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Top Doc: These Hidden Toxins in ‘Healthy’ Foods Can Make It Harder to Lose Weight

Dr. Steven Gundry shares the gut-healing strategy that has helped millions of women reach their happy weight

Good news for the millions of us who wish is weren’t so hard to shed spare pounds: Steven Gundry, MD, is sharing a strategy that prompts our bodies to begin releasing even the most resistant fat. “When you use my approach, you eliminate key reasons your body stores fat and then holds on to that fat,” he tells Woman’s World of his popular anti-inflammatory diet. He adds that as your middle shrinks, overall health also skyrockets. “You can look and feel dramatically better in a matter of days,” insists the Yale-trained doc. Women like Katie Denson back him up. She tried Dr. Gundry’s Plant Paradox diet plan to see if it might help relieve her debilitating arthritis. Her pain and waist inches were soon disappearing. Today she’s 90 pounds lighter and feels amazing. Read on for more of Katie’s story and to learn how the Plant Paradox diet plan can help get rid of excess pounds and improve your health.

What is the Plant Paradox diet plan?

Dr. Gundry’s original New York Times bestseller The Plant Paradox and his newer The Plant Paradox Quick and Easy are all about eating foods that soothe our insides rather than causing inflammation. Why is inflammation such a big deal? Well, it’s like a fire smoldering inside us, causing mostly hidden damage from head to toe. Obesity experts reveal that inflammation triggers the release of compounds that are a direct cause of fat storage. “Inflammation is the enemy of a long life and a healthy weight,” says Dr. Gundry. 

Dr. Steven Gundry who created the Plant Paradox diet plan
John McKee Photography

Like many healthy diets, the Plant Paradox approach focuses on anti-inflammatory mainstays like fruits and veggies, high-quality protein, healthy starch and good-for-you fats while steering us away from highly inflammatory processed foods.

Related: Dr. Gundry’s Age-Reversing Diet Can Help You Reverse Rusting Cells

So what makes Dr. Gundry’s plan different? It helps us avoid lectins. Most folks have never even heard of lectins, and Dr. Gundry says that’s a big part of the problem. The inflammation-triggering compounds are in many foods we think are good for us — like quinoa, lentils, eggplant and grain-fed lean meat. So when we try to make healthy lifestyle changes, we can inadvertently make our inflammation worse, causing health problems to flare and setting us up to pack on more weight.

RELATED: The Vicious Cycle of Weight Gain and Inflammation — And How to Break It for Good

What are lectins?

“Lectins are the main defense plants have against being eaten,” Dr. Gundry explains. “They’re natural toxins that deter insects and small animals by sickening or killing them.” Lectins are found in all plants, but some — like leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, avocado, olives and cocoa— contain modest or negligible amounts. Among foods commonly eaten, “lectins are most highly concentrated in wheat, corn, soy, peanuts, tomatoes,” he says. You’ll also find lectins in meat or poultry raised on grains as well beans/legumes, nightshade produce (peppers, potatoes and eggplants) and certain seeds and nuts (like cashews, peanuts and sunflower seeds).

A bowl of peanuts, which are especially high in lectins and so not allowed on Dr. Gundry's Plant Paradox diet plan
Westend61/Getty Images

Now, you might immediately call to mind some perfectly healthy people who’ve been consuming lectins their whole lives. Dr. Gundry explains that humans, in general, tolerate lectins better than other species, and some humans do indeed seem to tolerate them fairly well. “But there’s a big difference between what we tolerate and what helps us achieve optimal health,” he notes. 

When Dr. Gundry first learned about lectins, he realized we eat so many of them these days, he wondered if cutting back might help his sickest patients. He experimented, and the results were impressive. Heart disease began to improve, and so did type 2 diabetes, IBS and fibromyalgia. And then there was the weight loss: “Countless people tell me going lectin-free works when every other diet fails,” Dr. Gundry says. 

