What Is the Plant Paradox Diet, and Does It Work?

 

The Plant Paradox Diet is based on a popular diet book. Its central tenet is that you should avoid lectins, an antinutrient found mostly in plants.

The diet’s creators claim that lectins may cause weight gain, inflammation, and chronic disease.

However, there’s not much scientific evidence to support the idea that all lectin-containing plant foods are harmful. In fact, many foods with lectins are extremely nutritious.

Thus, you may wonder whether this diet is worth pursuing.

This article reviews the Plant Paradox Diet to tell you how it works, whether it aids weight loss, and its benefits and downsides.

diet review scorecard

  • Overall score: 3
  • Weight loss: 3.5
  • Healthy eating: 2.75
  • Sustainability: 2.5
  • Whole body health: 3.25
  • Nutrition quality: 4.75
  • Evidence-based: 1.5

BOTTOM LINE: For lectin-sensitive individuals, the Plant Paradox Diet can be a game changer. Yet, for most people, it’s excessively restrictive, banning many nutritious foods. No evidence suggests that all lectin-containing foods are inherently unhealthy.

 

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

The book’s premise is that many plant foods harbor lectins, which are antinutrients that are said to cause weight gain and a host of chronic diseases.

While it’s true that many plant foods contain lectins, there’s little evidence to support the theory that lectins are as harmful as Dr. Gundry proposes (1).

Nonetheless, some people, especially those with preexisting digestive problems, respond well to a lectin-free diet.

Lectins are proteins found in many foods, but primarily in legumes, grains, and nightshade veggies like tomatoes and eggplants (1).

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

Although some lectins are dangerous, many foods that contain lectins are nutritious, boasting fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

For example, raw kidney beans — which are packed with nutrients — also contain phytohaemagglutinin, a lectin that can be extremely harmful if eaten in large amounts. However, cooking destroys this lectin, making cooked kidney beans perfectly healthy (2).

Gluten-containing grains also contain lectins, and according to Gundry, should be avoided. Yet, while some people, such as those with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or certain autoimmune diseases, benefit from a gluten-free diet, gluten is considered safe for most.

Summary

The Plant Paradox Diet bans lectins, which are proteins found in many plant foods. The diet’s advocates assert that all lectin-containing plants are harmful, but research overwhelmingly suggests that many are safe and healthy.

 

The Plant Paradox Diet is fairly straightforward, as it simply involves avoiding lectin-containing foods.

You’re allowed to follow whichever style of eating works for you, whether that’s three meals and snacks, intermittent fasting, or some other eating pattern.

All the same, there are two main spin-offs of the diet.

Specialized programs

The “Plant Paradox” book features two specialized programs — a low carb, high fat ketogenic version of the diet for people with cancer, and a 3-day “detox” plan for people who are new to lectin-free eating patterns.

If you have cancer and are interested in following the keto program, discuss it with your healthcare team and make sure you also follow their advice and treatment. Keep in mind that this diet cannot and should not replace cancer treatments.

According to Dr. Gundry’s website, the detox program involves a strict lectin-free diet for 3 days, plus a daily regimen of light exercise and drinking at least 8 cups (1.9 liters) of water, tea, or decaf coffee each day.

Not only does the detox bar all lectins but also all dairy products, eggs, sugar, seeds, grains, nightshade vegetables, soy products, and seed oils. Dr. Gundry claims that it helps prepare your body to follow a lectin-free diet long term.

Summary

The Plant Paradox diet involves eliminating lectin-containing foods, but there’s no structured program unless you choose to do its 3-day detox or ketogenic program for cancer.

 

 

Although the Plant Paradox Diet is restrictive, cutting out numerous plant foods, it emphasizes whole and nutritious sources of protein and fat.