The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain
By Steven R. Gundry, MD
There are many theories about what is at the root of poor health in modern civilization, especially in the last century. What is it this time in The Plant Paradox? Fat? Meat? Raw milk? Too much sun? Genetics? Global warming? Kim Kardashian? No, this time it is lectins (not lecithin, leptin or leprechauns). Lectins are, for the most part, large proteins. Gluten is a well-known example. Grains and other foods containing lectin have been around for thousands of years, so our bodies should be able to handle them, right? Gundry says “yes,” up to a point. However, modern food processing has amped up the lectins to the point that we are overloaded.
There are many things we are doing wrong. We now feed cattle grain and sometimes soy. We also feed grain and soy to chickens and other animals, so the meat and other products from those animals now have much more lectin. Bt corn is genetically modified to add the snowdrop lectin (Galanthus nivalis). Whole wheat bread is popularly believed to be the healthy choice, but the bran contains wheat germ agglutinin, which is even worse than gluten. Traditional breads made with yeast are much better because the yeast eats the lectins. Sourdough is one of the least dangerous breads. Cooking also reduces lectins. Fermentation helps.
Chapter 4 lists the seven deadly disruptors of a healthy gut. It is a pretty good list that includes antibiotics and other drugs, artificial sweeteners, endocrine disruptors and GMOs.
Although there is a lot of good information and attention to how our ancestors ate and what we are doing wrong, I think Nourishing Diets covers it better. The book has some references, but Gundry also presents a lot of information without citing any references, drawing on his observations in his medical practice. I’m inclined to take people at their word unless there is a good reason not to, so I’ll go along with that.
It is not hard to believe that Gundry’s diet protocol has helped many people, and after getting well into the book, my thumb was provisionally up. Then I looked at the list of acceptable foods, and my thumb began to droop. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good things on the list (even cod liver oil), and you can conform to Weston A. Price principles if you pick and choose the right things. But there are also things on the list that I would stay away from, including sweeteners like xylitol and erythritol, dark chocolate, energy bars and hemp tofu. Gundry includes good pastured meat and dairy but seems to have a somewhat negative view of saturated fat (but he does like coconut oil) and animal protein. He thinks less is better.
The discussion of vitamin D made my thumb droop a little more. It is certainly good that he considers vitamin D important. No doubt it is. Cod liver oil is on the list of acceptable supplements, but I saw no mention of it in the section where he goes into detail on vitamin D. Gundry mentions fish oil but does not say that most fish oil supplements are rancid and that you can easily overdose on omega-3. In his practice, if I understand correctly, he recommends vitamin D3 from a capsule or pill. When starting his program, he recommends five thousand IU of vitamin D per day. Double that if you have an autoimmune disease. He has never seen a case of vitamin D toxicity and doubts that it exists. Again, I won’t dispute his personal observations, but I have heard that others are pretty sure they have seen vitamin D toxicity. I would personally feel much safer getting a somewhat lower quantity of vitamin D in a good quality cod liver oil properly balanced with vitamins A and K2.
This book gets a lot of details right that others get wrong. For the educated and discerning reader, this book could be very helpful, so I don’t want to trash it, but my thumb has to follow the Weston A. Price principles. In the final balance, the thumb is DOWN.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2018.