If you’re following the Plant Paradox program, you’re likely well aware of the importance of consuming lectin-free foods.
Dr. Steven Gundry’s diet plan focuses on reducing inflammation in the body by avoiding foods high in lectins (among other inflammatory foods such as sugar and vegetable oils).
But with so many options out there, it can be challenging to keep track of which foods are approved for the program.
A Plant Paradox Shopping List
That’s where our plant paradox printable shopping list (PDF) comes in handy.
Not only will you find a list of the most common lectin-free foods, but they will be presented in a way that will help you easily understand what to prioritize during shopping, portion sizes, and how often you can eat the foods on the list.
From fruits and vegetables to grains, flours, and sweeteners, to meats and dairy, this list has got you covered. So whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting, this resource will be a game-changer for your shopping and meal planning.
What are the plant paradox diet food list and program?
If you landed on this page, you probably heard of The Plant Paradox book, by Dr. Steven Gundry. I hope you read it, and if you haven’t yet, I recommend you do.
The plant paradox program covers more than food, but this article will only focus on lectin-free food lists. The premise of this program is that lectins, proteins found in some foods, harm our health.
As a background, I discovered Dr. Gundry and the plant paradox in August 2017. While I was what, by many standards, is considered a clean eater, physically active, and doing daily yoga, I felt like I was continuously gaining weight (I was in my late 30s) and had digestive problems and lots of inflammation.
One day I came across an interview with Dr. Gundry about the dangers of some healthy foods. It was the first time I heard about lectins. That’s when I realized my so called ‘clean’ diet was actually high in lectins and other inflammatory foods.
This approach resonated so much that I immediately stopped the NO foods, cleaned my pantry, and started eating only from the YES list. Weight loss came instantly, and since then, I’ve maintained a healthy weight without making any effort.
While the primary focus of eliminating lectins is not losing weight, this is probably one of the first noticeable changes. My surprise came when I realized that the pains I had all my life had suddenly vanished (like period pains).
What are lectins?
According to Dr. Steven Gundry (in The Plant Paradox book), lectins are large proteins found in plants and animals. They have been used strategically by plants as a defense system for survival. Lectins were discovered in 1884, as part of an investigation into different blood types.
If you’ve heard about lectins before the Plant Paradox book was published, you probably heard in the context of the blood type diet.
The most famous type of lectin is gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats. But there are many harmful lectins (and some good ones, too!) besides gluten.
Lectins are found in most plants’ seeds, some grains, skins, rinds, and leaves.
Now, a lectin-free diet or the plant paradox program is not against a plant-based diet; on the contrary. Humans and animals have been developing mechanisms of defense against lectins for millennia, rendering most lectins harmless.
So why are lectins bad for us?
So, you are probably wondering why I should avoid lectins if we have these mechanisms in place. That’s a valid question.
To understand the answer to this question, let’s review the humans’ four defense mechanisms developed against lectins and other anti-nutrients found in plants:
- The mucus in your nose and the saliva in your mouth are the first defense line. They are called mucopolysaccharides, and their role is to trap lectins. A runny nose or excess mucus is a way for the body to defend against lectins; when we eat too many lectins, like in spicy peppers, for example.
- Stomach acid is the second line of defense.
- The microbiome in your mouth and gut is the third line of defense.
- The mucus line of your intestines is the fourth line of defense against lectins.
All this makes sense, and if these four barriers are intact and healthy, the effects of lectins on our health should not be significant.
However, can you see what the problem is? The modern human diet, especially the Western diet, has a way of weakening these defense mechanisms with all its heavily processed foods and unhealthy lifestyle habits.
Most of us have a weakened microbiome, low stomach acid, and all sorts of imbalances in the gut. That’s the reason we became unable to process most lectins.
Is a lectin-free diet forever?
While eating a diet low in lectins is part of a healthy lifestyle, strictly eliminating all harmful lectins is just a phase in your healing journey.
Depending on your health problems and goals, the strict elimination phase can last at least six weeks and maybe years. But there are ways to prepare heavy-lectin foods to lower their lectin content.
Once you strengthen the four lines of defense, you will be able to tolerate lectins better.
Bioindividuality and lectin sensitivity
There are a few things to consider when adopting a lectin-free or low-lectin lifestyle:
- Bioindividuality – we are all different, so we need to personalize this plan to fit our needs and lifestyle, and we don’t all have the same sensitivity to lectins.
