body. Many of the foods discussed are highly recommended by me to give you plenty of vitamins and phytonutrients!
Lectins are mostly large sticky proteins that lock onto the surface of your intestinal cells and cause a reaction to break apart the tight junctions of your intestinal cells. This then allows large molecules and bacteria to seep through your gut wall causing a “leaky gut” immune response that fires up inflammation and cytokines in your body. Lectins are actually a defense to help the survival of the plant and cause harm in creatures that consume the plant. Lectins are found in most grains, beans, legumes, cow’s milk, and vegetables with seeds or nightshades (cucumbers, tomatoes, squashes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers).
This is the paradox, that certain plants can be both good and bad. The bad effects then depend upon how much of them that we are exposed and how we prepare the plants to eat. Older methods of cooking reduced the lectin content to make them more digestible – like only eating them fresh or by soaking or certain preparation methods like fermentation. We are also more susceptible due to year round access to produce that otherwise would only be in short season, a huge increase in the amount of corn wheat and soy that we consume, and millions of dollars of marketing to convince us that whole grains and vegetable oils (Dr. Gundry calls them “lectin bombs”!) are healthy.
Dr. Gundry lists “seven deadly disrupters” that are harming our gut health: broad spectrum antibiotics especially that are in our food supply in the animal products we consume (given to animals to fatten them up for slaughter), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like Advil and Aleve), stomach-acid blockers (like Prilosec, Nexium, and even Zantac), artificial sweeteners (decrease your good gut bacteria and trigger your brain to store fat), endocrine disrupters (from household chemicals and plastic food packaging), genetically modified foods & herbicide RoundUp, and blue light in all our electronic devices (makes our bodies think it is daylight to trigger us to seek out calories and store fat).
The leaky gut caused by lectins trigger us to store abdominal fat (can read Dr. Davis book “Wheat Belly”) and also triggers an immune response that can cross over to auto-immune disease (like Hashimotos, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, MS, type 1 diabetes, psoriasis). When we eat lectins they bind to cells lining our intestinal wall, trigger the production of zonulin that opens the tight cell junctions. This allows bacteria and toxins and lectins that haven’t yet bonded to the gut wall (lipopolysaccharides, LPS, that Dr. Gundry calls “little pieces of shit”) to seep through into our bloodstream and trigger inflammation, which is a full on war (our wall is breached, so send white blood cells and ramp up our immune system). Another reason that lectin-rich foods cause weight gain is because one of the lectins in many grains, in addition to gluten, is wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) which mimics insulin in the body. When WGA attaches to fat cells, it can stay there indefinitely and continue telling the cell to make more fat from sugar passing by. Then the cells do not get the sugar (energy) they need, which increases hunger and brain fog (since your brain cells are not getting the fuel they need).
SO, what to eat? Dr Gundry says, “The great news is that many of your favorite high-lectin foods can be cooked or prepared in a way to reduce their lectin content. So no, you don’t have to give up tomatoes for the rest of your life, but you can make it easier on your immune system by preparing them a little differently.”
YES FOODS: That are low in lectin content
GOOD FATS (Dr. Gundry recommends 60-80% of our daily calories come from these healthy fat sources, and then most of the rest of our diet should be green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables): extra-virgin olive oil, olives, avocados, avocado oil, coconut milk, MCT oil (medium-chain triglyceride oil = liquid coconut oil), coconut oil, perilla oil, walnut oil, macadamia oil, algae oil, egg yolks from pastured chicken, fish oil or algae-based DHA.
GREENS: lettuce (romaine, butter, red & green leaf), dandelion greens, mesclun, spinach, endive, parsley, mustard greens, fennel, and seaweed/sea vegetables.
CRUCIFEROUS & LECTIN-FREE VEGETABLES: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, Swiss chard, bok choy, watercress, kohlrabi, arugula, artichokes, asparagus, garlic, celery, leeks, radishes, beets, mushrooms, okra, and mushrooms.
NUTS (legumes like peanuts & cashews should be avoided): macadamias, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, coconuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts (also blanched almonds are ok – the skin of almonds have a lectin that many autoimmune patients react to).
AVOCADOS: such a nutritional superstar that Dr. Gundry puts in a class of its own – recommend eating one a day!
LECTIN-FREE GRAINS: sorghum (high fiber & great for good gut bacteria) and millet (lots of minerals & polyphenols)
RESISTANT STARCHES: sweet potatoes, yams, yucca, green plantains, cassava, tapioca, green bananas, jicama, and taro root.
WILD CAUGHT SEAFOOD – NOT farm-raised (even if farm-raised is organic – don’t be fooled!) Dr. Gundry & his wife are vegetarian or vegan during the week and have some seafood during weekends for variety & taste.
PASTURED POULTRY/CHICKEN & OMEGA 3 EGGS: Look for “pastured” or “pasture-raised” (allowed to roam or forage for their food, because organic or free-range is NOT the same). Best to eat more yolks, so try a 4 yolk 1 egg-white omelet (and give the other egg-whites to your dog or cat).
