The Plant Paradox
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The Plant Paradox

Dr. Steven R. Gundry, MD

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eBook - ePub

The Plant Paradox

Dr. Steven R. Gundry, MD

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About This Book

From renowned cardiac surgeon Steven R. Gundry, MD, the New York Times bestselling The Plant Paradox is a revolutionary look at the hidden compounds in "healthy" foods like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains that are causing us to gain weight and develop chronic disease.

Most of us have heard of gluten—a protein found in wheat that causes widespread inflammation in the body. Americans spend billions of dollars on gluten-free diets in an effort to protect their health. But what if we've been missing the root of the problem? In The Plant Paradox, renowned cardiologist Dr. Steven Gundry reveals that gluten is just one variety of a common, and highly toxic, plant-based protein called lectin. Lectins are found not only in grains like wheat but also in the "gluten-free" foods most of us commonly regard as healthy, including many fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and conventional dairy products. These proteins, which are found in the seeds, grains, skins, rinds, and leaves of plants, are designed by nature to protect them from predators (including humans). Once ingested, they incite a kind of chemical warfare in our bodies, causing inflammatory reactions that can lead to weight gain and serious health conditions.

At his waitlist-only clinics in California, Dr. Gundry has successfully treated tens of thousands of patients suffering from autoimmune disorders, diabetes, leaky gut syndrome, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases with a protocol that detoxes the cells, repairs the gut, and nourishes the body. Now, in The Plant Paradox, he shares this clinically proven program with readers around the world.

The simple (and daunting) fact is, lectins are everywhere. Thankfully, Dr. Gundry offers simple hacks we easily can employ to avoid them, including:

  • Peel your veggies. Most of the lectins are contained in the skin and seeds of plants; simply peeling and de-seeding vegetables (like tomatoes and peppers) reduces their lectin content.
  • Shop for fruit in season. Fruit contain fewer lectins when ripe, so eating apples, berries, and other lectin-containing fruits at the peak of ripeness helps minimize your lectin consumption.
  • Swap your brown rice for white. Whole grains and seeds with hard outer coatings are designed by nature to cause digestive distress—and are full of lectins.

With a full list of lectin-containing foods and simple substitutes for each, a step-by-step detox and eating plan, and delicious lectin-free recipes, The Plant Paradox illuminates the hidden dangers lurking in your salad bowl—and shows you how to eat whole foods in a whole new way.