- This program is split into stages, also called phases (1, 2, 3), and some of the NO foods can be reintroduced in phase 3. There is also a Keto Intensive program for those with autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes or heart disease.
- You don’t HAVE TO eat all of the foods on the YES list, they are just suggestions so you can make your plan.
- There isn’t just ONE WAY to get healthy or a ONE-SIZE FITS ALL approach. Explore, try, and see what works for you.
- There is a plant paradox food pyramid created by Dr. Steven Gundry – which will make it easy for you to understand what the plant paradox plate will look like.
What is different about this plant paradox shopping list and lectin-free food list?
There are many plant paradox diet food lists on the internet, including Dr. Gundry’s YES & NO food lists. But this one is unique. It lists most of the plant paradox-approved foods and categorizes them into levels, according to Dr. Gundry’s food pyramid.
On Level 1, the base of the pyramid, are the lectin-free foods you can consume without restrictions, ending with Level 5, the top of the pyramid, with the foods/drinks approved but in minimal amounts.
So, when you go shopping, you will know which foods to stock up on regularly and which foods are occasional treats.
Naturally, the YES foods will be foods low in lectins, and the NO foods will be foods high in lectins, but also foods that are highly inflammatory (such as sugar and industrial oils).
Dr. Gundry’s ‘Just Say NO’ food list – The Plant Paradox, Phase 1 & Phase 2
While I like to focus on the food I choose to eat, it’s good to have an overview of what is considered inflammatory and not part of a healthy lectin-free diet.
But remember, the plant paradox program is split into phases.
Some foods below, like legumes, beans, or nightshades, can be reintroduced if prepared appropriately to reduce lectin content. Despite their high lectin content, they do have health benefits. We must give the body a chance to heal and then learn how to consume them safely.
Foods to avoid on a lectin-free diet:
- Grains and pseudo-grains, except for sorghum, millet, fonio, and teff, which are considered lectin-free. I recommend reading my article ‘The 4 Gut-Healthy, Gluten-Free, and Lectin-Free grains’ for more insight on grains and All About Teff, the Ancient Grain Gaining Popularity.
- Legumes, beans, and soy (fermented, organic soy products, such as miso, are allowed). Raw kidney beans have the highest amount of lectins among common beans, posing a serious food poisoning risk if not cooked thoroughly.
- Nightshades: tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, goji berries
- Gourds: pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, and zucchini
- Sugar, including maple or agave syrup; a small quantity of local, raw, or Manuka honey is acceptable. Don’t worry; I have a large collection of delicious and healthy sugar-free dessert recipes you can make, for any occasion.
- Almonds with skin on or almond meal; peanuts and cashews
- A1 casein dairy products, made with milk from cows with casein A1 milk
- Seeds: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds
- CAFO animal protein: intensively raised and produced animal protein, not fed a specie-appropriate diet (choose pasture-raised meats instead)
- Inflammatory oils: canola, sunflower, grapeseed, soy, peanut oil, or anything sold as vegetable oil
- Fruits high in sugar like grapes and ripe bananas; fruits in season are allowed, in moderation, preferably organic and local; berries are low in sugar and can be consumed more often; avocados, lemons, and limes are fruits, but they are not restricted; fresh figs are excellent, they are flowers, not fruits.
- Heavily, industrially processed foods
If you need help quitting sugar, you might find some motivation by reading this article: How to Quit Sugar Forever: Lessons from My 6-Year Success Story.
For a Phase 1 easy meal plan, check out my 3-Day Cleanse to Lose Belly Fat (and Feel Better!).
The Plant Paradox Phase 3 Reintroductions
In theory, Phase 1 will last three days, Phase 2 will last six weeks, and Phase 3 will be the maintenance phase.
I stayed in Phase 2 for two years; some people chose to wait even longer. It’s up to you, and it depends on how you feel and if you have achieved your overall health goals.
As you can imagine, a 20-year-old with no severe health conditions who wants to do this for athletic performance will have a different approach than a 50-year-old with an auto-immune disease and obesity.
One size doesn’t fit all.
It’s important to note that, as in any reintroduction phase, these foods should be introduced gradually and in small quantities to understand how they affect your body, as we are all different. It’s also OK not to want to reintroduce any of these foods.
