I read a lot of non-fiction about food and nutrition and, admittedly, there are a dizzying number of flash-in-a-pan diet/lifestyle books that villanize some foods and glorify others. The Plant Paradox is absolutely another book in a sea of books that touts the healing powers of food to reverse and prevent illness and inflammation; but you will definitely appreciate the nuance Gundry offers even though the books isn’t without some alarmist language, too (Gundry likens taking NSAIDs to dropping a grenade into the body…but honestly, maybe it is like that).
The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain offers new insights into food-related causes of illness. One thing that gives Author and cardio-surgeon Dr. Steven Gundry an edge–in addition to his rigorous research studies and research citations–is his admission that he changes his stance on what constitutes “healthy food” based on a changing body of evidence. Sticking to your guns is great if you’re not a cardio-surgeon when patients require that your practices are current and evidence-based!
First-off, people who follow a plant-based diet or lifestyle can rest assured that Gundry in no way vilifies plant-based living and eating: most of the food choices he recommends are still plant-centric. But there are certain plants you should avoid or pressure cook so as not to incur their wrath. So what’s the problem? Blame the lectins, those teeny, tiny little things that cumulatively wreak havoc in our bodies causing inflammation and auto-immune disorders. What in the world is a lectin, you may wonder? I, too, furrowed my brow at the mentioning of the word. Let’s have a look and go straight to the source. Although Gundry spends nearly 400 pages discussing what lectins are and why they’re so problematic, you might sum them up simply in one of his earliest statements that “they are large proteins found in plants and animals, and they are a crucial weapon in the arsenal of strategies that plants use to defend themselves in their ongoing battle with animals” (14). One of the most infamous lectins starts with the letter “G” and I’ll give you one guess! If you thought of gluten, you’re right! As you have witnessed, most grocery stores sell “gluten-free” variants of bread, baked goods, pasta, soups, and frozen entrees; but gluten is just one of many, many lectins. Gundry discusses how avoiding one lectin will do little to help individuals attempting to adhere to a gluten-free diet and lifestyle because they have not removed the other lectin-containing foods from their diets. And you better believe those little buggers are everywhere. To add insult to injury, most gluten-free foods are far more calorically dense and sugar-laden than their gluten-containing counterparts.
One major takeaway from the book is that making healthier food choices is less about what you add to your diet and more about what you remove to improve your health. Check out this book to discover Gundry’s recipes for a 3-day cleanse and what he refers to as the “Plant Paradox” program. If you like avocados like me, I think you’ll be happy to find that many of the 3-day cleanse recipes involve guacamole. There is also a list of lectin-containing culprits and lectin-free foods. Gundry also devised vegan and vegetarian variations of his recipes, for those who currently supplement their plant-based diets with copious amounts of beans, grains, nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, white potatoes, goji berries) and legumes.
One consideration with the Plant Paradox “diet” is that it’s somewhat restrictive and likely unsustainable. While it’s possible to loosely follow Dr. Gundry’s instruction, it would likely take time, patience, dedication, and extra cash-flow to implement and be in strict compliance with his plan (especially if you opt for pastured animals, for example). Someone who regularly eats grains, breads, and nightshades (or several other items from the “Do not eat” list) will require quite a few adjustments as they learn to navigate the boundaries of the Plant Paradox program. And something that Gundry likely takes for granted is simply the mental load of having to exert substantial thought into what you’re going to eat for every meal of every day. Grain-based foods, beans, and legumes are filling and cheap whereas “pastured” animal products are more costly (in comparison to their feedlot-raised counterparts). However, it’s reasonable to start with some small part of Gundry’s plan and try to implement that first, i.e. maybe you weed out the simple carbohydrates and refined flours from your diet first rather than trying to do everything at once. Everyone’s nutritional needs are very different, too, so while one person may suffer little or no consequence from regularly consuming the above-listed offenders, another may experience debilitating gastrointestinal issues. There is one thing I know for sure, though, and personally, when I replace the bread, flour, and dairy products in my diet with greens and velvety avocados, just to name a couple, there is a marked difference in how my gut responds. Happy gut, happy life!
Check this out if you like to stay on the up and up with new diet and nutrition information. This book is incredibly dense with a thorough bibliography if you’re inclined to reference some of Gundry’s research.