Why You Should Ignore "The Plant Paradox" by Steven Gundry (2022)

The skeptical cardiologist first encountered the blather of Dr. Steven Gundry while researching and writing a post entitled The #1 Red Flag of Quackery.

Gundry came across my radar screen due to the popularity of Why You Should Ignore "The Plant Paradox" by Steven Gundry (1)his useless supplements and his pseudoscientific justifications.

He is also widely described as a cardiologist but he is not, He is a cardiothoracic surgeon.

He wrote a book published in 2009 entitled Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution in which he states:
“Until six years ago, I primarily flexed my survival muscles as a heart surgeon and researcher on how to keep heart cells alive under stress”.
Indeed up until 2004 Gundry was a well-respected cardiac surgeon but since then he has been selling diet books and supplements on his website, gundrymd.com.
Gundry is also a Goop doctor.
I’ve been meaning to write specifically about his most popular useless supplement, Vital Reds.
In the meantime, Gundry has come out with another best-selling. book entitled “The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in Healthy Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain”.
This book claims to reveal to its readers the great dietary “secret” that is causing almost all chronic diseases. Of course, Gundry is the only person with the brilliance and insight to have recognized this. Only those who are willing to plunk down the money to buy his book will learn this secret and the (mostly gobbledook) science behind it.
This technique of convincing the naive that only you are aware of the “hidden” factor which is the cause of their various maladies is a standard come-on in the world of pseudoscience.
The Plant Paradox would have you believe that lectins are the major danger in our diet.
I’ve come across four well-researched pieces which destroy any validity to the concepts put forth by Gundry in The Plant Paradox.

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Campbell: Is It Possible Gundry Is Out To Make A Quick Buck?

The first is from T. Colin Campbell of China Study fame. While I don’t agree with his overall dietary philosophy (see here) in his article he has taken the time to read Gundry’s book in detail and address in great detail the multiple bogus claims and the lack of scientific support. Campbell begins:

The claims come fast and furious in this book, stated with a degree of certainty, without nuance, that undoubtedly appeals to many readers. But the referencing is so lacking and sloppy that Dr. Gundry should be embarrassed. The references that are cited in this book do a poor job of trying to justify its claims. And the bulk of the author’s wild claims lack references at all, with several examples of easily verifiable falsehoods. Because his claims are quite profound and novel, referencing of the findings of others and his own results are especially important. This is especially troubling for an author who touts his own research experience.

After debunking Gundry’s lectin claims , Campbell suggests that Gundry’s major goal is selling more useless supplements, including one that will protect readers from the dreaded lectin:

In conclusion, there are many people who desire good health and deserve good information and we resent that they must suffer such poor quality and confusing information under the assumption that it is good science. Is it possible that Dr. Gundry is just out to make a quick buck? He admits that his patients give up to a dozen vials of blood for testing every couple of months at his clinic. Overtesting is common practice in supplement-driven clinics. This extensive testing, (which are another topic), is almost always used to demonstrate some type of nutritional pathology, which of course can only be corrected by taking the suggested supplements. And of course, Dr. Gundry sells supplements, including “Lectin Shield” for about $80 a month. According to his website, “This groundbreaking new formula was created to offset the discomforting effects of lectins (proteins commonly found in plants that make them harder to digest). Lectin Shield works to protect your body from a pile-up of lectins and to promote full-body comfort.”

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Are Lectins The Next Gluten?

The second article I highly recommend was written for The Atlantic last year by one of my favorite medical writers, James Hamblin, MD.
Entitled, “Lectins Could Become the Next Gluten“, the article combines a tongue–in-cheek commentary with interviews with scientists who debunk Gundry’s claims. Hamblin also interviews Gundry which is particularly revelatory as to Gundry’s lack of credibility.
Although Gundry claims his writing is not motivated by money, Hambling notes:

Yes, he also sells supplements he recommends. The last 20 or so minutes of his infomercial is a string of claims about how supplies are running low, and it’s important that you act immediately, and that if you do manage to get through to a customer representative you should order as much as you have room to store—the shelf life is great, etc. And the necessity of supplements is the crucial argument of the book. He writes, “Getting all of the nutrients you need simply cannot be done without supplements.”
The GundryMD line of products includes something he invented called vitamin G6. Another is a “lectin shield” that’s “designed to neutralize the effects of lectins.” These are available on his website for $79.99. There you can also get six jars of Vital Reds for $254.70.