- Beans, lentils, legumes: only soaked and pressure-cooked
- Nightshade vegetables: heirloom, local, seasonal, and preferably organic, peels and seeds removed; pressure-cooking will also remove lectins
- White potatoes: pressure-cooked, cooled in the refrigerator (preferably overnight), and consumed cold or reheated
- White Indian basmati rice, red rice, and black rice (preferably organic), pressure-cooked and cooled in the refrigerator before eating or reheating
- True artisan white sourdough bread, made with organic flour, consumed in extreme moderation, as an occasional treat, and only if there isn’t any gluten allergy.
The Plant Paradox Food Pyramid
As mentioned previously, I found it helpful to make a list organized on levels. Level 1 is the base of the pyramid, and Level 5 is the tip:
- LEVEL 1 – Go nuts! You have the green light to eat as much as you’d like from this list. Stock up on these lectin-free foods every time you go shopping. Eat the rainbow. Use healthy fats for cooking and seasoning all your meals.
- LEVEL 2 – Don’t eat anything. Time-restricted eating is part of a healthy diet. Avoid grazing and try to keep a 12-16 hour time gap between the last meal of the day and the first meal of the next day. Increase the window gradually.
- LEVEL 3 – Eating a limited quantity of these foods per meal is OK.
- LEVEL 4 – Enjoy these foods in moderation, a small quantity a few times a week.
- LEVEL 5 – Eat/drink a very limited quantity of these foods, a few times a week.
It’s important to note that this is only a guideline, and the lines between levels are not strict. You can follow periods of feast with periods of fast. Days are different, and our needs are different every day.
As Dr. Gundry likes to say: “Do the best you can with what you have.”
The Plant Paradox Pantry and Lectin-Free Shop
While this shopping list is mainly focused on produce, you can find plant paradox-approved pantry items in the SHOP section of this website.
This shop contains carefully curated plant paradox-approved items that are essential for a lectin-free diet and healthy lifestyle, from pantry staples to cookware, to gadgets and books.
GUNDRY MD AMBASSADOR SHOP
Upgrade your wellness game with Gundry MD’s supplements and products designed for your plant paradox lifestyle and lectin-free diet.
The Plant Paradox Shopping List (Printable pdf)
When it comes to food, something we will have to deal with at least twice a day for the rest of our lives, we need to allow some flexibility.
I tried to keep this lectin-free diet food list as short as possible and to make it print-friendly while giving it a look that makes it visually attractive. I am a visual person, and that’s very important for me. Plus, this will make a great hand note if your friends and family ask you: “So, what else is out there to eat?”
This is not an exhaustive lectin-free food list. I tried to cover as much as possible in as little space as possible. Probably hundreds of plant species could be on this list, but I chose those more commonly used and available in as many regions as possible.
Since starting the plant paradox journey, I have lived in the United States, Denmark, and Romania. I’ve been traveling and living abroad for two decades, so I’m familiar with the food landscape in many parts of the world, including specialty items.
But I’m sure plenty of plants specific to different areas of the world are not on this list. If you are curious if something is compliant and can’t find it on any list, you can always leave a comment below, and I’m sure we will find out.
More articles about a lectin-free diet
I hope you find this plant paradox shopping list helpful, and if you do, please share it with your friends, family, and community.
I would be interested in hearing your feedback. This list can certainly be improved if there is a need.
More articles that explain The Plant Paradox and the lectin-free diet.
- Quick Guide to Gluten-Free, Lectin-Free Flours
- A Day in the Life of Dr. Steven Gundry
- The Plant Paradox. How to Reduce Chronic Inflammation and Improve Your Health
- The Plant Paradox Diet, Explained in 12 Steps
- A Three-Day Plant Paradox Cleanse Guide
- How to Stay Plant Paradox Compliant When Traveling
The Plant Paradox, often perceived as one of those restrictive diets, actually offers an expansive array of choices, as this shopping list hopefully demonstrates.
If you still have doubts, I invite you to explore the hundreds of recipes available on this website and in my two cookbooks. The diversity and deliciousness of these meals ensure that embracing this lifestyle doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor or variety.
*This post contains affiliated links, which means I get a small commission if you choose to purchase something via one of my links at no extra cost to you.