Lectin-free Superfoods To Eat Now: Dr. Gundry 2021 Food Choices

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Medically reviewed by Gopal Ramakrishnan Asst. Prof.

Dr. Gundry Superfood To Eat

Dr. Steven Gundry is a world-renowned American doctor, a former heart surgeon, and the founder of the Center for Restorative Medicine in Palm Springs, California. He is the author of many health books which claim that lectins are the culprit for many modern diseases, and he aims to promote ways for weight loss and longevity through a lectin-free diet.

If you are into healthy eating, you may have seen ads of his 2017 New York Times best-seller ‘The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain’, which promotes lectin-free foods and recipes. 

However, his view on the dangers of lectin has been disapproved of by some other health experts. There is currently no conclusive evidence supporting the exclusion of lectins from the human diet for potential health benefits. 

Read on to find out what Dr. Gundry superfoods to eat daily. If you want more health information about the Dr. Gundry diet, we suggest following his plant paradox diet food list. 

What Makes Food a “Superfood”?

The ads of superfoods on media websites are everywhere in today’s society, with one food trend following the next. What one individual defines as a superfood, others may not. According to Dr. Gundry, a superfood should be nutrient-dense with little fat and calories.

Well, what nutrients are we talking about? On Dr. Gundry’s account, he says we should be cautious with the term “superfood”. He defines superfoods as those high in polyphenols, antioxidants, fiber, and low in calories and lectins, which consequently help with weight loss. 

What Are Lectins?

Lectins are a type of protein that occurs naturally in most plant foods and some animal-based foods. Some plant foods contain higher levels of lectins than others, such as legumes and nightshade vegetables.  

Mixed Research on Lectins

Currently, the scientific evidence on the health effects of lectins in humans is divided. According to Mayo Clinic, consuming large amounts of lectins may be harmful to human health, but it is unlikely a typical daily diet would entail that amount. Processing and cooking methods before consumption typically reduce lectins. 

Lectins that enter the body can bind to sugars and carbohydrates, which can cause cells to stick together. Hemagglutination[1] is the process where red blood cells clump together through the binding action of lectins.    

Research also indicates that lectins in excess can damage[2] the wall of our intestine. Lectins are described as anti-nutrients, which reduce our body’s ability to absorb other nutrients and can cause gastrointestinal problems and inflammation. 

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), lectins can interfere with the absorption[3] of particular nutrients from our body, including iron, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc. 

But some studies show consuming lectins in small amounts may benefit human health, such as playing a role in cancer therapy[4], and that lectins may promote cell development and communication support between cells[5].

What Is a Lectin-Free Diet?

If you suffer from food sensitivities, you may wish to change your eating habits and try to follow a diet free from lectins. There are many ways you can try to reduce or eliminate lectin content from the foods you eat. 

In many cases, simply cooking the food correctly eliminates or significantly reduces the amount of lectin consumed by the body. An example of this is kidney beans, which contain high lectin levels but are greatly reduced after cooking for a sufficient time. 

The FDA recommends rinsing legumes and beans before boiling them for half an hour[6] to eliminate harmful lectins before consuming.

Why Should You Avoid Lectins?

There has been limited data regarding whether or not lectins are beneficial or harmful to health. Some studies show that cooking lectin-containing foods correctly should leave no lasting impact on our health. 

However, some information on animal research indicates that lectins can affect your overall health, including your heart and gut health.

If you have digestive issues or are prone to stomach problems, then you might want to try a lectin-free diet to see if your symptoms improve. As the human body cannot digest lectin, it binds to the digestive tract, where it can disrupt metabolism and cause gastrointestinal symptoms.  

Research shows that lectins can disrupt the microflora in your gut, irritating your gut wall, causing diarrhea or vomiting[7]. They also show that lectins can bind to the gut wall, consequently reducing the absorption of nutrients.

According to a study[8] revealed at one of the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in 2013, a high-lectin diet can cause red blood cells to stick together in the bloodstream and may weaken blood vessels. Weak blood vessels are an early sign of heart disease and contribute to high blood pressure and diabetes.

