Registered Dietitian Nutritionist's Book Club Review: The Plant Paradox


Registered Dietitian Nutritionist's Book Club Review: The Plant Paradox

23, February 2018 4:10 PM

The Plant ParadoxThe Silicon Valley Dietetic Book Club met in January to discuss Dr. Steven R. Gundry’s book, The Plant Paradox. The premise of this book is that certain foods that typically considered to be nutritious and health enhancing are actually bad; including wheat, beans, peanuts, peas, legumes, lentils and tomatoes, just to name a few. This is all due to the lectins found in these foods. 

What are lectins? Lectins are a type of protein that can bind to other molecules, notably carbohydrate molecules. According to The Plant Paradox, the binding of lectins to cells is a major cause of illness 

The book goes as far as to say people are “at war with plants,” and the paradox is that people need to eat some plants since they contain a host of essential nutrients. The book teaches the reader exactly which plant foods to eat, which to avoid and how to prepare certain foods to reduce the impact of lectins. 

What Works

On the positive side, the book contains many testimonials of people who feel better after following this diet. One can't argue with people feeling better. It is possible that understanding of human nutrition is still not adequate to explain why some foods are health-enhancing in one individual yet inflammatory to another. It is also true that the diet advocated in The Plant Paradox is low calorie—causing weight loss, low in sugar and does not include highly processed foods. These are all dietary changes that can help people to feel better right away.

Dr. Gundry’s book also recommends using certain spices to reduce inflammation. Book club members shared first-hand experience with spices including curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, and a reduction of symptoms of inflammation. However, individuals should still consult with a health professional before adding supplements to their regimen.

Where We Differ

As dietitians, recommendations to reduce vegetable intake naturally rub us the wrong way. The overwhelming consensus of nutrition studies finds that a plant-based eating pattern, which can include some animal foods, is health-enhancing. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends three different eating patterns and all recommend eating a wide variety of plants. 

Population studies show people who consume a plant-based diet (five or more servings per day of fruits and vegetables) plus two or three servings of whole grains have better health. The citations used in this book often referenced very small animal studies and these outcomes cannot be generalized to human populations. 

Gundry’s recommendations include a very expensive supplement program and the author conveniently sells these needed supplements—creating a financial conflict of interest. Buyer beware. As a general philosophy, we recommend getting nutrients from foods rather than supplements. 

The protein recommendation in the book (0.37 grams/kilogram/day) is much lower than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of 0.80 grams/kilogram/day. Newer scientific studies actually recommend increasing the RDA for protein for some sub-groups in the population such as the elderly. 

Finally, this diet is complicated. It omits many foods that are nutritious and well tolerated by the vast majority of people. One thing we have learned as nutrition educators is that complicated eating regimens are not sustainable over time. We suspect most people would abandon this eating plan after the first few weeks.

Seeking another opinion? Check out this video from


Maureen Bligh, MA, RDN
Director, Resource Development and Marketing

Kristal Shelden, MPH, RDN
Project Manager, Nutrition Sciences


Maureen and Kristal are registered dietitian nutritionists and members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Tags: consensus science Dietary Guideliunes for Americans Dietitians Book Review Healthy eating healthy eating patterns Kristal Shelden Maureen Bligh plant-based protein registered dietitian book club


  • Vashti 2 years 6 days ago
    Great review of a seemingly helpful book.

    • Susan 1 years 72 days ago
      Yes. I bought the book half way in and I can tell it is too restricted hard to follow and goes against long term advice. White rice instead of long grain..... and I love peanuts.

    • Lola 1 years 169 days ago
      Walk the walk, before you talk the talk!


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