This So-Called Healthy Food Is Making You Gain Weight — And You're Likely Eating It Daily

Photo by Nadine Greeff

Dr. Steven Gundry made waves in 2017 when he released The Plant Paradox, a book that made the assertion that some of the health world’s favorite foods—staples like quinoa and squash—were high in a gut-irritating, inflammatory protein called lectins. Now, he’s back with The Plant Paradox Cookbook, which opens with a dive into lectins and the science behind Dr. Gundry’s recommended diet before getting into 100 delicious, easy, and, yes, lectin-free recipes. In this excerpt, Dr. Gundry shares how lectins can cause weight gain—and one of his favorite lectin-free breakfasts.  

Eating high-lectin foods like wheat cues your body to store fat because the lectins they contain wage war on your gut, and the troops need food (aka stored fat) to keep battling. Lectins also deplete beneficial gut microbes, which support our well-being in a number of important ways—including helping to maintain a healthy weight.

But there’s also a third reason eating lectin-rich foods contributes to excess weight: because one of the lectins in many grains (in addition to gluten) is wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), which is one of the most offensive lectins out there and has been implicated in celiac disease and heart disease. One of its (as well as other lectins') most insidious powers, however, is that it has the ability to mimic insulin in the body.

Insulin is a hormone that’s manufactured by the pancreas, which releases varying amounts of it in response to the amount of sugar and protein you eat. Insulin helps regulate your blood sugar levels by attaching to either fat cells, nerve cells (or neurons), or muscle cells and ordering them to open up and let the glucose in. Once the glucose is moved into the cell, the insulin detaches, and these cells are able to receive messages from other hormones and chemical messengers.

But WGA binds to the same receptor sites on these cell walls that insulin does. And it doesn’t ever leave. So the next time your gut releases glucose into your bloodstream, the insulin doesn’t have a place to attach to. It’s kind of like insulin is you in your car and the cell wall is the grocery store parking lot. If all the parking spaces are filled with other cars, and no one ever leaves, you can never park and actually go into the store to get the food you need.

When WGA attaches to your fat cells, it can stay there indefinitely as well, continually telling them to make more fat from the sugar that passes by. When it parks on the wall of a muscle cell, it prevents any sugar cells from getting in. As a result, your muscle cell can’t access the fuel it needs to maintain itself and grow; muscle wasting is the outcome. And when lectins take up residence on insulin receptors on nerve cells, your neurons never get the energy that they need, and so they continually send a message that you’re hungry in hopes of getting more fuel. So your nervous system keeps sending hunger signals, even when you’ve had plenty of calories. The sum result of WGA mimicking insulin is that your fat cells grow, your calorie consumption rises, your brain cells don’t get the fuel they need (leading to brain fog), and muscle tone reduces. Does any of this sound familiar?

The road back to good health.

The good news is that once you understand what lectins are and where they come from, it is possible to settle into a way of eating that has cascading positive effects on health—from troubling symptoms like bloating and brain fog up to outright disease such as heart disease and autoimmune disease. They key is keeping out lectin free-foods (here's a full list of high-lectin foods) and stocking up on anti-inflammatory picks. Try this delicious, savory muffin to get you started!

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Cheesy Cauliflower Muffins

These muffins are a great grab-and-go option for busy mornings. They’re savory, cheesy, eggy—all of the things that you crave in a quick breakfast bite. Top them with a little hot sauce for some extra kick!

Makes 12 Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups cauliflower rice
  • ½ teaspoon iodized sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • 3 omega-3 or pastured eggs or VeganEggs
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or nutritional yeast
  • ¼ cup cassava flour
  • ½ teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • Dash of hot sauce (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prepare a muffin tin with cupcake liners and set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower rice and sea salt and cook, stirring frequently, until cauliflower is tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add garlic powder, paprika, and basil, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the cauliflower mixture, eggs, and cheese or nutritional yeast.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the cassava flour and baking powder.
  6. Fold the dry ingredients into the cauliflower mix along with the hot sauce, then portion into muffin tins.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until no longer wet to the touch. Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving.

Based on excerpts from The Plant Paradox Cookbook by Dr. Steven Gundry, with the permission of Harper Wave, a division of Harper Collins. Copyright © 2018.

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