Foods High in Lectins

Most food high in lectins are plant-based, but high-lectin foods include:

  • Legumes; like peas, lentils, raw beans, soybeans
  • Nuts and seeds; like peanuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds
  • Nightshade vegetables; like tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, and eggplant
  • Dairy products; like milk
  • Wholegrains; like wheat, quinoa, rice, and barley
  • Corn or grain-fed animal meat
  • Sugary snacks; like oatmeal cookies

Foods Low in Lectins

If you want to try a low-lectin diet, try to consume these foods recommended by Dr. Gundry:

  • Pasture-raised meat
  • Cooked sweet potatoes
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, celery
  • Garlic and onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Extra virgin olive oil and olives

Benefits of a Lectin-free Diet 

For most people, there is insufficient beneficial evidence to omit lectins from our daily diet. However, some groups of people with specific health problems may have some health benefits from a low lectin-intake or lectin-free diet.

Some studies[9] suggest that those suffering from diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)  or those with gastrointestinal symptoms may benefit from a lectin-free diet. 

According to Dr. Gundry, lectins have the potential to cause weight gain. If you want to watch your weight, perhaps trying a lectin-free diet can help you with weight loss.

Potential Side Effects of a Lectin-free Diet

The lectin-free diet potentially reduces or eliminates a vast number of nutrient-rich foods, such as legumes, whole grains, and some fruit and vegetables.

We all know that consuming a wide variety of fruits and vegetables helps to reduce the risk of many illnesses[10], including heart disease, prevent cancer and help reduce weight gain. Well-established scientific data reveal that consuming whole grains reduces the risk of many conditions[11], including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. 

One other potential side effect of a lectin-free diet is constipation due to insufficient dietary fiber. Many foods that are high in lectin are also high-fiber foods, such as beans, whole grains, and fruit and vegetables.  

If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you might find a lectin free vegan diet challenging to follow, which excludes you from consuming beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains you would typically eat to obtain plant-based protein. 

Dr. Gundry Superfood To Eat

Dr. Gundry’s theory on the harmful effects of lectins and the promotion of lectin-free diets has been controversial. 

There is well-established scientific research on the benefits of a well-balanced diet, including plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Many experts have labeled Dr. Gundry a fraud upon his recommendation to exclude food groups such as whole grains entirely from the diet.

Whatever your opinion is of Dr. Gundry, you can take into account that the superfoods he suggests are indeed nutrient-dense and are beneficial to our body.  

Dr. Gundry Food Pyramid

You can see the variety of low-lectin foods on offer by following the Dr. Gundry food list in his pyramid. 

Anchored on the bottom of the pyramid are free-eating foods:

  • Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables 
  • Approved fats like olive oils and avocados 

Foods in the middle of the pyramid indicate moderate consumption and include:

  • Real nuts (not legumes)
  • Wild-caught seafood
  • Pasture-raised poultry
  • In-seasons fruits, particularly berries 

Further up the pyramid are foods you can eat a limited amount with meals:

  • Dairy products free from A1 casein 
  • Some alcoholic products like red wine  

The peak of the pyramid indicates food you can only eat in limited amounts, perhaps once or twice a week; these include pasture-fed animal meat.

Superfood List To Eat Every Day on a Lectin-Free Diet

Dr. Gundry’s food list contains lectin-free food packed with nutrients, including healthy polyphenols, antioxidants, and fiber. 

What Is Dr. Gundry’s Superfood?

Here are some lectin-free superfoods recommended by him that you can eat daily: 

Avocados

Avocados are jam-packed with nutrients and are the king of superfoods. They are crammed with fiber, folate, and vitamins C and E. Avocados are lectin-free and contain healthy fats that help maintain your skin’s natural oil barrier, help your heart, and maintain a healthy weight[12].

Walnuts, Macadamia Nuts, Pistachios, Pine Nuts

dr. gundry superfood to eat

According to Dr. Gundry, some ‘nuts,’ such as cashew nuts, are seeds, and peanuts are legumes, both of which are high in lectin and should be avoided. But real nuts are low in lectins, such as pistachios, walnuts, and macadamia nuts. These nuts are beneficial for health and are good to maintain a healthy heart[13].

Pine nuts and pine nut oil are lectin-free and high in nutrients. You can eat a handful of pine nuts every day. Pesto sauces contain pine nuts, olive oil, and basil, which are all superfoods you can consume. 

