018: Are there GOOD lectins? Plant Paradox loopholes
Sticking to a lectin-free diet is tough, particularly when so many of the foods we’re accustomed to eating contain this harmful protein. So naturally, a lot of people want to know: is there any way to prepare or cook foods in a way that get rid of these pesky lectins. In this episode of the podcast, Dr. Gundry shares the loopholes that will allow you to have your yams, and eat them too.
[00:01] Hey there! Welcome to another exciting episode of the Dr. Gundry podcast. The weekly podcast where I give you the tools you need to support your gut, boost your health, and live your youngest, healthiest life.
[00:20] Each week Dr. Steven Gundry, a cardiologist, medical innovator, and author of New York Times best sellers ‘The Plant Paradox’ and ‘The Plant Paradox Cookbook’, shares the latest in cutting edge health information. He’s excited to be a part of your unique health journey. So let’s get started!
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[01:19] Welcome to the Dr. Gundry podcast. Today we’re going to talk about another highly requested topic and that is plant paradox loopholes. Many people who filled out the survey in my show notes requested this topic. If you have a topic for a future episode, please fill it out and let me know. Also, please give us a rating. It’s actually important to know if you like it, if we’re doing the right thing, and again if you have a question let’s answer it.
[01:54] Are there loopholes to the plant paradox? In other words, what can you get away with? This is actually one of the biggest questions that I see in my own patient practice. For those of you who are wondering, I still see patients seven days a week, even on Saturday and Sunday. Why do I do that? Well, it’s actually because I practice medicine and I can’t learn without knowing what’s going to happen when I ask people to take a supplement, which they can get at Costco or Wholefoods or Trader Joe’s, and the effect it’s going to have on their blood work. Or if I ask them to eat a particular plant or perhaps, more importantly, not eat a particular plant.
[02:52] So what I tell you to do is based on, almost now, 20 years of experience of actually asking people to do something and then seeing the result. I think that makes ‘The Plant Paradox’ unique in that I’m actually giving you real world examples of what works and what doesn’t work. A lot of times what happens is everybody wants to find a loophole. What can they get away with? Now I think that’s important because if you’ve read ‘The Plant Paradox’ you know that I see a lot of people who I consider canaries.
[03:35] And for those of you who haven’t read it, the canary in a coal mine … Miners used to be exposed, well still are, to potentially toxic gases in coal mines. And they would carry canaries in a cage down into the mines. As long as the canary was chirping and flitting about they were fine, but if the canary stopped singing or stopped flitting about they ran for it because they knew there was a toxic gas.
[04:07] Thanks to a lot of my canaries, who are extremely sensitive to lectin containing foods or even particular lectins, I’ve been able to assemble actually the list of the most troublesome foods. And that really formed the basis of ‘The Plant Paradox’, the yes foods and the no foods.
[04:34] Now there are exceptions to every rule. For instance, I think nuts are one of the best things that people can eat as long as they’re the approved, non-lectin containing nuts, but there are people who are allergic to nuts. And the rule that you should eat nuts doesn’t apply to you. However, on the other hand, as you saw in ‘The Plant Paradox’, I have at least one woman and actually several others that we haven’t mentioned who’ve become tolerant to nuts once they got their immune system and their leaky gut settled down.
[05:09] On the other hand, there are absolutely people who I think they should eat spinach, but they react to the oxalates in spinach. I see a number of men and women who go overboard on spinach and they actually have very high iron levels. And they wouldn’t have known it except that I check iron on people periodically because, as you’ll see in my upcoming book ‘The Longevity Paradox’, iron is one of the things that ages us the most. We actually rust from iron in our bodies. There is very good evidence that high iron levels contribute to Parkinson’s disease.
[05:52] In fact, there’s good human evidence that people with Parkinson’s disease who give blood periodically and lower their iron do much better and have less symptoms than people who have higher levels of iron. So there’s always exceptions to the rule. And again, you can eat too much spinach. I’ve never seen anybody eat too much broccoli and cauliflower, but I’m sure I may do it.
[06:22] So, what can you get away with? Let’s start with fruits, first of all. As you know, there is no human need for fruit. And as I jokingly tell my patients, just ask an Eskimo. Eskimos, traditional Inuits, do not eat fruit, they don’t eat vegetables, they eat primarily blubber. So we know that humans can survive without fruit.
[06:54] We also know that great apes and traditional hunter gatherer cultures do not eat year round fruit. Because, quite frankly, fruit does not exist naturally year round. And one of the things that is hard to get people to realize is that fructose, the sugar in fruit, is a toxin. And it’s so toxic that we have a special system that takes the majority of fructose directly to our liver where it is detoxified into triglycerides, which is a fat, and uric acid, which causes gout.
