When you think of the term ‘food intolerances’, chances are gluten and dairy are what spring to mind. They’ve long been the poster children for digestive issues and we’re quick to blame them when our tummies swell or grumble after a meal. But in recent years, a lesser-known culprit has emerged: lectins. These are a group of carbohydrate-binding proteins found in legumes, grains, dairy and many other foods. These stick to cell membranes in the digestive tract, which can potentially cause gut problems and other health issues. So, it was only a matter of time before someone created a diet that eliminates lectins. Enter, the Gundry Diet.
The Gundry Diet become one of the top trending diets of 2018 when singer Kelly Clarkson credited it for her recent health transformation. “I did it for this autoimmune disease that I had and I had a thyroid issue. All my levels are back up. I’m not on medicine anymore because of this book,” she said. The fact that it helped her lose 17 kilos without exercise is, she says, just a happy side effect.
The book she referring to is The Plant Paradox, written by former cardiac surgeon and diet creator Dr. Stephen Gundry. In the bestseller, Gundry claims that by cutting out lectins, you can reduce inflammation, lose weight and improve your overall health. He credits the diet for losing over 30 kilos, as well as curing his arthritis, high blood pressure and migraines.
Followers of the Gundry Diet avoid anything with lectins in it: dairy, grains, raw legumes, conventionally-raised meats, out-of-season fruits and nightshades (including potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers). So, what’s actually left after all that? On the menu are leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, nuts, seeds, olive oil, wild-caught fish and pasture-raised meat.
Let’s start with the positives—the Gundry Diet involves eating a lot of wholefoods, which is always a good thing. However, the diet is causing a lot of controversy in the wellness world and rightly so. While lectins can be detrimental to your health when eaten in vast amounts, most people don’t eat enough for it to be an issue. Then, there’s the fact that the diet involves cutting out many food groups. Not only is it incredibly difficult to stick to a diet like this, but it usually leads to missing out on key vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
“Anytime a diet starts to take out a massive amount of food groups, it’s a little more faddish by nature,” registered dietitian Amy Goodson tells Women’s Health. “The benefits of eating whole grains and vegetables, which provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber, significantly outweigh the risk that a small amount of lectin will cause GI issues.”
So, in short, you’d be better off leaving this diet on the sidelines and sticking instead to a balanced diet with a range of healthy foods. And if you are experiencing food intolerances, always make chat to your GP instead of eliminating food groups on your own.