Is it possible “healthy” foods might actually be bad for you? That’s the approach the Plant Paradox Diet takes. We usually think of certain foods like wheat, potatoes, and beans as healthy. However, these are foods that are avoided in this diet. What’s the problem? A California heart surgeon named Dr. Steven Gundry explains that these aren’t the best foods to eat if you want to maintain a healthy life. The reason is these foods are high in something called “lectins.” These proteins are actually found in many fruits and vegetables but Dr. Gundry recommends avoiding natural foods that are high in them. That’s because he believes it could cause various problems like serious diseases.
As always, it’s important to know why you should consider avoiding foods with lectins. Gundry believes that some plants can actually be enemies to humans. That’s because they contain stuff in them that are used to keep people from eating them. For example, all “nightshade” plants include lectins. This includes veggies like peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes. Supporters of the Plant Paradox program believe that this diet can provide various benefits like avoiding serious diseases and boosting weight loss. However, it’s important to know the theory behind this approach and if it works.
What’s the Plant Paradox Diet?
Let’s start with the diet itself. This diet plan was designed by a heart surgeon named Steven Gundry from Palm Springs, California. The diet’s name is based on the fact that we usually think of plants as being healthy things. They usually are. However, consider that there’s also stuff like poison ivy that can be dangerous to humans.
Dr. Gundry believes that some plant-based foods that are generally considered as healthy aren’t as such because they contain a protein known as “lectin.” In fact, several foods and vegetables contain lectin including:
- Bell peppers
Dr. Gundry’s theory is that ditching these foods can provide various benefits including losing weight and preventing serious diseases. We’ll take that up later.
Some celebrities like Kelly Clarkson have claimed they lost weight and improved health by following Plant Paradox. However, it should be noted that she used the diet to revamp her diet.
This diet doesn’t require people to make big changes from the get-go. They can make some small changes like trying new lectin-free veggies or eating baked veggies instead of a tossed salad.
It’s not surprising that Dr. Gundry’s approach to diet is considered controversial. That’s because the medical community generally considers the foods he labels as “enemies” to be healthy.
In fact, many experts point out that there’s no strong evidence that foods with lectin are actually toxic. In other words, you might not get really sick by eating foods like tomatoes and potatoes.
Here are some examples. Some experts point out that many vegetarians in India and other countries eat beans as a protein source. They also note that cooking high-lectin foods helps to greatly lower the lectin content.
Yet another issue is many health experts oppose the whole idea of “diets.” They say you should change your eating habits long-term in order to get the best results.
Benefits of Plant Paradox Diet
What are the main benefits of this diet? It’s important to note there’s a difference between what the supporters claim and what’s been proven. Here are the claimed benefits of this diet:
1. Lower inflammation
In fact, Plant Paradox supporters argue that past diets didn’t deal with this issue enough. It’s believed that removing lectins from a person’s diet will reduce inflammation. The theory is that by avoiding foods like chilis, eggplants, and goji berries your body will be less likely to suffer from inflammation.
2. Fewer symptoms
Dr. Gundry notes that one of the dangers of lectins is how they work. When inflammation happens that can result in toxins causing unwanted symptoms. They include nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.
3. Weight loss
This is another reported benefit of avoiding lectins. In fact, many people on the Plant Paradox diet have claimed they’ve lost weight. However, they argue it’s not just from skipping lectins but also the fact they’ve changed to a healthier diet.
4. Fewer symptoms/diseases
One old study suggested that a high lectin diet might cause diseases that cause problems with the immune system. This results in it attacking healthy cells. It happens in diseases like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Supporters of Plant Paradox believe that cutting lectins from your diet can help to lower your risk of these diseases and other serious diseases. However, it’s important to point out there’s no solid scientific proof that dropping lectins will definitely provide this benefit.
It’s important to note that the idea that lectins are “toxic” is very controversial. This doesn’t mean that lectins are or aren’t healthy.
That said, it goes against lots of research that proves lectin foods can provide several benefits. For example, peppers are high in Vitamin C, tomatoes have lots of antioxidants, and potatoes are chock-full of potassium.
That brings us to…
Risks of Plant Paradox
This diet is based on the theory that lectins aren’t just unhealthy but actually dangerous. Even if lectins have some drawbacks it’s always important to weigh the overall benefits of eating certain foods. For example, dairy like meat contains all nine essential amino acids the body needs.
Here are some potential risks you could experience through Plant Paradox:
1. Fewer healthy foods
A big problem today is the consumption of highly-processed foods. If you skip all lectin foods then you’re missing out on many natural/organic foods like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and beans.
There’s no question these foods can provide several health benefits. For example, potatoes are a good source of carbs, fiber, and potassium. Beans are high in protein, amino acids, and other nutrients. On the other hand, it’s still a question mark if lectins are as unhealthy as Dr. Gundry claims.
2. Fewer choices
The US Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate nutrition guideline recommends fruits and veggies should make up 50% of a person’s diet. When you swap out lectin foods it greatly reduces the options you have.
For example, here are some of the foods you can’t eat on Plant Paradox:
- Fruits (most)
- Whole grains
This a big list of foods you can’t eat on the diet. Another factor is there are many foods within some categories. For example, if you can’t eat peppers that includes bell peppers, chilis, and jalapenos. Meanwhile, bread even includes whole/multi-grain varieties, which can be quite healthy.
3. Soft science
It’s safe to say that there’s no solid proof that lectins are as dangerous as Dr. Gundry claims. He could be right but there isn’t any solid proof. If this diet is based on a “wrong” theory it could ironically cause health conditions instead of avoiding them as claimed by the plant paradox diet.