Extra Dark Chocolate

Yes, you have read it correctly; chocolate can be a superfood – but make sure you choose chocolate that contains at least 72% cacao. Cocoa is the nutritious part of chocolate and is full of flavonoids and antioxidants, which help fight free radicals from our body and helps to maintain a healthy heart[14]

But be careful not to over-indulge in this superfood; according to Dr. Gundry, only 1oz per day is sufficient.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are so tasty and versatile; you can put them in salads and burgers or use portobello mushrooms as a substitute for burger baps. As well as being high in fiber and low in calories and fat, mushrooms are packed with sterols that may help control cholesterol[15] and triterpenes that may help our immune system[16]

While any mushroom is beneficial for health, Dr. Gundry recommends super mushrooms, such as shiitake and maitake mushrooms, which are staple foods in Japanese and Chinese cuisine. 

If you do not particularly enjoy the flavor or texture of mushrooms, there are plenty of mushroom-containing supplements or capsules available on the market to help boost your health.

Sesame Seeds and Oil 

Dr. Gundry recommends sesame-containing food products to be a superfood, particularly its seeds and regular oils. 

Although extra-virgin olive oil is still one of Dr. Gundry’s top foods, sesame oil is trending upwards. Sesame seeds and sesame oil also contain omega-6 fats and linoleic acid, which can act as anti-inflammatory agents[17] in the body.

Research shows that some components in sesame oil block the effects of lipopolysaccharides[17] which can be harmful to the body. 

Zen Basil Seeds 

If you have been following Dr. Gundry, you may have heard him mention a new high-fiber superfood – zen basil seeds. This new superfood is lectin-free and has superseded the hype over chia seeds (which contain lectin and, according to Dr. Gundry, has adverse health effects despite their high omega-3 fatty acid content). 

Zen basil seeds or sweet basil seeds are rich in flavonoids and polyphenols, which have antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects[18], contributing to good overall health. This new super seed is also a prebiotic fiber, which keeps our gut healthy and happy. 

How To Maintain This Lectin-free Diet?

Start as you mean to go on! Here are some ways to help you stick to a lectin-free diet:

  • Read up on information on Dr. Gundry’s food pyramid and familiarize yourself with foods containing different lectin levels.
  • Make a list before you go to the supermarket, plan your ingredients and how you are going to prepare your meals.
  • Consume plenty of low-lectin vegetables to bulk up on essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. 
  • Remember to keep an open mind about trying new foods and attempt different lectin free diet recipes and styles of cooking to vary your meals and make them more interesting to eat. 

How To Reduce Lectins in Your Diet?

One way to reduce lectins in your diet is to avoid lectin products entirely. But that is not easy. You can minimize lectin content by choosing foods that are low in lectin to begin with. But you will inevitably encounter foods that contain lectins, for example, when you are preparing a meal for others. 

According to the American Heart Association, cooking foods high in lectins typically reduces[19] their content. Here are some ways to reduce lectin intake in your body: 

  • Overnight soak: Rinsing thoroughly and soaking legumes, beans, and grains for at least four hours or overnight[20] to help reduce lectins. 
  • Skin peeling and deseeding: If you can, try to remove the skin and seeds inside fruits and vegetables with high lectin levels, such as tomatoes, squash, and eggplant. 
  • Fermentation: Fermenting foods cause good bacteria to eat away lectin and reduce lectin levels in fruit, vegetable, and legumes. 
  • The use of wet high-heat cooking methods: Using a pressure cooker, boiling or stewing[21] high lectin foods, such as nightshade vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, and beans, can reduce lectins.

Make sure you cook kidney beans correctly. High levels of a lectin called phytohemagglutinin are found in red kidney beans. The FDA states that consuming four raw or insufficiently cooked red kidney beans can result in severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea[6]

Can Gundry Md Superfood Supplements Help?

As a former heart surgeon, Dr. Gundry and his company aim to promote good cardiovascular health, prevent weight gain, and improve digestion. With these in mind, they have developed a variety of superfood supplements as a way to provide nutrients efficiently in our busy daily lives. 

Here are some of the best-selling products from his company: 

Probiotic Fiber Supplement 

Gundry MD PrebioThrive is a prebiotic powder to help encourage the growth of probiotic bacteria in the gut. It contains acacia gum, agave inulin, flaxseed, and guar gum and is free from lectins, soy, and sugars. 

It aims to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms and improve digestive health by maintaining a healthy colony of good bacteria in the gut. It also claims to vitalize and energize consumers. 

 If you would like to go ahead and purchase the product, go to our Ambassador Gundry Wellness website for more available products.  

Vital Reds

Gundry MD Vital Reds is a powder consisting of 34 superfruits rich in polyphenols, with antioxidants such as grape seed and mulberry extract. It also contains fat-burning ingredients, such as bitter melon and green tea extracts, that can help with weight loss.  