How the Plant Paradox diet plan triggers weight loss

Lectins don’t break down during digestion and can pass through the stomach unchanged. But they’re far from harmless. Research shows lectins can bind to carbohydrates in our GI tracts, which can reduce nutrient absorption. And that’s not all: “High-lectin foods like wheat, corn, soy, peanuts and tomatoes have devastating consequences for the trillions of beneficial bacteria in our digestive tracts,” says Dr. Gundry. He’s backed by Case Western University scientists, who found that lectins lead to increased levels of harmful bacteria in the gut by killing off good guys and protecting bad guys.

Research shows lectins actually imbed in the gut wall, sometimes tearing it open and allowing contaminants to escape. “Lectins are the number-one cause of ‘leaky gut,’ which triggers a massive and highly inflammatory immune response,” explains Dr. Gundry. (Click through to learn how leaky gut can lead to weight gain, plus the simple swaps that heal the condition.) 

Related: Dr. Gundry Weight Loss Breakthrough: Heal Your Gut to Lose Your Belly on This Anti-Inflammatory Diet

And because patching up a leaky gut reduces inflammation so significantly, it helps improve or reverse a host of inflammatory conditions. Within 24 hours, research suggests bloat and GI woes may vanish. Plus, as inflammation subsides, the body shifts out of fat-storage mode so once-stubborn pounds begin to fall away. 

Lowering lectins to lower blood sugar

Issues with high blood sugar have reached epidemic proportions, and Dr. Gundry believes high-lectin diets are culprits. According to University of California research, lectins block receptors that allow our muscles to burn blood sugar for fuel. It sets off an fattening and unhealthy chain reaction: Because our muscles aren’t getting fuel, the body triggers cravings. Plus loads of unused blood sugar wind up in our fat cells, says Dr. Gundry. Luckily, eliminating lectins unblocks these receptors so our muscles get their fuel and cravings disappear. The effect is so powerful, you stand to lose significant inches from your waist in just seven days. Bonus: As blood sugar stabilizes, it slashes the risk for and severity of type 2 diabetes

RELATED: Small Lifestyle Tweaks That Can Reverse Prediabetes In 12 Weeks + Power Off Pounds

Plant Paradox diet plan before and after: Katie Denson

Before and after photos of Katie Denson who lost 90 lbs using the Plant Paradox diet plan
Mattie Simas/Ikonik Pix

When Katie Denson read about Dr. Gundry’s plan on the website of a psoriatic arthritis support group, “I realized I’d been eating lectins at every meal,” recalls the Massachusetts vintage shop owner, 38, who had long struggled with the condition. At the time, her joint pain was so intense, she thought she might need to start using a wheelchair. Since someone in the group was reporting great pain relief using the Plant Paradox diet plan, “I figured I had nothing to lose.” To get started she switched to simple lectin-free options like scrambled eggs and pork chops with roasted veggies. Within a week, “I got up from the couch and for the first time in years my hips didn’t hurt.” Pounds poured off, too — up to 20 in 30 days. Now five sizes and 90 pounds smaller, Katie raves: “It’s easy to follow — anyone can do this.”

How Kelly Clarkson used the Plant Paradox diet plan

Diagnosed with a thyroid condition back in 2006, Grammy winner Kelly Clarkson shared with Extra that she healed herself and lost 37 pounds using guidelines in bestseller The Plant Paradox. “I had a thyroid issue, and now all my levels are back up. I’m not on medicine anymore because of this book,” she said during a red-carpet interview after experimenting with Dr. Gundry’s lectin-free guidelines. Kelly added that the approach made slimming down easy. “Literally, I haven’t worked out at all!” 

Dr. Gundry wasn’t surprised to hear about this. “My program is designed to do exactly what it did for Kelly — improve overall health and trigger effortless weight loss,” he says. How do his strategies help the thyroid? Turns out, the more inflammation inside our bodies, the higher our risk for thyroid trouble. Inflammation seems to suppress proper thyroid function. On top of that, the most common cause of a slow thyroid is Hashimoto’s disease, which is an autoimmune condition. And autoimmune conditions respond very well to this protocol. Click through to watch Kelly and Dr. Gundry discuss the plan and some of his tips and tricks.

