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The Plant Paradox Diet: A Review of Why It Works (But Also Its Risks)

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Plant Paradox Diet review - Dr. Axe

Since its debut in 2017, the Plant Paradox diet has received plenty of attention — both good and bad — from dieters and nutrition experts alike. Even celebrities have joined in on the buzz; in fact, Kelly Clarkson attributed her massive weight loss to this controversial diet plan after dropping 37 pounds in a year.

But while proponents claim that it can bump up immune function, fight fatigue and ward off chronic disease, others have dismissed the diet as unnecessary and ineffective.

Despite the diversity of the Plant Paradox reviews out there, however, there are both pros and cons that need to be considered when it comes to this popular plan. Here’s what you need to know about the Plant Paradox to determine whether or not its right for you.


What Is The Plant Paradox Diet? Who Is Dr. Steven Gundry?

The Plant Paradox is a popular eating plan designed to fight inflammation in the body, which could potentially help prevent weight gain, autoimmune disorders and chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It’s based on The Plant Paradox book, which was written by Dr. Steven Gundry in 2017. Dr. Gundry is a cardiac surgeon who claims he has treated thousands of patients with his Plant Paradox program, a diet that focuses on decreasing lectin intake by making a few simple swaps in your diet.

Lectins are a type of protein found in plant foods that also act as an antinutrient, which means that it can block the absorption of other nutrients in the body. They also travel through the gastroinestinal tract undigested and, when consumed in large amounts, can cause irritation and damage to the gut wall. Not only can this lead to inflammation, but it can also impair nutrient absorption and cause symptoms like bloating, constipation and impaired immune function.

According  to Dr. Gundry, reducing intake of lectins can have far-reaching effects when it comes to weight loss and disease prevention and, judging by the multitude of positive Plant Paradox diet reviews out there, eliminating lectins from the diet can be incredibly effective for many. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what the Plant Paradox diet entails and whether or not it lives up to the hype.


Plant Paradox Diet Food List and Rules

So what do you eat on Plant Paradox diet? When you’re first getting started, figuring out which foods to add to your Plant Paradox shopping list can be quite a challenge. The diet involves restricting lectins, which are found mostly in grains, legumes and certain vegetables. Instead, it puts the focus on protein foods, healthy fats and fruits and vegetables that are low in lectins.

Here are a few foods that should be restricted on the Plant Paradox diet:

  • Refined carbohydrates: pasta, rice, bread, potato chips, cookies, crackers, etc.
  • Legumes: beans, lentils and peas
  • Nuts: cashews and peanuts
  • Seeds: pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and sunflower seeds
  • Vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, sugar snap peas, green beans, potatoes, zucchini
  • Fruits: all fruit (except fruit in season), ripe bananas, melon, squash, goji berries, pumpkins
  • Grains: whole grains such as oats, quinoa, rice, corn, barley, bulgur, etc.
  • Dairy products: cow’s milk products like Greek yogurt, frozen yogurt, American cheese, kefir, ricotta, cottage cheese, etc.
  • Sweeteners: sugar, aspartame, sucralose, maltodextrin, agave
  • Oils: soy, corn, peanut, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, cottonseed

Wondering which ingredients make it on the Plant Paradox food list? Here are some of the foods that you can enjoy as part of the diet:

  • Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, beets, celery, leeks, onions, carrots, asparagus, okra, mushrooms, garlic, leafy greens, etc.
  • Fruits: avocado, berries (in season and in moderation)
  • Seafood (2–4 ounces per day): any wild-caught varieties, including salmon, tuna, shrimp, lobster, sardines, etc.
  • Poultry (2–4 ounces per day): pasture-raised chicken, turkey, duck, goose, quail, eggs
  • Meat (4 ounces per day): grass-fed pork, beef, elk, bison, lamb, wild game
  • Plant-based proteins: grain-free tempeh, Quorn, veggie burgers, hemp tofu
  • Nuts (limit to 1/2 cup per day): walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, chestnuts, Brazil nuts, coconut
  • Seeds: hemp seeds, sesame seeds and flax seeds
  • Healthy fats: grass-fed butter, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, etc.
  • Herbs and spices: pepper, cumin, turmeric, oregano, rosemary, basil, etc.
  • Sweeteners: stevia, xylitol, erythritol, monkfruit, inulin, yacon
  • Resistant starch (in moderation): green bananas, green plantains, cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, etc.
  • Flours: coconut, almond, hazelnut, sesame, chestnut, arrowroot
  • Dairy products (1 ounce cheese or 4 ounce yogurt per day): goat cheese/milk, sheep cheese, buffalo mozzarella, coconut yogurt, goat/sheep kefir, A2 milk

The diet also specifies that there are three foods you should be consuming every day to really help maximize your results. These include avocado, one ounce of extra-dark chocolate and nuts like walnuts, pistachios or macadamia nuts.

