Book Review: The Plant Paradox by Steven Gundry

This book is centered around the naturally occurring plant component lectin, which is part of plants’ self defense-mechanism to protect them from their predators (humans included). The author discussed how these components may have a negative impact on human health, and proposed that by eliminating lectins in our diet, we can alleviate many health conditions caused by lectins.

Some examples of lectin-containing food include wheat (gluten), the nightshade family (white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, etc), and legumes (lentils, beans, peanuts, and cashew, etc). As you can see, some of these foods are considered health food to a broader audience and so it’s controversial. (Read more on nightshades in my previous post.)

Gundry claims that lectins:

  • Damage the gut lining and cause leaky gut.
  • Discrupt your body’s ability to control blood sugar levels
  • Kill healthy gut bacteria and help bad bacteria thrive
  • Cause inflammation and autoimmune disease …

While the author presented several interesting and mind-opening aspects of plant foods along with numerous successful transformation stories of patients who embraced his “lectin-free diet”, I thought the examples used are mostly anedotes and lacking scientific research (such as case-control studies). I have no doubt on the genuinity of these success stories, however, we cannot use anedotes to prove a causation relationship. When examples are presented without sound scientific background, it’s easy for them to become merely opnions rather than proof.

While I have no first hand knowledge of how these people were able to eliminate lectins and make life-changing transformation, the reason why they felt better after a lectin-free diet may be due to

  • The fact that they reduced the consumption of highly processed foods significantly as a “side effect” while on the “lectin cleanse”.
  • Genetic predisposition and bioindividuality are other factors to consider – are some people more sensitive to lectin than others? In my opinion, there is no one-size-fits-all diet.
  • The effect of the growing and harvesting condition of plant foods on the lectin levels (organic, GMO, soil minerals, naturally ripen or harvested long before ripened, etc).
  • Eventhough lectins may be toxic to humans, how much is toxic (dosage makes the poison), and more importantly, do the beneficial traits of plants (fibre, antioxidants, minerals & vitamins…) outweight the toxic effect of lectin?

Nonetheless, I found these points presented in the book interesting:

  • All New World plants contain troublesome lectins that most of mankind has eaten for no more than five hundred years.
  • The natural world is all about eating and avoiding being eaten (so they can poliferate). Plants are no exception.
  • The lectins were designed to sicken, paralyze or weaken any insect that tried to eat them. I thought it’s fascinating that plants may be as smart as animals in this way.
  •  In-season fruits and vegetables are naturally lower in lectins than those harvested out of season and artificially ripened because as plants mature, they “want to be eaten” by animals so that their seeds can spread and poliferate, whereas when unripe, they want protect thier offsprings from their predators.
  • The peels, seeds and stems of some fruits have higher concentration of lectins than the flesh.
  • Pressure cooking some grains and legumes (wheat is an exception) may help reduce their lectin content while preserving the beneficial nutrients in them.

Lastly, I want to mention that it’s important to keep an open mind when taking in new information like what was presented in this book, but at the same time think critically and ask lots of questions. Are the facts presented in structurally sound way? Is there a causation relationship? Has research been done to prove these points? Who funded the research? Did the author present these points to promote a product or an organization? What are the potential benefits and risks of trying these diet? …

Have you read this book? Would you be interested to read this or try reducing lectins in your diet? Let me know what you think!

*Disclosure: The following link is an affiliate link. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks.*

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