Dr. Steven Gundry is a well-known doctor and author who founded Gundry MD, a website dedicated to improving your health through diet, supplements, and nutrition information. He’s the author of the popular book The Plant Paradox, which discusses the danger of lectins, a protein found in many plants and animals.
While more scientific research is needed to back up Dr. Gundry’s claims about the dangers of lectins, some preliminary research does show the benefits of lectin elimination diets and the risks of consuming lectin in excess.
Read our guide to find out which superfoods Dr. Gundry suggests you introduce into your diet and which foods you should avoid to stay lectin-free.
According to Dr. Gundry, the best superfoods to eat are those without lectin. Although his opinion on the dangers of lectin is controversial, he advocates for avoiding lectin in your daily diet, especially if you are gluten-intolerant. His list of recommendations includes superfoods that might be familiar to you with a few surprises.
Dr. Gundry presents a food pyramid outlining foods you should consume often and those best eaten in moderation. He also includes a list of food to avoid.
The bottom of the food pyramid includes foods you can enjoy anytime and in any quantity. They include approved fats, leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables. These foods include extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, avocados, lettuce, kohlrabi, spinach, seaweed, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and radish, among others.
The next level of the pyramid includes foods enjoyed in small portions with each meal, such as nuts, flour alternatives, sorghum, millet, and resistant starch. You should avoid legumes altogether, but approved nuts include macadamia, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, coconut, hazelnuts, and chestnuts. Use coconut or almond flour instead of processed white flour, and enjoy resistant starches like green bananas or plantains.
The next pyramid level also includes foods you should limit per meal. They include wild-caught seafood, pastured poultry, omega-3 eggs, and in-season fruits. Dr. Gundry also recommends some fruits that are always in season, including bananas, mangoes, papayas, and avocado.
Next, Dr. Gundry provides foods that should be consumed infrequently, including milk and alcohol. He recommends consuming Southern European cow, goat, sheep, and buffalo milk. If you decide to drink alcohol, stick with red wine, champagne, or dark spirits only once or twice weekly.
Dr. Gundry suggests eating grass-fed, pasture-raised meat only once or twice weekly. These include bison, wild game, venison, boar, elk, pork, lamb, beef, and prosciutto.
Dr. Gundry also provides a comprehensive list of what foods to avoid altogether to maintain a healthy diet:
He also recommends avoiding certain fruits and vegetables like peas, squash, tomatoes, melon, zucchini, peppers, and goji berries. And you should only use the approved oils listed above, avoiding grapeseed, corn, peanut, cottonseed, sunflower, and canola oils.
There are certain superfoods that Dr. Gundry says are important to add to your diet. These can be consumed daily and have various health benefits. They include:
Below, we’ve outlined some of the health benefits of each superfood.
Avocados are nutrient-rich and contain large amounts of potassium, magnesium, fiber, vitamins A and C, and folate, among others. Studies show that consuming avocados can help with cardiovascular health, weight management, and aging.
Nuts have been shown to provide antioxidants and reduce inflammation. They are also a good source of dietary polyphenols.
Eating one ounce per day of extra dark chocolate containing at least 72% cacao can benefit the cardiovascular system and provide antioxidants.
Dr. Gundry explicitly recommends shiitake and maitake mushrooms. Mushrooms, in general, are a great source of prebiotics that help stimulate good bacterial growth in the gut.
Sesame has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help prevent and reverse cardiovascular diseases.
Basil seeds are high in protein, fiber, and minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium. They have shown to be a great source of antioxidants and may also have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, among others.
Lectins are naturally occurring carbohydrate-binding proteins found in all plants and animals. They are most commonly found in legumes and grains, foods Dr. Gundry suggests avoiding altogether. While lectins are mostly harmless and can even be removed by cooking and boiling, some lectins are toxic to the human body, causing illnesses and even death.
When eaten in excess, lectins may cause:
Lectins like ricin and phytohaemagglutinin can be toxic. Ricin is a poison created from castor beans. It is unlikely that anyone would die unintentionally from ricin poisoning, as the castor beans must be processed in a particular way to make ricin.
Phytohaemagglutinin is a lectin in red kidney beans. If the beans are not cooked properly, consuming them can lead to kidney bean poisoning, which causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Properly cooking the beans reduces the lectin and makes the beans safe to eat.
Legumes and grains aren’t the only foods high in lectins, but they are the foods Dr. Gundry specifically suggests eliminating from your diet. Here is a list of other foods that are high in lectins:
Dr. Gundry recommends a diet low in lectins by consuming the following foods:
Although Dr. Gundry is a proponent of eliminating or reducing lectin intake, you may wonder if it’s vital to avoid lectins altogether. While we do know that excess levels of lectins can be toxic, your everyday diet generally won’t include enough lectins to be harmful. In fact, about 30% of the foods in a standard diet contain lectins.
There is not much scientific evidence to support the claim that eliminating lectins from your diet will make you healthier or help cure certain illnesses or diseases. More research must be done to substantiate the health benefits of eliminating dietary lectins. However, some research shows eliminating or reducing lectins can help those with:
Many of the foods containing lectins — whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits, and vegetables — are part of a well-balanced and healthy diet. Eliminating them may give you fewer options for eating well. Cooking and processing foods tend to reduce the number of naturally occurring lectins, which means you wouldn’t eat a toxic level of lectins in your everyday diet.
If you feel unwell and suspect your diet is the culprit, you should consult your doctor or a dietician. These professionals can help you determine if you have a food allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance. A radical shift in your diet — like eliminating foods with lectins — will not work for everyone living with digestive or other food-based issues.
If you decide that eliminating lectins from your diet is the right step for you, follow these three steps to reduce the number of lectins you consume:
There are no severe health consequences to a lectin-free diet. However, eliminating these foods from your diet can make it more difficult to achieve balanced nutrition, leading to some adverse health effects.
Eliminating whole grains, beans, and legumes — foods that are commonly considered part of a well-balanced diet — limits your nutrient intake. Because foods that are high in lectins are also typically high in fiber, you may find that a lectin-free diet results in changes to bowel habits or leads to digestive issues.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 (sponsored by the USDA), a well-balanced diet should include:
About half of your grain intake should be whole grains, and protein should include meat as well as beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy. Dr. Gundry suggests eliminating many of these foods because of their high lectin levels.
Eating a balanced diet at every stage of your life can eliminate your risk of developing:
If you think you may be sensitive to lectins, then a lectin-free diet may be worth it. The elimination of dietary lectins has been shown to help symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune disorders, and multiple sclerosis, so this diet may be right for you if you live with those illnesses. Check with your doctor or dietician to ensure this is the right path for your health.
Dr. Gundry offers a series of dietary supplements and other products to help maintain a healthy diet. The supplements fall into these categories:
Below, we outline the supplements that help with digestion, prebiotic support, and weight control. These supplements can be the most helpful to consider if you have decided to pursue a lectin-free diet. Visit Gundry MD for a complete list of all available supplements, including one of their best sellers, Energy Renew. Learn all about it in our full review.
Dr. Gundry also sells food products that can help contribute to a lectin-free diet rich in his recommended superfoods. These products include:
Gundry MD also includes a listing of lectin-free recipes and free nutrition articles that discuss how to maintain a lectin-free diet, among other topics.
Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions about staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.
We extensively test each health service or product we review. Our content provides you, our readers, with an unbiased exploration of at-home health options, free of marketing jargon or gimmicks. We evaluate products and services based on their adherence to quality and the latest medical evidence and health standards. We ask ourselves two simple questions: Would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job? Would we recommend it to family and friends?
Additionally, like all health-related content on this website, this review was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.