100% GRASS-FED & GRASS FINISHED MEAT (has more omega 3 and less omega 6 fats): bison, wild game, venison, boar, elk, pork (humanely-raised), lamb, beef, and prosciutto di Parma. Dr. Gundry recommends no more than 4 ounces or less/day because it contains Neu5Gc which is associated with cancer and heart disease.
IN-SEASON FRUITS: Think of these more like candy than a “health food” and eat them sparingly – the only exception is green bananas & mangos & papayas which can be eaten year-round
SPECIFIC TYPES OF DAIRY in moderation (as they also contain Neu5Gc): milk from goats, sheep, & water buffalo (and milk from Guernsey, Brown Swiss, & Belgian Blue breeds of cows) do not contain a lectin-protein casein A1
CHOCOLATE& APPROVED ALCOHOL: dark chocolate 72% or higher (and less than 1 ounce/day), red wine because of resveratrol (less than 4-6 ounces and only during meals), occasional barrel aged dark whiskey or champagne (they have polyphenols).
JUST SAY NO FOODS: Foods high in lectins
“The Plant Paradox program is based on this essential truth: The foods you don’t eat are far more important to your health than the foods you do eat.”
PEANUTS & CASHEWS (cashew is in the same plant family as poison ivy!)
CORN (typical American eats some form of corn multiple times a day)
CONVENTIONALLY RAISED MEAT (avoid “free-range” meats & chicken as it means they were raised & fattened up on corn, just as we are fattened up on corn!)
VEGETABLE OILS (high in omega 6 & most are made from high-lectin beans or seeds and sprayed w Roundup)
LEGUMES & BEANS (there is a reason they cause gas & bloating!, but their lectin content can be dramatically lowered by soaking overnight w frequent rinses and pressure-cooking them, & Eden Foods brand pressure cooks them in the cans)
DAIRY products from most North American cows due to lectin-like protein casein A1 (good news that coconut milk is a great substitute!)
NIGHTSHADES (high lectin particularly in their seeds & peels so peel and seed them to reduce their lectin content!) potatoes, peppers & hot peppers, eggplant, goji berries, tomatoes
SQUASHES (pumpkins, acorn squash, zucchini, butternut squash, & have sugars that cue your body to store weight, lessen lectins by peeling & seeding)
WHOLE WHEAT & BROWN RICE (actually white bread & rice are better for you as they do not have the WGA, which triggers fat storage, neurological problems & atherosclerosis, and if you eat white rice then pressure cook it – pressure cooking does not remove the lectin gluten)
“Heath” Foods That Are NOT Healthy!: I list food & then put the healthier alternative in parenthesis
Whole wheat bread (white or sourdough bread), Tofu (tempeh), Peanut butter (almond butter), Peanuts & cashews (walnuts, pistachios, macadamia), Free-range poultry & eggs (pastured poultry & eggs), Yogurt (unsweetened coconut yogurt or goat’s milk yogurt), Brown rice (white rice, pressure cooked), Beans & lentils (pressure cooked beans & lentils), Canola-sunflower-safflower oils (olive, coconut, or avocado oil), Milk & cow’s milk cheese (goat’s milk, goat cheese, & cheeses made from sheep’s milk), raw peppers (roasted peeled & seeded peppers), quinoa (millet)
Truth About Animal Protein: Most Americans eat way too much, as any protein your body doesn’t need gets converted into glucose by the liver and some of meat’s amino acids are growth agents for cancer and accelerators of aging. To meet your body’s needs, eat 0.37grams of protein per kilogram of weight (if weight 150 lbs then need 25 grams of protein, and if weigh 120 lbs then need 21 grams). There are 20 grams of protein in 3 ounces of animal meat or the size of a deck of cards/day (which is 2.5 eggs). Remember plant protein does add up quickly: ½ cup cauliflower has 1 gram, medium sweet potato has 2 grams, & artichoke has 4 grams.
Intermittent Fasting: Our ancestors fasted regularly because food simply wasn’t always available. Our body is made to withstand fasting & thrive because it: it gives our bodies a chance to process & digest & heal, reduces overall calories, overall decreases appetite, and improves memory among other benefits! Consider fasting dinner to dinner 2 non-consecutive days/week (most people over time will lose 1 pound/week doing this!), or go 16 hours between the last meal of your day before and your first meal of the day (so only eat during 8 hours/day), or adopt a seasonal fasting schedule (Dr. Gundry only eats between 6pm and 8pm January to May of each year).
Stay tuned Friday for the Plant Paradox Program rules. Purchase the book (at https://gundrymd.com/books2/ ) for more details recipes and info on this diet. Again this is not a diet most patients will need to follow. This is for those who consistently struggle with leaky gut, chronic inflammation or struggle with losing weight even on the healthiest diets!