The Plant Paradox Diet: Does It Work?

The Plant Paradox Diet has risen in popularity over the last several years. But does it work? Are there any benefits? Is it actually harmful? Let's find out.
Posted on Mar 22, 2021 By Ally Burnie Ally Burnie

What is the Plant Paradox Diet?

 If you’ve ever suffered from poor health, especially a chronic health issue, you might have heard of the popular Plant Paradox Diet book by American Doctor Steven Gundry. Gundry is a former cardiac surgeon and physician who wrote the book in April 2017. Essentially, the book talks about this notion of the “plant paradox” (because plants are healthy, right?) and that most plants actually contain an antinutrient called lectin that can wreak havoc on your body with issues like weight gain, inflammation and chronic disease. While plenty of people have praised Gundry’s book and diet, there’s conflicting scientific evidence around the claims that all lectins are harmful. So, should you try the plant paradox diet? Are there benefits? Is it actually harmful? Let’s take a look.

What the Heck are Lectins? 

The central idea of the book focuses on the harmfulness of lectins. Lectins are essentially proteins found in a variety of foods, but mainly in plant-based foods like grains, legumes, tomatoes and eggplants, to name a few. In the book, Gundry says lectins are actually toxins plants produce to survive and avoid being eaten, and it’s the roots of many health issues for humans like inflammation, digestive issues and weight gain. While it is true that some lectins are dangerous, there are plenty of foods with lectins that are super good for you, such as raw kidney beans. Here’s the catch. Raw kidney beans are packed with nutrients, but they also contain phytohaemagglutinin, a lectin that can be extremely harmful if eaten in large amounts. However, if you cook the kidney beans, this destroys the lectins, and makes it perfectly safe to eat. Gluten is another grain that contains lectins, and Gundry says should be avoided. While gluten should certainly not be consumed by those with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or autoimmune disease, gluten (commonly found in things like bread and pasta), is actually safe for most people to consume.

What Does the Plant Paradox Diet Involve?

 If you’re keen to try the plant paradox diet, it’s pretty simple to follow. All you need to do is avoid lectin-containing foods. That’s it. You can eat whatever time of the day, and as many meals as you like, as long as you avoid all lectins.

There are two main branches of the diet, as detailed in the book. There’s a low-carb, keto version of the diet for people with cancer, and a 3-day detox plan for people who are new to eating lectin-free foods. As with any diet, especially for those with cancer, it is important to discuss any new diets with your doctor. The plant paradox diet is not suitable for cancer treatments. With the 3-day detox plan for everyone else, you also remove all dairy products, eggs, sugars, seeds, grains, soy and seed oils. According to Gundry, this 3-day detox helps prepare the body for the longer lectin-free. After the detox, you then begin to eat somewhat normally, by simply removing lectin-containing foods. 

Foods You Can Eat on the Plant Paradox Diet

You can eat as much as you like of the following foods when on the plant paradox diet.

  • Proteins: grass-fed meats, pasture-raised poultry, free-range eggs, wild-caught fish, and hemp products like “hempeh,” and hemp tofu.  
  • Starches and grain-free products: sweet potatoes, plantains, swede, parsnips, and paleo wraps or breads
  • Nuts and seeds: macadamia nuts, walnuts, pecans, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, and hazelnuts (nuts are limited to 1/2-cup per day).
  • Fruits: avocados, berries, and coconut (berries should be eaten in small amounts)
  • Vegetables: mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, okra, carrots, radishes, beets, kale, and cabbage 
  • Dairy: goat’s milk and cheese, organic sour cream, organic cream cheese, organic heavy cream, and Brie. A2 milk is also permitted
  • Fats and oils: grass-fed butter, plus olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil

Foods You Can’t Eat on the Plant Paradox Diet

The following foods contain lectins Gundry considers harmful and should be avoided on the plant paradox diet.

  • Proteins: soy products, grain- or soy-fed livestock, farmed fish, and all beans and legumes
  • Grains and starches: pasta, potatoes cookies, crackers, pastries, whole grains, wheat, rice, oats, quinoa, barley, corn, and popcorn
  • Nuts and seeds: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, peanuts, and cashews
  • Fruits: all fruits, except berries
  • Vegetables: cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkin and other squashes, nightshades like tomatoes, capsicum and eggplant (Gundry says you can eat some of the banned veggies, including tomato, capsicum and cucumber, if they have been peeled and deseeded)
  • Dairy: all A1 milk products, as well as Greek yogurt.
  • Fats and oils: vegetable, canola, corn, peanut, and sunflower oils

Health Benefits of The Plant Paradox Diet

There are several benefits of the Plant Paradox Diet. One reason people try the diet is because it’s deemed good for weight-loss. While the diet doesn’t involve restricting any calories, it does exclude most starches and processed foods/sugars, while also being high in protein and healthy fats. This makes it easier to naturally be in a caloric deficit and ultimately lose excess fat. Other health benefits may possibly include aiding digestive health, improving insulin sensitivity, but more research needs to be conducted.

Is the Plant Paradox Diet Harmful?

Many people have pointed out the plant paradox diet may actually do more harm than good, especially considering it promotes excessive food restriction. While reducing all lectin-containing foods may help people who have a lectin-sensitivity, you are unlikely to see any benefits from the diet if you are not sentivie to lectin. What’s also interesting is that many of the banned foods in the diet can simply be cooked in order to remove the lectins, therefore making them safe for even lectin-sensitive individuals. The diet also promotes the consumption of grass-fed meats, which is often more expensive than traditional grain-fed meats.

Is The Plant Paradox Diet Right for You?

 At the end of the day, the plant paradox diet might be ideal for those with digestive problems or lectin sensitivity. However, more research needs to be conducted. If you try the plant paradox diet and find yourself feeling better, then perhaps it is the right diet for you. However, whenever starting or containing a restrictive diet, it is always recommended to do it under the guidance of a professional.

 

Ally Burnie
Ally Burnie
Senior reporter based in Sydney with a passion for humanitarianism, travel and telling stories. She's also the host of B&T's Fast 30 Podcast.

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