This new year I set out with a lofty resolution to change my eating habits. And since January (the longest I have ever held to a resolution), I have stayed committed to eating a Plant Paradox lifestyle. The premise of this plan is to remove “lectins” from your diet, including some vegetables and fruits you wouldn’t even think about eliminating. It encourages you to think about what you are putting into your body and “YOU are what YOU eat”. I have tried Whole30 and other clean eating styles and honestly this has been the most rewarding and easy to sustain.
You might be wondering, what the heck is a lectin? I thought the same thing when I first started out. In a nutshell, lectins are a protein found in plant foods that adversely affect the human body when eaten. Lectins are designed to cause harm to whoever eats them- they function as a defense mechanism for plants. As living beings, plants do not want to be eaten. Lectins are supposed to incentivize animals and humans to not eat the plants anymore by making them sick when they eat plants with lectins. The reaction should be that the human or animal no longer eats the food that made them sick. However, most humans simply pop an Advil or acid reducer and go on with their day, not even considering why they are feeling sick. Thus, people continue to eat foods with lectins, despite the negative effect the foods may be having on their health.
Have you heard of gluten? Well, it’s the rockstar of the lectin family and most lectins can be found in nightshade vegetables (like eggplant, squash and tomatoes - think things with seeds), grains, legumes, soy, and some nuts. Lectin can cause inflammation and other physical ailments. For me, I wanted to stop feeling bloated, sluggish and tired all of the time. So, I figured, let’s read up on the science and the “why” to make an informed decision for myself.
So I did just that, and have been going strong for over three months on a “mostly” Plant Paradox plan. I have lost about 14 pounds, and that’s not even the real point, it’s about feeling healthy and making positive decisions for your body. Losing weight wasn’t really my intention going into this, but it definitely helped me stay motivated ;) I am lucky (and by that I actually mean unlucky) to have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol and inflammatory ailments and the Plant Paradox has been working for me. I go to bed not feeling bloated, my skin seems to be glowing since I started using Collagen Peptides (helps with the gut) in my coffee, I am sleeping better, eating dark chocolate, feeling more energetic, learning new recipes and I still get to drink red wine!
There are lists out there of what to eat and what to avoid. Eating something like a Cauliflower Crust Pizza is a huge treat for me these days, and I am not complaining, because it is DEE-LISH! I pile it with goat cheese, drizzle with olive oil, add prosciutto and tons of arugula and boom! This particular crust can be found in bulk on Amazon, your local Whole Foods or probably most natural grocery stores.
Anytime you start something new, there is a learning curve. It can be challenging, but once you get the hang of it, you will know what your go-to items are when you head to the grocery store. I admit, I spent hours the first trip to the store reading labels and re-reading labels and you might too (heads up;). To help me find new recipes and other ideas, I looked to Lectin Free Mama for her weekly recipes and grocery shopping lists. I also used the Plant Paradox Recipe Book as a mega resource when I first began.
I think the hardest part was finding compliant meat sources that were pastured and grass fed. I always bought organic, vegetarian fed, no antibiotics or hormones, etc. and I thought that was enough. But you are what your meat eats, right?! So, if you are eating chicken that is vegetarian fed, most likely they are being fed corn and soy and in turn, you are eating corn and soy. Have you tried finding chicken or pork that meets this criteria? I can tell you it’s almost impossible to find it in your grocery store. So, I went to the web and found Primal Pastures, a farm that delivers pastured and organic meat right to your doorstep. We signed up for a delivery once every 8 weeks and this has been plenty for our family of three. They have varying options (we chose the Farmer Stash which is a surprise box that focuses on seasonal and what is in stock) and I would highly recommend finding a source like this for yourself. You might also look to your local farms and other co-ops in your area to find a sustainable meat source. If you are vegetarian and looking for protein sources, the Quorn brand is recommended as it’s made mostly with fungi, not soy.
It may seem expensive, but honestly, your health is worth it. You may have to spend a bit more to get your pantry in a good place as you will need to stock up on items like almond flour, coconut flour, ghee, avocado oil, coconut milk and other items to help elevate your meals. I cleared out my cabinets to avoid temptation, that was a really hard process as I hate to waste food and money, but I am grateful I did.
You will also learn how to eat out when you are with a group of friends or on the go. It can be done, I promise! I mean, am I a purist?! No, but I try to keep to the plan “mostly” when I am traveling.
This amazing breakfast skillet is what I ordered when I went to brunch at Broder Nord for a birthday celebration. I had pastured eggs with local house made sausage and gluten free toast. Granted, I live in the Portland area, and we might have more access to sources like this, but I think you get the idea that it is possible, and there are always options and I never feel bad about asking for food prepared a certain way (like steamed, or made with olive oil and without the sauce, etc). And yes, I have become that person that brings my own coconut amino acids to a restaurant, whoops. Ha!
To help you get a sense of other types of food on the “YES” List, here is a quick breakdown:
- pasture-raised meats
- A2 milk
- cooked sweet potatoes
- leafy, green vegetables
- cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts
- garlic and onion
- olives or extra virgin olive oil
Foods to Avoid:
- legumes, such as beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts
- nightshade vegetables, such as eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes
- fruit, although in-season fruit is allowed in moderation
And no fear here, there are so many foods you can eat and even for some that are on the “avoid” list, there are ways to reduce the high lectin content. If grains are consumed, the plan recommends products made from white flour instead of wheat. You can reduce the lectin content in beans by using a pressure cooker to prepare them. Also, if you can’t live without your pasta sauce, you can remove the skin and de-seed tomatoes and stew them, this reduces the lectin content (think about how Italian’s cook). The same goes for cucumbers peel the skin off and de-seed.
To get a more in depth version, here is Dr. Gundry’s Full List of Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid.
Again, I would highly recommend reading (or listening to) the book and understanding the “why” behind making these changes. It helped me feel confident in that it didn’t seem like a “fad”, but it felt more like science and a way of being. When I started to think about vegetables wanting to survive because they are living, it clicked. All living things want to continue their lineage, so for me, it made sense.
Let me know if you have tried eating the Plant Paradox way or if you have been thinking about it. Would love to hear from you and your thoughts. I am not an expert by any means, but I wanted to share what I have been experiencing, and the benefits have been off the charts! Thanks for reading!