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Learn about lectin toxicity, how to remove lectins from your favorite foods, and how to incorporate lectin-free superfoods into your meals.
Home » Healthy Foods & Eating » Lectin Free Diet & the Dr. Gundry Diet
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If you’re committed to eating well, doesn’t it make sense that you should be feeling well, too? Unfortunately for so many, even following a healthy plant-based diet can cause digestive issues, low energy, and more. This is because too many people aren’t focusing on the right, plant-based foods — those that are polyphenol-rich and lectin-free.
The Plant Paradox proposes that traditional knowledge of nutrition is flawed. Furthermore, the diet asserts that while one class of natural plant chemicals (polyphenols) can help improve your health, there is also a class of plant proteins that can do more harm to your health than good: Lectins.
If you’re eating an almost entirely plant-based diet and you still feel fatigued, have digestive issues, or are not reaching your weight loss goals, you might be suffering from lectin sensitivity.
Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins that can produce a response in your body leaving you feeling tired, bloated, and just plain nasty. Lectins are found in many of the foods we consume today. And the truth is, many people suffer from a lectin sensitivity without even knowing it.1
Polyphenols are compounds that occur naturally in nature — especially in teas, in-season fruits, and some vegetables. Polyphenols are plant metabolites that act as antioxidants, helping fight off UV radiation or health-compromising pathogens. Modern research suggests a diet rich in polyphenols can support healthy blood sugar levels, heart health, bone health, and immune function.2 Moral of the story… polyphenols are amazing for your health.
So, if fruits and certain vegetables contain both polyphenols and lectins, which whole foods should you eat — and which plant-foods should you avoid? Dr. Gundry has spent decades researching the answers to this important question.
The fact that the foods touted as the most healthy are also surprisingly dangerous (due to their lectin content) is the very idea behind the so-called plant paradox. Take tomatoes, for example. The tomato is a nightshade plant-food. Nightshades are among the most dangerous natural foods as they are loaded with lectins. Beans and legumes also have a very high lectin content. 3 Stay away from these foods.
Extra Virgin olive oil is loaded with nutrients and essential fats, but it is also associated with reduced risk of several health issues. One of the key components that gives olive oil its health-supporting properties is oleuropein.5 Oleuropein is a powerful polyphenol that can support heart health. Olive oil has many other health-supporting properties as well.6
Other healthy oils include: Olive oil, Sesame oil, Avocado oil7, Perilla oil8, Coconut oil9, Walnut oil, Cod liver oil10
Leafy greens and cruciferous veggies are some of the most important foods in our diet. Here are just some of the veggies you should allow yourself an unlimited supply of:Kale, Spinach, Broccoli, Arugula, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Bok Choy, Cabbage, Asparagus, Radish, Romaine, Red & Green Leaf Lettuce, Kohlrabi, Mesclun (baby greens), Endive, Butter lettuce, Fennel, Seaweed/sea vegetables.
Why an unlimited supply? These gorgeous green veggies contain multitudes of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Better yet, they’re lectin-free.
Do you know the old phrase, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Well, there’s a reason it’s old school. In fact, it may do just the opposite. Today, if you want to ensure better health you should be eating an avocado a day, NOT apples or other lectin-rich, sugary foods. In fact, avocados contain almost zero sugar. They’re also rich in fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin E.11
So, whether you spoon out the meat of an avocado and eat it on its own, or doctor up some tasty guacamole, you can be confident you’re doing something great for your health and well-being.
Avoid processed foods, nightshade vegetables, lectin-heavy nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, A1 dairy products, and grain-fed and farm-raised animal proteins.
Nightshade vegetables can contain toxic compounds like solanine which makes nightshades dangerous to our health.12 But nightshades also all contain lectins in large quantities, which is why they’re on the NO list. Legumes and beans also contain very high amounts of lectins. You should try to avoid lectin-rich foods as much as possible – but if that’s not an option for you, or if you must to cook with beans tomatoes, or potatoes, your best bet for destroying the lectins is a pressure cooker. It won’t get every last lectin – and it won’t come close to knocking out the lectins in wheat, oats, rye, barley, or spelt – so avoid those entirely. That said, pressure cooking can do a pretty good job with certain veggies and legumes. Deadly nightshades include: Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peppers, Eggplants14
These foods can wreak havoc on your digestive system and overall health, which is why it’s best to avoid eating them in any form. You’ll notice peppers are on the list. Stay away from fresh peppers (bell, shishito, etc.), cayenne pepper, chili powder, and paprika. And if you notice peppers in a sauce — steer clear. Ketchup, salsa, and marinara sauce are also big no-nos.
In-season fruits can go a long way when it comes to providing micronutrients, fiber, antioxidants, and more.15 However, today the food industry induces fruit ripening using unnatural methods. In most cases, scientists agree that fruit that ripens naturally in its own season tends to exhibit better characteristics compared to those ripened by unnatural methods.16 Even when you do consume in-season fruit, you should do so in moderation. Fruit is nature’s candy, after all — though it’s a natural food, it is high in sugar. In addition, you might think it’s okay to substitute your in-season fruit for fruit juice. The truth is, you will not reap the same rewards. Fruit juice can harness as much sugar as a can of soda and often does not include the same nutritional benefits as whole fruits. Fruit juices might also spike your blood sugar levels.17 It’s best to refrain from drinking fruit juice entirely.
The American diet consists of a great deal of animal protein — specifically the meat of many animals. Meat has its benefits — it is relatively high in protein and fat. However, beef contains saturated fats (an unhealthy type of fat), which is often linked to heart health concerns.18
So, what type of protein is best to consume? Believe it or not, you can and should get most (if not all) of the protein you need by eating plenty of leafy greens and lectin-free vegetables. For instance, half a cup of steamed cauliflower can provide up to 1 whole gram of protein.19 And a medium baked sweet potato yields about 2 grams of protein.20
Toss in a few walnuts for an additional protein-packed snack.
However, if you must eat meat, opt for free-range, grass-fed-and finished meat. Venison, ostrich, and other game meats have all the protein, iron, zinc, and B12 you might need — and they contain fewer unhealthy fats. Wild-caught fish is also an attractive option if you’re looking to up your protein game without having to worry about detrimental health concerns.
Just be aware… many Americans consume more protein than they really need — especially when it comes to animal-based protein. That can eventually lead to major health issues.21If you’re consuming animal protein, limit your intake to four ounces per day.22
In the end, you’ll notice plenty of options when you begin following Dr. Gundry’s recommendations. Just remember, lectin-rich vegetables, fruits, and legumes are off the table.
But there’s no shortage of delicious food on Gundry’s plan. As you become more familiar with which foods are lectin-free and full of essential nutrients (and therefore great to experiment with) and which foods are full of lectins (and therefore best left untouched), you’ll likely experience a return to better health.
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