The Essence of the Lectin-free Diet

The Essence of the Lectin-free Diet

From the book, The Plant Paradox, by Dr. Steven R. Gundry MD

Dr. Gundry calls it a “Lectin-Free Diet”. Lectins are in seed hulls and bran and skins. They appeared in people’s diets about 10,000 years ago when some nomads began cultivating crops rather than just gathering and catching their food. When they added cultivating and then domesticated animals (who ate the grains), lectins entered their foods, Dr. Gundry believes (backed by his research), that we are affected by what the animal we eat…has eaten.

For us, that means eating: mainly green leafy vegetables and mostly from the large cruciferous family like cabbage, broccoli, collards, kale, brussels sprouts. 

NO starchy vegetables like yams, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas and parsnips …and even then, only moderately in Phase 3.

Other foods: one Avocado each day, Juice of half or one Lemon, a handful of Nuts, 4 oz max Grass-fed Meat. or Free-range Poultry (I find turkey is better for me than chicken – even free-range are fed grains). Eggs (only Omega-3 which are fed flax which is a lectin-free seed and therefore okay).

NO grains except for millet and sorghum (and these only in moderation).

No fruits…except avocados …or except local fruit in season …and in moderation even then. For us, in our northern climate, that would mean apples, pears, peaches, plums and berries (but only in season).

NO starchy veggies like yams, sweet potatoes, turnips and parsnips in Phase 1 & 2 (in moderation and only in Phase 3 of the Lectin-free program).

 No veggies that have seeds in them like zucchini, squash, tomatoes, peppers.

No nightshade family like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant.  

No beans and legumes (except Eden brand of canned legumes) in moderation in Phase 3. The Eden’s pressure cooks theirs and this process reduces or eliminates the lectins).

Many oils are eliminated – but best are Coconut oil, Olive oil, Avocado oil, Sesame oil.

Many nuts are on NO list – but some are lectin free (such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, macadamia, brazils)

No sugars….stevia and inulin are allowed – plus a few lesser-known ones

That’s a lot of “NO’s”! However, once you settle into the foods and meals that you can eat, the “off limits” foods begin to fade away into the distance. There are many other details to know about – but I think that’s a good enough start.

The recommended approach is to begin with Phase One which is a 3-day “fast”. It’s not a true “fast” but is highly restricted. I found that 3 days went by fast – so I began this way. On the Fourth day you begin Phase 2. This phase is until free of your unhealthy symptoms – usually at 20 days there is a noticeable improvement but 3 months is what Dr. Gundry recommends….or until symptom-free. Dr. Gundry’s book documents this well – an explanation as to the whys and wherefores of a lectin-free diet. Dr. Gundry lays out meal plans for each of the 3 phases – followed by recipes.

Phase 3 is only for when you are satisfied that you are symptom-free. Even then, Phase 3 should be entered cautiously and with care. The foods that are added are things like starches (non-grain i.e. Nut flours like almond flour (so you can now bake) and foods that your body is more apt to have a reaction to. At best, they should be thought of as “treats” and introduced one at a time, watching for any health reaction (if you have done allergy testing before, you know how it goes). You never introduce more than one at a time in the same day or two. That way a reaction will be noticeable and traceable to the correct food. Then eliminate the new food and study for reaction and re-introduce and study again. This way you are sure if the new food is on your Yes List or your No List. Don’t be in a hurry – you’ve waited 3+ months…you can wait a little longer. Most of these new foods should, at best, be on your “Yes – In Moderation List.

I recommend following Dr. Gundry’s plan exactly, because then you are doing it right and covering all your bases. I thought that if I didn’t follow it exactly, and then if it didn’t work for me, I wouldn’t know if it was because the diet wasn’t right for me…or because I hadn’t followed Dr. Gundry’s instructions exactly.

If you decide to do the Lectn-free Diet, I also recommend clearing your fridge of things you can’t eat and go shopping for the food you will need for at least the 1st 3 days – and maybe even for some things that will get you mostly through your first week plus the first few days of Phase 2. That was my downfall – and it is a serious emotion-producing one. It’s best to do good planning and preparation.

I thought that following this way of eating would be difficult. It was in the very beginning, but I soon became excited. I found it empowering and I felt in control of my body and health for the the first time ever. In reality, this “diet” hugely reduced my choice of foods to eat. However I discovered that there was an enormous world of foods on the Yes List – and by now, in my diet – that I had not been eating…and there’s many more that I haven’t tried yet!

So I am still on Phase 2 (just over 3 months.) but that’s because, even though I have lost the symptoms that were a high priority, I wanted to spend more time introducing and playing around with some of my longtime “suspect” foods in order to get clear which foods I should remove from the Yes list because they don’t agree with me, personally, for reasons other than lectins. There aren’t many of those – mostly the NO List handled my longtime suspect foods!