[07:41] And it shocks a lot of my patients with gout or high uric acid levels that fruit or concentrated fruit like wine or beer is actually the cause of their gout, not their fatty meaty diet. And, as you’ll see in ‘The Longevity Paradox’, there’s now good evidence that fructose is a mitochondrial toxin. Mitochondria are those little organelles in all of our cells, which are actually engulfed bacteria that produce energy for our cells.
[08:22] And the last thing we want to do is poison our mitochondria with fructose. And one of the reasons we are getting sicker and sicker and sicker in this country, and fatter and fatter, is our year round availability of fruit and our year round availability of fructose in the form of high fructose corn syrup in almost all of our food products.
[08:53] One of my favorite sayings is “Give fruit the boot!” Remember, great apes only gain weight during fruit season and you do too. That’s because winter was coming and now we have 365 days of endless summer.
[09:15] Now vegetables. Unfortunately, most vegetables that we like to eat are not vegetables at all, they’re fruits. And a lot of those fruits are part of the nightshade family. A tomato is a fruit. An eggplant is a fruit. A pepper is a fruit. These are all nightshades that have lectins. And ketchup is a fruit. It’s not a vegetable and it’s full of lectin. It’s one of our most popular vegetables.
[09:48] The other thing I see, particularly in the fall and winter, is a heavy reliance on squashes as vegetables. And, in fact, squashes are fruits, they’re not vegetables. They have lectins in the seeds and the peel, but more importantly they’re primarily fruit sugar, fructose. And you can have them, but only in limited amounts. And please be careful to peel and de-seed them.
[10:20] There are certain seeds that obviously have lectins. And those are the new world seeds like sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and the bean, the peanut, which is a bean, it’s a legume, and the cashew, which is not a nut at all. People say, “Well, you can’t have seeds.” Sure you can have seeds, as long as they’re not seeds from the Americas. Let me give you a good seed. A sesame seed is actually a great seed. A flax seed is a great seed.
[11:00] Be a great seed. A flaxseed is a great seed. Those seeds are not only perfectly safe, but interestingly enough, sesame seeds, the oil in sesame, sesame oil, actually has anti-inflammatory properties, even though it’s an omega-6 fat. People think of omega-6 fats as bad, but in fact, the omega-6 fat in sesame seeds blocks inflammation. I think that’s one of the reasons that sesame and sesame seeds is such a part of the Middle Eastern culture. The Middle Eastern culture is very heavily laden with grains and beans. I have a feeling that, traditionally, sesame seeds were used to block that inflammation in the Middle East. Certain seeds are perfectly fine. A seed is not necessarily bad.
[12:02] Now, everybody asks about corn. The question is, “Well, didn’t indigenous people in the Americas eat corn? Are they somehow more tolerant to corn?” Well, this brings up a fascinating story. In fact, they are no more tolerant to corn than anyone else. They’ve had preparation techniques to detoxify corn. Corn has chemicals that bind to a very important vitamin called vitamin B3, which is niacin. Now, niacin is critical for brain development. What traditional cultures in the America did was corn was they actually treated corn with lye. Lye actually detoxified the corn and detoxified, number one, the lectins in corn, but also stopped corn from binding niacin. If you’ve ever been to the American southwest, you know that corn was eaten in the form of pose. Posole is the corn that’s been treated in lye. Traditionally, most corn grits were actually pose, which was then reground. Traditional, even in the south, grits began with pose and then ground.
[13:41] So what? Well, when Columbus discovered corn and brought it back to Europe, corn turns out to have grown very well in Northern Italy, near Milan, and in the Piedmont area in the mountains. It became, remarkably. the staple of that area of Italy. Now, unfortunately, Columbus wasn’t a very good note taker apparently, because he didn’t notice that the Indians had a method to detoxify corn. When corn was planted in Italy, they ate corn in the form of polenta without using lye to treat it. There was a unfortunate period of time when a large number of children were born with mental retardation in Northern Italy, whose parents were eating corn. They were fed corn. They were called cretins. Cretinism was attributed to these Northern Italians. It became such a crisis that in 1900, the French who border with Italy, banned corn as unfit for human consumption. It was only to be used for fattening pigs. To this day, you won’t see much corn in France because of that reason.
[15:27] Here’s a grain that a native culture had figured out was toxic, but they needed calories. They developed a way to detoxify the corn by treating it with lye, just like the Incas took a pseudo grain like quinoa and realized they had to ferment it to detoxify the lectins before they ate it. We didn’t learn from that culture that detoxification process. If we had, we wouldn’t have had these multiple generations of mentally retarded children in Italy. If we’d only been better note takers. That brings me to a point of the plant paradox. Traditional cultures have always figured out a way to detoxify lectins. Even modern cultures who went on new lectin-containing food, like a tomato, like an eggplant, like a pepper, we figured out where the problem was and adapted to it.