Are Lectins As Toxic As Oxygen?

David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP, FACLM, who has way too many letters after his name wrote “Do We Dare Eat Lectins?” and concluded that Gundry’s idea that “the binding of lectins from plant foods to our cells is a major cause of ill health, and thus we must all fear and avoid lectins” is “utter nonsense.”

The answer to- “should you fear lectins now?” is- yes, if and only if you do the same for oxygen.
As I recently noted to a colleague, oxygen is not a theoretical toxin with theoretical harms in people; it is a known toxic with established harms. The atmosphere of our planet is thus highly analogous to the dietary sources of lectins: both contain compounds with potentially toxic effects, but net benefit is overwhelming both from eating plants, and breathing.

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Eat Your Beans But Skip Reading The Plant Paradox

Finally, I’ve updated this post with a skewering of Gundry’s latest book “The Longevity Paradox” written by Joel Kahn, MD

In the Longevity Paradox Gundry comes up with his own unique and totally unsubstantiated theory of atherosclerosis (the build up of plaque in our arteries which causes heart attacks). Kahn points out that there is nothing in the scientific literature to support this theory:

“On pages 97–101, Dr. Gundry provides a theory of atherosclerosis that he provides to support the central role of avoiding lectins for health, the thesis of his The Plant Paradox. He provides ideas about molecules called Neu5Gc and Neu5Ac and how the differences amongst species. As humans do not make Neu5Gc, or so he asserts, eating lectins, and particularly grain lectins, bind to our tissues which “lays the groundwork for heart and autoimmune diseases in spades”. How many references to scientific studies are provided in these 5 pages to support this novel and bold assertion? Zero! I was intrigued enough to do my own literature search and can confirm zero exist. This is another example of hypothesis or fiction presented as an established fact because Dr. Gundry has a white beard like Santa and a medical degree. Shame, shame.”

Fake Dietary Science Undermines Valid Dietary Recommendations

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Hambling closes his piece by noting that book publishers have no accountability for publishing dietary/health misinformation as they are incentivized to publish and profit from the most outrageous claims.

This is a problem much bigger than any plant protein. Cycles of fad dieting and insidious misinformation undermine both public health and understanding of how science works, giving way to a sense of chaos. It seems that every doctor has their own opinion about how to protect your body from calamity, and all are equally valid, because nothing is ever truly known.

Lectiophilically
-ACP
N.B. Gwyneth Paltrow (GOOP) deserves a prominent place in the Quackery Hall of Shame.
Julia Belluz of Vox has a typically spot-on piece about GOOP which begins:
Why You Should Ignore "The Plant Paradox" by Steven Gundry (2)

Gwyneth Paltrow has made a career out of selling pseudoscience on her lifestyle website, Goop. Over the years, the actress has proclaimed women should steam their vaginas, that water has feelings, and that your body holds secret organs. Mixed into these absurd assertions is her bogus detox diet and cleansing advice, all of it in service of promoting Goop’s beauty and wellness products

FAQs

Why are lectins bad for you Dr. Gundry? ›

According to Dr. Gundry, lectins are toxins that plants produce to survive and shouldn't be eaten because of the many complications they cause, including inflammation, intestinal damage, and weight gain.

What is the protein Dr. Gundry says to avoid? ›

Lectins are naturally occurring carbohydrate-binding proteins found in all plants and animals. They are most commonly found in legumes and grains, foods Dr. Gundry suggests avoiding altogether.

What are the foods Dr. Gundry says to avoid? ›

FOODS HIGH IN LECTINS INCLUDE:
  • Certain vegetables, especially nightshades such as tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant.
  • Certain nuts and seeds including cashews, peanuts, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds.
  • Grain-fed and farm-raised animal proteins.
  • Beans and legumes.
  • A1 dairy products.
8 Apr 2021

What 3 foods did Dr. Gundry eliminate from his diet? ›

All refined starches, sugars and sweeteners are off the menu, as well as some fruits and vegetables, soy, dairy, legumes and seeds, oils and grains, such as the following: Nightshades: tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes and peppers.

Does Dr. Gundry say oatmeal is bad? ›

Dr. Gundry: 19:02 There's nothing good in oatmeal. It's loaded with lectins. Most oatmeal even the ones that say gluten-free, cross react with gluten.