RELATEDInspiring Before and After Photos of Kelly Clarkson’s Recent Weight Loss

Plant Paradox Phase One for rapid healing and results

Dr. Gundry breaks down the Plant Paradox diet plan into three phases. The first is intended to be a three-day cleanse that floods the body with anti-inflammatory compounds and eliminates as many lectins as possible. The goal is to trigger rapid healing, motivating initial results and prepare your body for success as you transition to the more relaxed Phase Two. 

While doing the cleanse, Dr. Gundry recommends 8 glasses of water and 8 hours of sleep, as well as enjoying one full avocado daily. He also suggests starting the day with his Phase One green smoothie recipe, then building lunch and dinner around certain foods listed below.

Dr. Gundry’s phase 1 food list


  • Arugula
  • Artichoke
  • Avocado
  • Basil
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel’s sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Heart of palm
  • Hemp seeds
  • Hemp tofu
  • Kale
  • Kelp
  • Leeks
  • Lemon
  • Lettuce
  • Mint
  • Mustard Greens
  • Olives (in water)
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Radishes
  • Romaine
  • Seaweed

Animal proteins:

  • Pasture-raised chicken
  • Salmon
  • Scallops
  • Shellfish

Tip: Animal protein is slightly inflammatory, so stick to two 4 oz. servings of protein at two different meals daily. 


  • Almonds (blanched without skins)
  • Baruka nuts
  • Brazil nuts (no more than 2 daily)
  • Chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts

Tip: Limit yourself to ½ cup of nuts daily.

Sauces and oils:

  • Algae oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Macadamia oil
  • MCT oil
  • Mustard
  • Perilla oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Sugar-free vinegars
  • Walnut oil

Tip: Check labels to ensure these are sugar-free, as sugar is highly inflammatory.


  • Water
  • Decaf coffee
  • Green smoothies
  • Herbal tea

Phase Two Plant Paradox diet plan sample menu

In the second phase of Dr. Gundry’s plan, you can add lots more good stuff, including in-season fruit, cassava-based tortillas, dark chocolate and more. Dr. Gundry offers a free list of what to eat and avoid. Not sure where to start? We’ve got tasty ideas below to get started on the Plant Paradox diet plan. 

Breakfast: Start the day with a little protein, lots of low-lectin veggies (like asparagus, mushrooms or cruciferous vegetables) and low-lectin fat like olive oil, coconut oil or avocado.

Lunch: Enjoy pesto noodles. To do: Prepare one bag shirataki noodles per package directions. Sauté noodles and one cup broccoli in two tablespoons olive oil. Toss with two tablespoons pesto. Serves two.

Snack: Grab a double-chocolate chunk Quest bar or make a lectin-free quesadilla using cassava tortillas (such as Siete brand), grass-fed cheese, and olive oil.

Dinner: Prepare a serving of salmon or grass-fed pork chop in olive oil. Add lots of low-lectin veggies (including any leafy green) with olive oil vinaigrette.

Bonus Recipe: Flat-Belly Snack Cake

 Flat-Belly Snack Cake recipe for the Plant Paradox diet plan

This recipe from The Plant Paradox Quick and Easy is deliciously decadent — and guilt-free!


  • 1 cup almond flour 
  • ⅔ cup erythritol or Swerve 
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder 
  • ½ tsp. baking powder 
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 3 pastured eggs 
  • ⅓ cup coconut cream  
  • 2 Tbsp. grated 70% dark chocolate 
  • ¼ cup olive oil  
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


  1. Whisk first five ingredients. In separate bowl, whisk eggs and cream. 
  2. In microwave, melt chocolate with oil and vanilla, stirring frequently until smooth. Cool one minute; add to egg mixture. Gradually add to flour mixture, whisking two to three minutes until batter is fluffy. 
  3. Pour into a greased eight-inch cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit 25 to 35 minutes until pick in center comes out clean. Cool before serving.

For more on GI health and weight loss, click through:

Aloe Vera Juice: Top Doc Reveals How It Heals a Gut Glitch to Make Weight Loss Effortless

Fight Inflammation With These Foods — 7 Ways To Clean Up Your Diet

Ivy-League Doc: Cutting Out Emulsifiers + Food Additives Speeds Weight Loss

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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