The product claims to boost energy levels, maintain healthy skin, and aid digestion through its probiotic content. 

If you would like to go ahead and purchase the product, go to our Ambassador Gundry Wellness website for more available products.

Primal Plants 

Gundry MD Primal Plants is a powder combining a host of different green superfoods rich in polyphenols. It contains 25 ingredients, including powerful antioxidants such as cinnamon bark, kale, and broccoli. 

The product also has extracts of bitter melon and green tea for its fat-burning and metabolic effect. Primal Plants is formulated to aid digestion, increase energy levels, boost skin appearance, and aid weight loss. 

If you would like to go ahead and purchase the product, go to our Ambassador Gundry Wellness website for more available products.

Final Thoughts

Whether you like or loathe Dr. Gundry and his views on a lectin-free diet, the superfoods that he suggests are actually good for overall health. Superfoods, such as avocados and mushrooms, are indeed high in polyphenols and low in calories and fat.

Although research on the health benefits and adverse effects of lectins shows mixed results, it does show that lectins can be significantly reduced via preparing and cooking correctly. 

While we decide whether or not to try Dr. Gundry’s plant paradox diet, we can consider that too much of any particular food is detrimental to our health and does not provide the all-rounded nutrients our body needs. So perhaps choosing a diet that includes every type of food in moderation is our best bet in maintaining a healthy body. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Dr. Gundry’s superfood?

Dr. Gundry deems a superfood rich in polyphenols, antioxidants, and fiber but low in fat and calories. He recommends avocados, mushrooms, and nuts such as walnuts and pine nuts. Zen basil seeds and sesame seeds are highly regarded by Dr. Gundry, as are sesame oil and small amounts of extra dark chocolate. 

What are the 3 foods Dr. Gundry says to avoid?

He recommends avoiding grains like wheat and corn found in bread and pasta, undercooked legumes and beans, and sweeteners or high-sugar foods, such as cookies. 

What foods does Dr. Steven Gundry recommend?

Dr. Gundry recommends lectin-free foods (or low lectin), high in polyphenols, antioxidants, and fiber that is calorie-sparse. Examples include cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, fruits that act like fats, such as avocados and olives. He recommends choosing pasture-raised meat and cooking foods using particular methods, such as fermenting or using a pressure cooker to reduce the level of lectins. 

What are the 3 Superfoods?

Three superfoods recommended by Dr. Gundry include avocados, mushrooms, and his current favorite – zen basil seeds (over chia seeds). 

What are the 3 foods to never eat?

Three foods that Dr. Gundry recommends you never eat are whole grains (including bread, cereals, and grain-fed animal meat), sugary and sweetened food and beverages, and undercooked legumes such as raw red kidney beans, which contain high levels of lectin, phytohemagglutinin.

What do you eat on a lectin-free diet?

Despite avoiding grains and legumes, a lectin-free diet still offers plenty of choices. You can still prepare tasty dishes with plenty of options using cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, seafood, meat from pasture-raised animals, and dairy products free from A1 casein. You can indulge in pomegranates and passion fruit, and in-season berries, such as raspberries and blackberries. 

Are eggs OK on a lectin-free diet?

According to Dr. Gundry, eggs are on the ‘no’ list if you’re following a lectin-free diet unless the eggs are from pasture-raised hens. 

What are the three foods you should never eat?

ou should never eat these three food types: undercooked or raw red kidney beans, peanuts, and whole grains. Red kidney beans contain high content of the lectin phytohemagglutinin, which can be reduced significantly by the way you cook them, such as boiling for 30 minutes. Peanuts are not nuts but legumes which are lectin-rich foods. Whole grains, such as bread and cereals, are rich in fiber but also rich in lectins.


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Written by:

Christina Cheung

Medically reviewed by:

Christina Cheung holds a Master’s of Pharmacy from the University of Bath (UK) and is a freelance writer specializing in medicine and science. With over a decade of experience as a community and hospital pharmacist both in the UK and abroad, she has dealt first-hand with patients facing medical difficulties and decisions. She now writes to promote medical health and wellness to better the community. Christina also has a published science blog with a passion for inspiring and encouraging medicine and science for kids and students. While not writing, she can be found strolling through the country parks with her family and pet dog.

Medically reviewed by:

PubMed Central

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S National Library of Medicine
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