More than two-thirds of Americans have said that they want to make healthier eating a priority in their lives. With so much conflicting information out there and a new diet being touted each week as the cure to all our woes, though, it can be hard to know where to start.
One diet that has received a lot of attention over the last few years is the Plant Paradox diet. Have you ever heard of the Plant Paradox? Do you think the diet that worked for Kelly Clarkson and Usher will work for you?
Before you dive in and give the Plant Paradox a try, it’s important that you understand what it entails. Read on to learn more about this dietÂ so you can decideÂ whether or not it’s a good idea for you.
What Is the Plant Paradox?
Let’s start with the basics and go over the history of this diet. The Plant Paradox diet was created by Dr. Steven Gundry, a former heart surgeon who authored the book, The Plant Paradox, back in 2017.
Gundry developed the diet after he studied human eating patterns throughout history. During his research, he realized that humans only started eating lectin-containing foods about 10,000 years ago. Since the introduction of these foods, Gundry argues, our collective health has taken a turn for the worst.
What Are Lectins?
At this point, you might be wondering, “What the heck is a lectin?” Lectins are a type of protein found in many plant foods. They’re a natural defense mechanism that certain plants use to protect themselves from predatory insects.
Some of the most lectin-rich foods include nightshade vegetables (eggplants, red peppers, tomatoes, etc.), grains, and raw legumes. Many people scratch their heads when they first see this list, as all of these foods are often held up as nutritional powerhouses. Gundry has a different opinion, though.
He argues that when we eat lectins, they pass through our bodies without being digested. This, in turn, reduces our body’s ability to absorb essential vitamins and minerals that we might normally get from food. It can also lead to increased intestinal permeability (also known as “leaky gut”).
Consumption of lectin-containing foods, according to Gundry, might contribute to various health problems, including increased levels of inflammation, autoimmune diseases, poor gut health, and weight gain. Gundry himself experienced significant health improvements when he first cut out lectins. His weight dropped by 70 pounds, and his arthritis, high blood pressure, and migraines all went away, even though he was exercising less.
What to Eat and What to Avoid
There are a lot of foods that are off-limits when you’re looking to avoid lectins and follow the Plant Paradox diet. This list includes the following:
- Refined carbohydrates
- Some seeds (pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds)
- Some vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, potatoes, zucchini, sugar snap peas, green beans)
- All fruit (except in-season fruit, consumed in moderation)
- All grains
- Some sweeteners (sugar, sucralose, maltodextrin, aspartame, agave)
- Processed oils (soybean, corn, peanut, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, grapeseed)
At the same time, though, there are still plenty of healthy foods that you can consume, including these:
- Most vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, beets, onion, celery, leeks, asparagus, carrots, okra, leafy greens, etc.)
- Avocado and in-season berries
- Most nuts (walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, chestnuts, Brazil nuts)
- Hemp, sesame, and flaxseeds
- Healthy fats (grass-fed butter, olive oil, ghee, coconut oil, and MCT oil)
- Some sweeteners (stevia, erythritol, monkfruit, yacon, xylitol, inulin)
- Coconut, almost, and arrowroot flour
You can also consume some resistant starch in moderation. This comes mainly in the form of sweet potatoes, yams, and cassava.
Benefits of the Plant Paradox
Plenty of other people have experienced great benefits when they’ve adopted this diet. Others have wondered, though, if it is actually a healthy, long-term way to eat.
There are certainly some advantages that one may experience when adopting a lectin-free or low-lectin diet, includingÂ the following:
Often, when someone starts following the Plant Paradox diet parameters, they notice that their digestion improves. In fact, this is one of the most common benefits a lectin-free diet promises.
In some people, especially those who deal with severe digestive issues like Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis, avoiding lectins can be a very good idea. Remember, according to Gundry, lectins can interrupt the digestive process and make it harder for your body to break down food.
If you struggle with a digestive condition and you eat lots of legumes, grains, and other lectin-containing foods, you might also find that you’re taking in more fiber than you need. This, in turn, can lead to increased gas, bloating, cramping, and other digestive problems. Cutting back on lectins could cause you to cut back on fiber, which could result in you giving your digestive system a much-needed break.
Gundry and other followers of the Plant Paradox also claim that it will help to reduce inflammation in the body. It’s true that many of the foods that are promoted on the Plant Paradox diet are also part of a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet. This includes things like leafy green vegetables, seafood, nuts, and healthy fats.
If you have an intolerance to certain, lectin-containing foods, such as grains, legumes, or nightshades, eliminating those foods from your diet will, naturally, help to reduce the chronic inflammation that you might have been experiencing beforehand.Â There is also some research that suggests that a low-lectin diet can benefit those who suffer from inflammatory conditions, including the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis.
Weight loss often results from following the Plant Paradox diet. If you cut out foods to which you may be intolerant, your body’s inflammation levels will decrease and you may find that the number on the scale begins to drop.
Because the diet also focuses so much on unprocessed foods, you will also likely eat more calories than you were eating before. This, in turn, can help you lose weight even if you’re notÂ worrying so muchÂ about the number of calories you’re taking in each day.
Focus on Unprocessed Foods
Speaking of processed foods, the focus on eliminating processed foods from the diet can certainly be an advantage for a lot of people. It’s not uncommon these days for the majority of foods in one’s diet to be processed and packaged.
This causes us to consume way too many calories and far too many nutrients. The Plant Paradox diet flips this issue on its head and helps us get in the habit of eating more real food.
Risks of the Plant Paradox
After hearing about these benefits, you might be chomping at the bit to give the Plant Paradox diet a try. Before you jump in with both feet, though, keep in mind that the diet does come with some potential risks, including these:
As you likely noticed when you read through the list of yes-no foods for the Plant Paradox, this diet is quite restrictive. When you eliminate lots of foods from your diet, you have to use caution when adjusting the type and amount of food you eat.
If the majority of the vegetables you were eating before were nightshade vegetables, for example, and you cut those out, you might find that you’re missing some of the beneficial nutrients they contain. You’ll need to be smart about adding in other foods that contain similar nutrients (swapping bell peppers for broccoliÂ to get adequate vitamin C, for example) to avoid deficiencies.
Does the idea of overhauling your diet and cutting out tons of foods at once make you feel a little anxious? Sticking to a very restrictive diet can be a major stressor for a lot of people.
Funnily enough, if you’re too stressed out by your diet, you might find that you end up gaining more weight or making your health problems worse. The Plant Paradox can be worthwhile for some people, but it can be stress-inducing and overwhelming for others.
Unsustainable Weight Loss
Finally, the weight you lose on the diet might not be sustainable. If you stop following the Plant Paradox diet and go back to your old way of eating after a while, you’ll likely increase your calorie intake and put back on any weight you lost. This can further perpetuate the yo-yo dieting cycle in which many of us are already stuck.
Do You Want More Diet and Lifestyle Advice?
Now that you know more about the Plant Paradox, what do you think? Does this diet seem like a good fit for you?
As with any diet, there are a lot of potential benefits that you can experience when you adopt this new way of eating. There are some potential downsides, too, though.
If you want to further educate yourself on different diets and lifestyle changes, I’ve got lots of other resources on my site for you to check out. Feel free to sign up for my email list, too, so you can get the latest and great health and wellness information delivered straight to your inbox!