What to Know About the Plant Paradox Diet

The Plant Paradox diet is based on the claim that lectins, a protein in common foods, are the “anti-nutrients” behind many long-term (chronic) health conditions like obesity, chronic inflammation, and autoimmune diseases. The diet plan cuts out foods that contain lectins, like wheat, beans, potatoes, nuts, and dairy. 

The research behind the diet has not been replicated. Here’s what to know about the pros and cons of the plant paradox diet.  

What Is the Plant Paradox Diet?

The diet calls for avoiding foods with high amounts of lectins. Lectins are proteins that bind carbohydrates and aren’t easily broken down during digestion. If foods with high levels of lectins aren’t cooked in certain ways, they can cause stomach problems. 

The most common lectin-related problems happen when people eat raw or undercooked kidney beans. These have a type of lectin that can cause red blood cells to clump together. 

Common symptoms of lectin-based food poisoning include: 

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating 
  • Gas 

Possible Benefits of the Plant Paradox Diet

One reason why some people claim to have had success with the Plant Paradox plan is the removal of highly processed foods from the diet. 

The diet encourages people to stop eating processed food and to start eating whole foods. When this happens, people often start to feel better, and their overall health improves.

But different types of lectins can be found in a number of whole foods, including grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and dairy products. The proteins are in the seeds, grains, skins, rinds, and leaves of plants. 

There has been some research into using a lectin-limited diet, paired with probiotics and prebiotics, to help with autoimmune diseases. This might help strengthen gut health and reduce chances of other infections.

Possible Cons of the Plant Paradox Diet

Though there are good and bad health effects of lectins, there’s not enough evidence to back the idea of removing them from your diet entirely. Western diets are already typically low in lectins.

Beans, which are high in lectins, can be good for health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and weight management. Make sure to cook beans thoroughly, but you probably don’t need to stop eating them. 

Whole grains are also good for your health. They have been shown to help chronic diseases and prevent early death from cardiovascular disease. 

One of the most important parts of your health involves a balanced diet. Always check with your doctor before starting a new diet. You can also talk with a dietician about your diet and where you might be lacking in certain nutrients.  

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES: 

Center for Nutrition Studies: “‘The Plant Paradox’ by Steven Gundry MD – A Commentary.”

Circulation: “Abstract P238: Remission/Cure of Autoimmune Diseases by a Lectin Limite Diet Supplemented With Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Polyphenols.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Why Weight Loss on the Plant Paradox Diet Is Itself a Paradox.”

Gundry, S. The Plant Paradox: the Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain, Harper Wave, 2017.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Lectins.”

PLOS ONE: “Lectin-Based Food Poisoning: A New Mechanism of Protein Toxicity.”

World Journal of Gastroenterology: “Dietary Lectin exclusion: The next big food trend?"

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Get Diet and Fitness Tips In Your Inbox

Eat better and exercise smarter. Sign up for the Food & Fitness newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.