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Diet trend: Should you go lectin-free?

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Diet trend: Should you go lectin-free?

Pegan. Keto. Paleo. Gluten-free. You know all about the usual trendy diets. But have you heard about the latest “it” diet to hit pop culture?

It’s the lectin-free diet. In his book, “The Plant Paradox,” Steven Gundry, a cardiologist and heart surgeon, asserts that any food with the plant protein lectin will combat your ability to lose weight. Gundry maintains that cutting out high-lectin foods will decrease inflammation in your body, boost weight loss and keep your gut healthy. Count Gwyneth Paltrow as an acolyte, which could go either way depending on how you feel about the Goop empire.

Gundry has lost 70 pounds on a lectin-free diet, reports Women’s Health, and says he’s put many of his patients on this plan as well with huge results: “The amazing thing is when people change nothing except removing major lectins, they start losing weight and they still are eating lots of calories, but we’re not storing it as fat anymore.”


The rub is that lectin is found in a cornucopia of foods long thought to be good for you. Bye bye. quinoa. Say farewell to whole grains, squash, tomatoes, beans, nuts and some animal proteins, including conventionally-raised meat and poultry.

Just what is lectin? It’s a protein that binds to carbohydrates, which help cells communicate with each other. Why should we worry about it? Some claim lectins block your body from absorbing other nutrients.

“One of the claims is that they incite ‘biological warfare’ in the body to cause weight gain, digestive problems, acne, arthritis, and brain fog,” explains Christine Palumbo, a registered dietitian, according to Prevention.

So what would you eat if you cut out lectins? You’d have to fill up on leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, nuts and seeds, millet, pasture-raised meats and wild-caught fish.

As you might suspect, many health experts dismiss this theory as a passing fad with little real science behind it. They say tossing out the hummus is just hooey.

“These fearmongers who want to sell books, they’re charlatans,” Palumbo says in Prevention. “They’re looking for that little something that they can inflate into a dramatic claim. It’s taking a little bit of correct information, but it’s not the whole story.”

While those who suffer from digestion issues such as IBS might need to watch their lectin intake, most experts say, the rest of us need to turn up veggie consumption, not reduce it. Only 10 percent of Americans get the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables, says registered dietitian Amy Goodson in Women’s Health.

“If you look at the benefits of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for heart health and lowering disease risk,” says Goodson. “I’m going to argue that a little bit of fruit and vegetables are going to help people versus harm them.”

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