[16:39] My mother’s mother was French and she taught my mother that you always had to peel and de-seed a tomato before she served it. Growing up, sliced tomatoes in my house had no peels and seed. It wasn’t until I went away to Yale for college that I actually had a slice of tomato with the peel and seed. I thought it was the oddest thing I’d ever seen. Traditional cultures have always used fermentation, soaking, prolonged soaking. For instance, Italians, their beans have lectins. They know they have lectins. Italians soak beans for at least 48 hours. They change the water every few hours and throw out, because you can reduce the lectin content with soaking. The more you soak and the more you change the water, the more the lectins will go away.
[17:41] When we compare traditional cultures and their good health, many times, and most of the time, those traditional cultures have figured out a way around the lectin-containing food that they’re eating. My favorite example is white rice. Rice was developed eight thousand years ago. Four billion people use rice as their staple. Yet, the vast majority of those four billion people eat white rice rather than the healthier brown rice. Why? Because the lectin is in the hull of the rice. These clever people, for thousands of years, have been taking the hull away and making it safe.
[18:32] In fact, in the Okinawan diet, which was a very popular book a number of years ago, the Okinawans get about 85% of their calories from a purple sweet potato. They do eat a little bit of rice, but that rice is white. To my enjoyment, the people who wrote the Okinawan diet said, “Wouldn’t these people be so much healthier if we could teach them to eat brown rice instead of white rice?” Well, that’s the ultimate in intellectual arrogancy. Here’s some of the longest living people in the world and we should be learning from them why their diet works, rather than telling them, who have a perfect diet in terms of longevity, “Gee, you’d be so much healthier if you ate brown rice instead of white rice.” We should be saying, “Wow. They’re really healthy and they eat white rice. I wonder why that is.” Because they’ve been getting rid of the lectins.
[19:42] That’s the point in all this. Yes, you can make food safe, but you gotta know the tricks of our forefathers. Now, are people more or less tolerant to lectins? Well, that’s absolutely true. A lot of this has to do with, number one, your gut micro bio. As I’ve mentioned in another podcast, our micro bio has evolved to be able to eat a number of the lectin-containing foods that we eat. The longer we’ve been eating particular lectin-containing food, the odds are the longer we’ve had to have a gut micro biome that can handle it. Unfortunately, over the last 50 years, we’ve done a really good job of destroying much of our gut micro bio through the use of antibiotics that we take and also through the use of antibiotics that are fed to almost all of our animals that we eat. Finally, over the last 20 years, we’ve been inundated with the weed killer, RoundUp, which is actually an antibiotic. If you read the patent by Monsanto for RoundUp, it is patented as an antibiotic. It is a weed killer, but what they didn’t want us to know is it kills our micro biome.
[21:12] We had a complete decimation of one of our biggest protective features against lectins. Now, Dr. D’Amado, who wrote the Blood Type Diet, is an expert on lectins. In fact, there is a difference of sugar molecules on the surface of our blood cells, our red blood cells, that we take advantage of in typing people’s blood. Believe it or not, we take people’s blood and put a particular lectin in that blood and if the blood cells clump together, we know that they’re that particular type. Blood typing was actually how-
[22:00] Blood typing was actually how lectins were discovered, and lectins are sticky proteins and they actually cause your blood to agglutinate, to clot. So when we think about how plants have protected themselves clotting your blood is a pretty good way of protecting themselves.
[22:22] There’s some interesting evidence that Type As have a different sugar on the surface of their mucous membranes; their nose, their intestines, that make them more susceptible to viruses than people who are Type Os. And Type Os have a different receptor on the surface of their intestines.
[22:47] Now, the problem with the Blood Type Diet is Type Os are by far the most common. So Dr. D’Adamo said, without much evidence, that Type Os are hunters and hunter/gatherers and that you should be eating meat. Since most people are Type O, obviously, they Blood Type Diet worked great because most people could basically follow an Atkins Diet.
[23:16] If you think about it, most of the low-carb diets, whether they’re a paleo diet, an Atkins Diet, a Keto Diet, work because they’re eliminating most of the lectin-containing foods which are primarily in the vegetables and the grains and the beans that we’re eliminating in those diets. So, there wasn’t anything miraculous about the high-protein or the high-fat diet. It was actually what was miraculous was the lectin elimination that they didn’t talk about because they actually didn’t know that that’s why they worked.