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—————PART I—————
The Dietary Dilemma
The War Between Plants and Animals
Don’t let the title of this chapter worry you. You haven’t mistakenly dipped into a botany textbook or parachuted into the set of Avatar. You have my assurance that this book will help you learn how to be slim and energized and lay the foundation for vibrant health and longevity. If you wonder why knowing how plants operate could possibly affect you—to say nothing of whether plants possess intention—fasten your seat belt and prepare to be amazed as we take a brief tour through the last 400 million years. Along the way, you’ll come to understand that leaves, fruits, grains, and other vegetable foods aren’t just sitting there accepting their fate as part of your dinner. They have their own sophisticated ways of defending themselves from plant predators like you, including the use of toxic chemicals.
But first, let me make one thing crystal clear. There is no question that consuming certain plants is essential for good health—and therein lies the paradox. They power your body and provide most of the hundreds of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients that you need not just to live, but also to thrive. Over the last fifteen years, more than ten thousand of my patients have found that following my Plant Paradox Program results in both weight loss and remarkable reversals of numerous health problems. Meanwhile, people whose digestive issues had made them unable to keep pounds on were finally able to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Unlike the Paleo diet and other low-carb or even ketogenic diets, all of which stress heavy meat consumption, you’ll be dining mostly on certain plant foods, as well as a small amount of wild fish and shellfish and the occasional serving of pastured meat. I also provide vegan and vegetarian variations.
Now here’s a shocker to start off your reeducation: the more fruit I removed from an individual’s diet, the healthier he or she became and the more his or her cholesterol numbers and markers for kidney function improved. The more I removed vegetables that have lots of seeds, such as cucumbers and squash, the better my patients felt, the more weight they lost, and the more their cholesterol levels improved! (By the way, any so-called vegetable that has seeds, such as a tomato, cucumber, or squash, and even string beans, is botanically a fruit.) Plus, the more shellfish and egg yolks the patients ate, the lower their cholesterol numbers. Yes, that’s correct. Eating shellfish and egg yolks dramatically reduces total cholesterol.1 As I said in the Introduction, forget everything you thought you knew was true.
It’s All About Survival
EVERY LIVING THING possesses the drive to survive and pass on its genes to future generations. We consider plants our friends because they feed us, but plants regard all plant predators, including us, as enemies. However, even enemies have their uses. Therein lies the dilemma we plant eaters face: the very foods we need to eat have their own ways of discouraging us from consuming them and their offspring. The result is an ongoing battle between the animal kingdom and the plant kingdom.
But not all plants are created equal. Some of the very vegetables and fruits that sustain us simultaneously contain substances that can harm us. We’ve been glossing over this paradox for literally ten thousand years. Gluten, of course, is one example of a plant component that is problematic for some people, as the recent gluten-free craze has spotlighted. But glutens are just one example of the kind of protein known as a lectin and one factor in the Plant Paradox, and they may well have sent us off on a wild goose chase, as you’ll soon learn. I’ll introduce you to the larger world of lectins later in this chapter.
The Plant Paradox Program introduced in this book offers a broader, more nuanced, and more comprehensive look at how plants can sometimes hurt us and also reveals the link among lectins (and other defensive plant chemicals), weight gain, and disease. Humans and other plant eaters are not the only ones with an agenda. Quite simply, plants don’t want to be eaten—and who can blame them? Like any living thing, their instinct is to propagate the next generation of their species. To this end, plants have come up with devilishly clever ways to protect themselves and their offspring from predators. Again, let me make it crystal clear that I am not anti-plant. If you have ever had lunch with me, you’ll know that I am a devoted plant predator! That said, I will guide you through the confusing garden of plant options to teach you which are your friends, which are your foes, and which can be tamed in one way or another, perhaps with certain preparation methods or by eating them only in season.
In the deadly game of predator versus prey, an adult gazelle can often outrun a hungry lioness, an alert sparrow can take flight when stalked by a domestic cat, and a skunk can let loose a spray of noxious liquid to temporarily blind a fox. The stakes aren’t always rigged against the prey. But when the prey is a plant, the poor thing is helpless, right? No way!
Plants appeared on land about 450 million years ago,2 long before the first insects arrived 90 million years later. Until those plant predators turned up, it must have truly been a Garden of Eden for plants. There was no need to run, hide, or fight. They could grow and thrive in peace, unfettered in their production of the seeds that would become the next generation of their species. But when insects and other animals (and eventually our primate ancestors) arrived, it was game on. These species saw those tasty greens and seeds as dinner. And although plants don’t want to be eaten any more than you would, animals would seem to have the advantage, with wings and/or legs to propel them over to that grove of immobile greens to gobble them up.
Not so fast. Plants have actually evolved an awesome array of defensive strategies to protect themselves, or at least their seeds, from animals of all shapes and sizes, including humans. Plants may use a variety of physical deterrents, such as color to blend into their surroundings; an unpleasant texture; sticky stuff such as resins and saps that entangle insects, provide protective cover by making sand or soil clump,3 or attract grit that makes them unpleasant to eat; or a simple reliance on a hard outer coating, such as a coconut, or spine-tipped leaves, such as an artichoke.