What does Dr. Gundry eat for breakfast? ›

Dr. Steven Gundry Reveals Ultimate Breakfast Recipe - YouTube

What's the one thing Dr. Gundry added to his diet? ›

His book detailing the diet, The Plant Paradox, is a best-seller. So, what's on the menu? Low-lectin foods like leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower), avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds, pasture-raised meat and wild-caught fish.

Is coffee high in lectins? ›

Coffee beans contain lectins.

However, they are more concentrated in grains, beans, and nuts. They are Mother Nature's insecticide and when consumed in large quantities by humans can cause trouble in the small intestine.

Is Gundry a real doctor? ›

Gundry (born July 11, 1950) is an American physician and author. He is a former cardiac surgeon and currently runs his own clinic, investigating the impact of diet on health.

What is Dr. Gundry toxic vegetable? ›

The following foods are high in lectin: squash. legumes, including beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts. nightshade vegetables, such as eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes.

Does Dr. Gundry recommend bananas? ›

Avoid Bananas + Try Blackberries

Instead, try blackberries and pomegranates, as "they're low in sugar and contain potent, disease-fighting antioxidants such as polyphenols," says Gundry.

What is the number 1 healthiest food in the world? ›

So, having scoured the full list of applicants, we have crowned kale as the number 1 healthiest food out there. Kale has the widest range of benefits, with the fewest drawbacks when stacked up against its competitors. For us, kale is truly king. Read on to find out exactly why.

Are eggs high in lectin? ›

Eggs Eggs too are included in the lectin-free way of life, but must be pasture-raised.

Do bananas have lectins? ›

One of the predominant proteins in the pulp of ripe bananas (Musa acuminata L.) and plantains (Musa spp.) has been identified as a lectin.

Does peanut butter have lectins? ›

Raw peanuts contained the highest amount of lectins, but this was significantly reduced with cooking. Both dry and oil roasted peanuts contained very small amounts of lectins, as did peanut flour and peanut butter.

What does Dr. Gundry say about tomatoes? ›

Tomatoes are not approved by Dr. Gundry, and are on his list of “forbidden foods”. However, if you must eat tomatoes, be sure to skin them and remove all seeds to avoid as many harmful lectins as possible.

Why should you not eat oatmeal everyday? ›

Though oatmeal is said to help you lose weight, having too much of it can lead to malnutrition and muscle mass shedding. This is because oatmeal is rich in fibre, which keeps you full for longer, so your body loses the ability to signal you to eat more throughout the day.

Are almonds high in lectins? ›

Nuts such as almonds, cashew nuts, and peanuts have high levels of lectins. They are also a great source of biotin, vitamin B1 (thiamine), and vitamin E. While cooking will destroy the lectins in beans, this is not the case for lectins from nuts.

What vegetables have no lectins? ›

According to Gundry, these foods are low in lectins and OK to eat on a lectin-free diet.
  • Avocado.
  • Asparagus.
  • Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables.
  • Celery.
  • Cooked sweet potatoes.
  • Garlic.
  • Leafy green vegetables.
  • Mushrooms.
14 Jul 2020

Is oatmeal high in lectins? ›

Does Oatmeal Have Lectins? Does Oatmeal Contain Lectins ... - YouTube

What nuts do not contain lectins? ›

Fats, such as those found in avocados, butter, and olive oil, are allowed on the lectin-free diet. Many types of nuts, such as pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, and Brazil nuts, are also allowed.

Is Turmeric high in lectins? ›

Like in many other plants, turmeric contains lectin for binding and stabilization properties. Specifically, it contains Curcuma longa rhizome lectin, a binding protein of turmeric's non-seed parts. Still, it contains lectin in rather small amounts.

Are lectins really a problem? ›

The Problem With Lectins

The most publicized accounts report severe reactions in people eating even small amounts of raw or undercooked kidney beans. They contain phytohaemagglutinin, a type of lectin that can cause red blood cells to clump together. It can also produce nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, and diarrhea.

Do sweet potatoes have lectins? ›

Cooked root vegetables like sweet potatoes, yucca and taro, along with leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, avocados, olives and olive oil are all examples of healthy foods that do contain some lectins. They can be eaten without restrictions.

What does Dr. Gundry say not to put in your coffee? ›

Putting dairy in your coffee cancels out coffee's polyphenol benefits. Drink it black or swap out the A2 milk with unsweetened coconut milk.

Does yogurt contain lectins? ›

Sauerkraut, yogurt, tempeh, and kombucha are well-known food sources that undergo the fermentation process. The fermentation process has shown to reduce lectin content up to 95 percent.