Signing off for now.



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The latest “kid on the block” – episode #4

At about the 4 week mark, I became bored, restless…and experimental. The next foods I introduced were goat and sheep cheese. I hadn’t eaten cow’s milk…cheese…in close to 50 years but I wondered if it wasn’t the lactose, but rather something else that had bothered me…plus I had come to understand that cheese from goat and sheep, (particularly European) wasn’t as allergenic as North American and therefore, were often better possibilities than from North American cow’s milk. I’m still not sure about all this yet, for myself. So far, I can say that they seem better than cow cheese but not A-1.

In my experimenting, I added chocolate…but again, because chocolate is mixed with so many other ingredients, it’s hard to single out if it’s the chocolate bothering me – or one of the many other ingredients. I am better on simple foods than on complex mixtures.

I think some nuts bother me – and perhaps not others. Again, I will have to carry out a rigorous allergy testing in order to figure that out. Nut butters seem better for me than nuts – and I’m guessing that the creamy and oily nature of nut butter is better for me, digestively than the abrasive quality of nuts.

I added in olives, miso, Bragg’s amino acids, Miracle noodles (which seems just a vegetable). They all seem fine. Millet and sorghum both seem fine – the only grains that are on the lectin-free diet (but even then, these are both to be in moderation). I ate the odd fig and it seemed okay (that was the only fruit – which is, of course, on the “No list”). My thoughts on fruit are, seeing fruit is allowed in moderation, in season, then if out of season, still eat only fruits that had been locally grown. That would allow me apples, pears, plums, and berries.


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The latest “kid on the block” – episode #3

I recommend you create a binder for this project – a place to write down your chosen meal plans, keep recipes, and diarize anything noteworthy). If you can tick off these three things; 1) written down your meal plans for the week (keep it simple); 2) shopped for the food you’ll need (again, keep it simple); an 3) know you have adequate equipment to make it (you don’t need a state-of-the-art kitchen to do this – I am doing it in a bachelor-sized kitchen) …then you are ready to begin your Lectin-free experiment.

It is a fairly radical diet and therefore best entered as a test case. It is, therefore, best if you have at least a small list of health issues that you will be checking to see if they improve – and to what degree. Four weeks is a fair trial, six to eight weeks even better, and by the three month mark, you’ll have enough evidence to make a decision. Just an interesting experiment? Or worthy of being a new way of life. Three weeks was long enough for me to know that I was already improving. I decided to stay on the Phase Two for at least two months – and probably the recommended three months – before moving on to the maintenance program. The difference was that there were a couple of groups of foods that I could now introduce to see how I did with each. Two of these groups interested me a lot because I was longing for them and had missed them. One group was the non-starchy lectin-resistant foods such as sweet potatoes, yams, turnips and parsnips. These had been a winter mainstay but at best could be eaten only in moderation. A second group was legumes,(lentils, beans and peas) – which were a mainstay of my soups. Apparently all these could be cooked in the pressure cooker and peeled.

Other foods that I wanted to try for a very modest consumption was tomatoes (skinned and de-seeded). Zuchini (ditto), Squash (ditto). Basmati Rice (from India only). I’m not sure that any other grain like wild and brown rice and quinoa will ever be on my allowable list. The three foods that would make the biggest difference to me would be, in order,  legumes, sweet potatoes and basmati rice – so I’ll test those first. I’he rest would be nice but no biggie for me.

There have been some surprises during this experiment. One being that I had become blasé about greens. I had a scoop of greens in a drink in the morning and years ago I had stopped eating raw – so there went salads – and I didn’t love broccoli or brussels or any of the group of collards, kale, chard. I liked cauliflower – but it wasn’t green – and asparagus (too expensive). I didn’t realize I had become such a narrow consumer of vegetables. Then my next surprise was that the veggies I loved and ate most were all on the “in moderation” list for me to “try” after the three month mark – or worse…on the “No List”. This diet was largely a vegetable, meat and high fat diet. Whereas I was a low veggie, no red meat, low fat consumer…and as it turned out…a high lectin consumer. What a wake-up!



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The latest “kid on the block” – episode #2

I have been following this “lectin-free” diet for about three months  – although the first three weeks I spent getting myself off foods that were on the NO list. There is a YES list! But my challenge lay more in what I must not eat if I wanted to be free of lectins…and by this time I was really curious to see if these lectins might be the cause of my compromised health!

My first three weeks were an emotional roller coaster – and I found out how attached I was to many of the foods that were on the NO list. However, I hung in through sheer determination…and much to my surprise, foods that I had previously disliked, I now found to be not only palatable but moreover, even delicious!