Other defensive strategies are far subtler. Plants are great chemists—and alchemists, for that matter: they can turn sunbeams into matter! They have evolved to use biological warfare to repel predators—poisoning, paralyzing, or disorienting them—or to reduce their own digestibility to stay alive and protect their seeds, enhancing the chances that their species will endure. Both these physical and chemical defensive strategies are remarkably effective at keeping predators at bay, and even sometimes at getting animals to do their bidding.
Because their initial predators were insects, plants developed some lectins that would paralyze any unfortunate bug that tried to dine on them. Obviously, there is a quantum size difference between insects and mammals, but both are subject to the same effects. (If you are suffering from neuropathy, take notice!) Clearly, most of you won’t be paralyzed by a plant compound within minutes of eating it, although a single peanut (a lectin) certainly has the potential to kill certain people. But we are not immune to the long-term effects of eating certain plant compounds. Because of the huge number of cells we mammals have, we may not see the damaging results of consuming such compounds for years. And even if this is happening to you, you don’t know it yet.
I learned of this connection via hundreds of my patients who respond almost instantly, often in fascinating ways, to these mischievous plant compounds. For this reason, I call these patients my “canaries.” Coal miners used to take caged canaries into the mines with them because the birds are especially subject to the lethal effects of carbon monoxide and methane. As long as the canaries sang, the miners felt safe, but if the chirping stopped, it was a clear signal to evacuate the mine posthaste. My “canaries” are more sensitive to certain lectins than the average person, which is actually an advantage in terms of seeking help sooner rather than later. You learn about some of them in the Success Stories throughout the book. (Note that all but a few names are pseudonyms to protect people’s privacy.)
An Unhappy “Canary” Sings Again
Paul G. is thirty-two years old, a computer programmer, and formerly an active outdoorsman. He suffered from POTS syndrome (sudden low blood pressure) and was allergic to almost everything, breaking out regularly in severe hives. He couldn’t leave his own house or go to his parents’ house without experiencing a powerful reaction. Paul also had dangerously high cortisol and inflammation levels. Because he was allergic to most foods, he was emaciated. After ten months of following the Plant Paradox Program, Paul’s POTS syndrome was gone and his cortisol level was normal, as were his markers for inflammation. He now takes no medications and is enjoying camping and other outdoor activities. He is gaining weight and can now visit his parents’ home and other places without any allergic reactions.
Plants Are Master Manipulators
A LITTLE BOTANY lesson here: Seeds are actually the plant’s “babies,” which become the next generation of a plant species. (No, I’m not being sentimental or anthropomorphic. Botanists and other scientists regularly refer to plant seeds as babies.) It’s a tough world out there for those potential plants, so a lot more are produced than will ever actually take root. Plant seeds can be divided into two basic types. Some are babies that plants actually want predators to eat. These seeds are encased in a hard coating designed to survive a trip all the way through the predator’s GI tract, although a large baby, such as a peach seed, might not be swallowed, and instead simply be left behind. Then there are “naked babies,” which lack such a protective coating; the plant does not want these to be eaten (more on them shortly).
Fruit trees, which bear seeds enclosed in a hull, are one example of the first type of plant seeds. The mother plant relies on animals to eat the seeds before they fall to the ground. The objective is to have their babies wind up some distance away from the mother plant, so that they don’t have to compete with it for sun, moisture, and nutrients. This increases the species’ chances of survival while also broadening its range. If the swallowed seed remains intact, it emerges from the animal along with a nice dollop of poop, to boost its chance of sprouting.
Thanks to the protective hull, there is no need for such plants to resort to a chemical defense strategy in the seeds. In fact, quite the opposite! The plant uses several devices to attract the predator’s attention, thereby encouraging the predator to eat its offspring. One is color. (For this reason, all animals that eat fruit have color vision.4) But the plant doesn’t want its babies to be eaten before the protective coating is completely hardened, so it uses the color of unripe fruit (usually green) to convey the message “not yet” to the predator. Just in case the predator can’t interpret this signal, the plant often increases the toxin levels in the unripe fruit itself to make it absolutely clear that the time is not right. Before such things as the Granny Smith apple were introduced to this country, youngsters of my generation who ate green apples learned the hard way, via the green apple two-step (diarrhea), not to eat fruit before it was ripe.
So, when is the right time for the predator to consume the fruit? Again, the plant uses the color of the fruit to signal to predators that it is ripe, which means that the seed’s hull has hardened—and therefore the sugar content is at its height. Incredibly, the plant has chosen to manufacture fructose, instead of glucose, as the sugar in the fruit. Glucose raises insulin levels in primates and humans, which initially raises levels of leptin, a hunger-blocking hormone—but fructose does not. As a result, the predator never receives the normal message that it is full, which would signal it to stop eating. (Would it surprise you that great apes gain weight only during the time of year when fruit is ripe?) That makes for a win-win for predator and prey. The animal obtains more calories, and because it keeps eating more and more fruit and therefore more seeds, the plant has a better chance of distributing more of its babies. Of course, this is no longer a win-win for most modern humans, who don’t need the additional calories in ripe fruit that were so essential for hunter-gatherers and our ape relatives. And even if we still needed those calories, until the last few decades, most fruit was available only once a year, in the summer. As will soon become clear, year-round availability is making you sick—and overweight!
Timing Is Everything . . . but ...

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