If this all sounds a bit overwhelming, have no fear. There are plenty of resources online, many of which feature Plant Paradox meal plan ideas to help get you started. There are also lots of the Plant Paradox recipes available, which make it easy to plan and prepare healthy, well-rounded meals while following the diet.


Potential Benefits of The Plant Paradox

It’s true that lectins can cause issues for some people, and eating high amounts can be especially problematic. This is because lectins are very difficult for the body to digest and can easily stick to the intestinal walls, increasing the risk of digestive distress and symptoms like gas, bloating and constipation.

Certain types of lectins in foods, such as phytohemagglutinins, can be even more harmful in excess. Kidney beans, for example, are packed with phytohemagglutinins, and eating them raw has been shown to cause gastroenteritis, an intestinal infection that can lead to diarrhea, cramps and vomiting.

Overdoing it on the lectins could also potentially increase the risk of leaky gut syndrome, a condition that occurs when the lining of the gut becomes damaged, allowing food particles and toxins to move from the digestive tract into the bloodstream. This can cause widespread inflammation, worsening autoimmune disorders and amplifying symptoms like joint pain and brain fog. Although there are no studies on the effects of the Plant Paradox diet, it could possibly help prevent leaky gut syndrome and reduce adverse side effects.

The Plant Paradox diet also highlights many healthy foods like leafy greens, healthy fats and proteins, while limiting several that may not be so stellar for health such as refined carbs, added sugar and highly processed vegetables oils.

Making these simple swaps in your diet can be incredibly beneficial, especially for those with a diet lacking in whole foods and essential nutrients. It may also be useful for those looking to lose weight, boost energy levels or improve conditions such as diabetes or heart problems as it puts the focus on healthy ingredients that can supply your body with the nutrients it needs.


Shortcomings and Criticism of The Plant Paradox

Despite the potential benefits associated with the Plant Paradox, there are some drawbacks to consider as well. The biggest Plant Paradox criticism is that it’s based on the theory that all lectins are unhealthy, even though that isn’t necessarily true. In fact, lectins play a role in several aspects of health such as immune function and, in some cases, could even be beneficial against cancer and other conditions.

Additionally, while it is true that lectins can be harmful in high amounts, there are several ways to reduce your intake without cutting entire food groups out of your diet altogether. For example, cooking foods like legumes can significantly slash lectin content. Soaking, sprouting and fermenting foods can also reduce the amount of lectins in your foods.

Furthermore, most people aren’t eating enough lectins for it to be a real concern. This is because most of the foods that contain lectin are almost always cooked prior to consumption, leaving only a negligible amount of lectins in the final product.

The Plant Paradox also requires to cut out many ingredients that are highly nutritious and can be beneficial when consumed in moderation. Beans, for example, are loaded with fiber, protein and micronutrients and have been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Similarly, many of the fruits and vegetables eliminated on the diet are high in antioxidants and beneficial nutrients that your body needs to function and thrive.

So do you need to reduce your intake lectins to lose weight and improve your health? If you find that you’re especially sensitive to lectins, the Plant Paradox diet might be beneficial. However, for most people, cooking lectin-rich foods thoroughly and enjoying a well-rounded, balanced diet is likely all you need to help promote better health.


Final Thoughts

  • The Plant Paradox is a diet designed by Dr. Steven Gundry that is aimed at reducing inflammation in the body to improve overall health.
  • It works by cutting out foods high in lectins, which are a type of protein that can inhibit nutrient absorption and irritate the lining of the gut when consumed in high amounts.
  • Despite the long Plant Paradox list of foods to avoid, the diet allows you to consume plenty of healthy fats, protein foods and low-lectin fruits and vegetables.
  • Decreasing your intake of lectins could potentially help reduce the risk of leaky gut syndrome and digestive issues caused by lectins. It also focuses on healthy, whole foods while limiting processed ingredients and refined carbs.
  • However, many foods that are eliminated on the diet are rich in important nutrients and cooking, soaking, sprouting and fermenting these ingredients can significantly decrease their lectin content.
  • Therefore, the Plant Paradox may be a good option if you find that you’re especially sensitive to lectins. For others, cooking foods prior to eating and following a healthy, balanced diet may be a better alternative.

Read Next: Keto Diet for Beginners Made Easy: The Ultimate Guide to “Keto”


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