My learning curve was huge. I began with the book before I tried the diet. The reading was too slow and I was impatient, so I began to jump through it. The book was well marked with good headings, was easy to find, and an excellent index. After I got the jist of the philosophy, I jumped forward to two lists called The Yes List and The No List. I was horrified by what I saw on these lists. At first glance, it seemed that my favourite foods were on the No List; and I didn’t see much on the Yes List that I liked to eat. So I moved to the Meal Planning and Recipe sections to see hat the Action Plan looked like. That was a all a very emotional experience – I ran the whole gamut for a few days. Meanwhile, I poured over this information and tried to decide if I was going to try it or not. After a few days, I decided, Yes, I was going to at least give it a chance. My friend was a few months ahead of me in reading, thinking, and trying it and felt it was worth me testing it out.

True to form, I dove right in. I have a lot of advice for others following me – decide to do it, and then prepare! There are several things that would be helpful and make it a less stressful experience. It is labour-intensive and sometimes, particularly at first, I didn’t have the right equipment, or the right foods on hand. The main helpful things would be to enlist the active support of a friend or family member – particularly in the first few days and couple of weeks. Things that would be helpful would be someone to be on hand at first to help with the making of the food on the 1st and 2nd days. Also, someone who can make a shopping trip and bring missing things. Someone who can re-organize your fridge and kitchen equipment and foodstuffs so just the useful ones are available.

Other helpful prep would be to go through one’s fridge – to eliminate dead stuff, free up the front of every shelf for lectin-free foods.

Then make a shopping list of foods needed during the 1st week (see Meal Preparations).

Write out Meal Plans for the first week. Make sure you have all foods on hand you need for those meals.

Make sure you have the equipment to do all needed preparation, i.e. lemon reamer, food processor to chop veggies up finely; blender or some equipment that will make a Smoothie. And so on. I didn’t prepare for any of this and was often scrambling and really hungry by the time I prepared the next food!

To be continued….


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The latest “kid on the block” in diets – episode #1

How this all started was the previous November, 2017, when I began a four or five month decline that all began as a runny nose. Then it ran intermittently through nose congestion, sinus, tickle in the back of my throat…then worse – to a cold that moved into lung congestion from a sensitive throat, raspy, coughing a lot, then coughing convulsively (almost expiring a couple of times from choking and not being able to get air into my pipes for what seemed like forever. I was never declared as having pneumonia – but I felt like it was close to that.

After about four months, I was still hanging mostly around home, not dancing during that time (which was unthinkable for me). I still had inflamed sinuses, a constantly dripping nose, sensitive throat doing a lot of choking on food and liquid…and still was not dancing.

I plateaued, then, with teeny incremental improvements. Except first thing in the morning…and in the evening – when I would do more coughing and sneezing than at most other times…with one or two coughing or sneezing fits in the day in between. The thought occurred to me that maybe that was the best I could expect for the rest of my life…maybe my “health bar” had reset at a lower level.

On July 1st, Canada Day, my dancing community always met at an outdoor park and danced Lindy Hop to our favourite music, Traditional Jazz, played by our favourite bands. I decided that I would re-enter my dancing life at this event. But I was nervous. I told myself that I needed to be reasonable and sit down once in awhile (I didn’t used to) and go home before the next band came on the stage. I followed my instructions. It was an exciting moment. But I could tell that night and the following day that I had been affected by even that little bit of dancing. I coughed and sneezed more than I had been doing. In a couple of days it eased up, however, and I dared to go dancing again. About one hour – up to one and a half – seemed my “sensible” limit. It also depended whether I was out in the sun, or if it was really late at night, or if it was cold. I was feeling discouraged that I couldn’t seem to improve from this level. But I was thrilled that I could dance again and wasn’t worsening my health by doing so.

Somewhere in the beginning of October this past fall, a long-time friend of mine approached me. As an aside, she is also as fanatical about health as I am. She shared with me that she had run across an approach to diet that made sense to her since she had been following it – she wondered if it could also help me. She loaned me the book…and the rest is history.

The book’s name is, “The Plant Paradox”, authored by Dr. Steven R. Gundry, and the essence of the diet is eating “Lectin free”,  and is fully described in the book. I have been following it for about three months  – although the first three weeks I spent getting myself off foods that were on the NO list (there’s a YES list but my challenge lay more in what I couldn’t eat if I wanted to be healthy again and free of lectins).

My first three weeks were an emotional roller coaster – and I found out how attached I was to many of the foods that were on the NO list. However, I hung in through sheer determination…and much to my surprise, things that I had previously disliked, soon became palatable or even really enjoyable! Motivation helped!

I was very frustrated over my current health and the helplessness I felt to get any helpful answers from our medical system. Drugs hadn’t helped…and time was helping a little but I had stalemated.

To be continued….

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