[24:01] In fact, when my first book ‘Dr.Gundry’s Diet Evolution’ was bought by Random House 11 years ago now, they had done all the Atkins diets and all the South Beach diets. I had figured out what was wrong with those diets, and one of the things that was common in both those diets is you eliminated grains and beans from phase one. After phase one you reintroduced grains and beans and invariably people gained weight. So the answer was, “Well, go back to phase one where you eliminate grains and beans”, and it didn’t click in any of the editors’ minds that the reason you had to go back to phase one was not to be low-carb again, but to get rid of the lectin-containing foods that were the grains and beans. So that was one of the observations that I made that made that such a successful book.
[25:07] Lastly, beans are great for you as long as you pressure cook them or, if you don’t have the time, Eden brand beans pressure cooks their beans. So they’re perfectly safe and, in fact, as you’ll see in ‘The Longevity Paradox’ coming in March, that lentils have some amazing health promoting properties. In fact, one of the longest living people in the world, a village called Acciaroli in southern Italy south of Naples, use lentils as one of their primary food sources. Incidentally, they don’t eat pasta and they don’t eat bread, and they eat anchovies and olive oil. The pressure cooker will save your life. The modern pressure cooker does not explode. The instant pot is the darling of ‘Plant Paradox’ers everywhere. It can allow you to eat a lot of lectin-containing food without worry, and it’s just such a great help for working families.
[26:17] Naysayers, I spend a great deal of time in ‘The Longevity Paradox’ looking at the common factors that unite the blue zones. The blue zones were described by the journalist Dan Buettner as people who lived significantly longer than other areas. I was professor and resident of the only blue zone in America, Loma Linda, at Loma Linda University. So I have direct experience in studying the only American blue zone for most of my career, and what I can tell you about the blue zones is that the unifying factor of the blue zones is not that they eat beans and rice. In fact, there are several blue zones where they don’t do that at all. But what unites all of the blue zones, including Loma Linda, is all of these blue zones eat very, very little animal protein, and that is unfortunately the unifying factor.
[27:24] I go into that in extensive detail on why it’s the lack of animal protein that’s the important part of all these blue zones, because they have actually wildly different diets. It’s not the rice and beans that my naysayers say makes them healthy. In fact, as you’ll see in ‘The Longevity Paradox’, the rice and the wheat and the grains and the beans that these people eat is actually a negative factor in their diet that compensated for by all of the other positive factors such as polyphenols in most of these people’s diet. So you’ll see a lot more of that in the coming months as we reach publication of ‘The Longevity Paradox’.
[28:15] Okay. So, thanks for listening. It’s time, as you know, at the end of the podcast we always take an audience question . So this one comes from Jillian. “Dr. Gundry, about green mangoes. Are all unripe mangoes okay? Like red, ataulfo, or do you literally mean green? And he’s parenthesized (kite). Thanks so much. With fall, need to find something fresh I can eat.”
[28:46] Yeah, so any unripe mango is perfectly fine, just like an unripe papaya is perfectly fine. Just like a green banana is perfectly fine. These particular fruits actually, when they’re unripe, are primarily what are called resistant starches. They’re sugars. They’re complex molecules that we do not have efficient digestive system for. So they arrive in our gut undigested, and it turns out that these sort of resistant starches are exactly what our gut bugs love and actually need to grow and reproduce. So, the nice thing about mangoes, and that’s your question, is as long as they’re unripe they’re one of the perfect foods for your gut bugs. But word of caution, once a mango becomes ripe, or a papaya becomes ripe, it’s some of the highest sugar-containing foods that have ever been described and that’s why they’re so delicious. Please use mangoes unripe. You can buy them unripe almost year-round and they’re easy to use.
[30:11] What I want you to do going forward is remember you’re always trying to eat for your microbiome because the more you eat for your bugs the more they’ll take care of you. That’s actually the entire principle of the ‘Plant Paradox’ and it’s absolutely the principle of ‘The Longevity Paradox’. The more we eat for our microbiome the longer they’re going to keep us in perfect shape because we’re actually their home and they want it in tip-top condition for as long as possible. So, have a green mango. You’re actually doing you and your gut bugs the biggest favor you can do. Alright, so thanks again for listening. Eat for your bugs is the message to take away. Look at how indigenous cultures have always handled lectins and you’ll see that there’s always ways around them. So I’m Dr. Gundry signing off for the Dr. Gundry podcast. I’m always looking out for you.
[31:27] For more information about this week’s episode please take a look at my show notes below and on drgundry.com. In the show notes you’ll also find a survey and I’d love to find out more about you. Please take a few minutes to fill it out so I can do my best to provide information you’re looking for. Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of the Dr. Gundry podcast. Check back next week for another exciting episode and make sure to subscribe, rate and review to stay up-to-date with the latest episodes. Head to drgundry.com for show notes and more information. Until next time, I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.