Do lectins cause inflammation? ›

Because lectins can trigger an immune response, they have been linked to autoimmune inflammatory conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes.

Is Dr Steven Gundry olive oil? ›

Steven Gundry's, Gundry MD Polyphenol Rich Olive Oil is an Organic, Supercharged Extra Virgin Olive Oil That Supports a Healthy Heart, Smooth Skin, and Strong Muscles.

What is the Gundry advantage? ›

What Is Gundry MD Active Advantage? Active Advantage is a nutritional supplement offered by Gundry MD, the personal brand of Dr. Steven Gundry. It uses a few ingredients in order to promote healthy energy levels, reduce fatigue, and improve your metabolism.

Are lectins really that bad for you? ›

The Problem With Lectins

The most publicized accounts report severe reactions in people eating even small amounts of raw or undercooked kidney beans. They contain phytohaemagglutinin, a type of lectin that can cause red blood cells to clump together. It can also produce nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, and diarrhea.

What does Dr Gundry say about tomatoes? ›

Tomatoes are not approved by Dr. Gundry, and are on his list of “forbidden foods”. However, if you must eat tomatoes, be sure to skin them and remove all seeds to avoid as many harmful lectins as possible.

Should you worry about lectins? ›

And studies have shown that lectins break down when processed or cooked, so the risk of adverse health effects arising from lectin-rich foods that aren't raw is not cause for concern. In addition, most foods that contain lectins are recommended as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.

What is the truth about lectins? ›

Lectins represent a family of proteins that occur in all foods to some degree. They're most concentrated in grains and legumes but are also found to a lesser degree in produce and animal foods. While some experts liken lectins to gluten, which can be harmful to some people, evidence to support that theory is lacking.

Is coffee high in lectins? ›

Coffee beans contain lectins.

However, they are more concentrated in grains, beans, and nuts. They are Mother Nature's insecticide and when consumed in large quantities by humans can cause trouble in the small intestine.

Do avocados have lectins? ›

Not only are avocados lectin-free, but they're also packed with antioxidants. Avocados are also high in good fats and fiber. Broccoli – Not all vegetables have lectins. Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are also lectin-free.

Do blueberries have lectins? ›

Blueberries get their health-promoting properties by way of flavonoids. Specifically, they're loaded with anthocyanins. Contrary to what some people have heard, blueberries do not contain lectins.

What is Dr. Gundry's one thing? ›

What is it? According to diet creator Dr. Steven Gundry, a group of proteins called lectins are wreaking havoc on our health. The former cardiac surgeon argues that by eliminating lectins (found in nightshades, grains and dairy, amongst other foods), you can lower inflammation, lose weight and boost your wellness.

Do bananas have lectins? ›

One of the predominant proteins in the pulp of ripe bananas (Musa acuminata L.) and plantains (Musa spp.) has been identified as a lectin.

Are eggs high in lectin? ›

Eggs Eggs too are included in the lectin-free way of life, but must be pasture-raised.

Does peanut butter have lectins? ›

Raw peanuts contained the highest amount of lectins, but this was significantly reduced with cooking. Both dry and oil roasted peanuts contained very small amounts of lectins, as did peanut flour and peanut butter.

Is oatmeal high in lectins? ›

Lectin-containing foods include nightshades, like tomatoes and potatoes; vegetables with seeds, like squash and cucumbers; grains including wheat, rice, and oats; and legumes, including non-pressure-cooked beans, split peas, and lentils. These foods are highest in lectins when consumed raw.

Which fruits contain lectins? ›

The lectin-free diet also warns against goji berries, potatoes, tomatoes, melon, seeds, lentils, edamame, peas and zucchini, among other fruit, vegetables and legumes.

What foods destroy lectins? ›

Studies show that boiling legumes, soybeans, and even kidney beans (which have extremely high lectin levels when raw), greatly reduces and often completely eliminates lectin activity.

Do apples have lectins? ›

All plant and animal products contain some lectins. Yet, fruits and vegetables that contain relatively little lectin include: apples. artichokes.

What vegetables have no lectins? ›

According to Gundry, these foods are low in lectins and OK to eat on a lectin-free diet.
  • Avocado.
  • Asparagus.
  • Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables.
  • Celery.
  • Cooked sweet potatoes.
  • Garlic.
  • Leafy green vegetables.
  • Mushrooms.
14 Jul 2020

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