My First Three Weeks on the Plant Paradox Program
I'm a highly sensitive person (HSP) of highly sensitive people. This makes my body an ideal testing ground for any diet or substance. I react strongly, diversely and rapidly to most chemicals. I'm often referred to as a canary in the coal mine. For example, I get a runny nose from conventional apples and pears, but not from organic ones. Peaches that were shipped unripe and gassed taste bad to me and make my tongue feel funny, but I love ripe peaches off the tree.
Raederle's home-grown peaches, ripe off the tree. August, 2018. Ithaca, New York State, U.S.A.
Reading The Plant Paradox, I learned that unripe peaches (among many other unripe stone fruits) are rich in lectins when they are unripe. As they naturally ripen on the tree, the lectins go away. It is theorized that the tree does this intentionally so that its fruit will be most attractive – and thereby eaten – when ripe to assist in spreading its seeds. Until reading The Plant Paradox, I'd never heard of lectins.
Over the past fifteen years I've read a lot of books on health and nutrition. Each book has given me valuable information and helped me put things together. I've also taken the Super Nutrition Academy course, and I wrote the exams for The Vegetarian Health Institute. Despite all that, The Plant Paradox has been the most valuable of them all – the final puzzle piece.
I suppose, without my background, you might not have quite the same reaction to Dr. Gundry's book. For me, he filled in all the gaps and turned many of my current understandings inside-out. The raw food diet has been a powerful transformative tool. The ironic part? A true raw food diet is a very low lectin diet.
The foods richest in lectins are beans, grains, nightshades and unripe stone fruits. A raw food diet cuts out beans and grains. Many fruitarians and natural hygienists preach the importance of truly ripe fruit and naturally ripened fruit. And in my lucky case, when I began a raw food diet I didn't eat much by way of nightshades because I didn't like them in their whole, raw form.
One of Raederle's raw-food meals featuring nori wraps (carrots, nori, sauerkraut and spinach), fruit medley (pineapple, kiwi, blueberry and strawberry) and apple pie (dates, almonds, apples, spices). 2014. Buffalo, New York State, U.S.A.
It turns out that my taste-buds have been steering me correctly. I didn't like cucumbers, but then I discovered that seedless cucumbers, when peeled, were pretty good. My taste-buds were leading me to remove the lectins – which are present in the seeds and skins of cucumbers and other members of the squash family.
Heirloom tomatoes from our CSA (community support agriculture) share. Summer, 2012. Buffalo, New York State, U.S.A.
Similarly, I had a thing for tomato sauce on pasta, but not raw tomatoes. It turns out that pressure-cooked tomatoes do not have lectins, and tomatoes with their skins and peels removed have greatly reduced lectins. So "learning to like" raw tomatoes was never a good idea. Traditional Italian cooking includes removing the skins and seeds from tomatoes before cooking them into a sauce. Their taste-buds were leading them in the right direction too.
However, I turned away from my taste-buds as I began filling up my head with "nutrition data." When you look at the numerical reports, cucumbers and tomatoes look like some of the healthiest foods you can eat. Bell peppers – a nightshade – shine with more vitamin C per calorie than most other fruits. I tried to make myself learn to like these foods and began slipping them into recipes wherever I could.
I don't like plain cashews and never have, but the gourmet raw recipes that I initially encountered called for a lot of cashews. Cashews are a particularly lectin-rich "nut." They're actually so toxic that harvesters have to wear a special hazard suit to protect them. I later learned that cashews aren't actually raw – they must be boiled out of their shell because their shells are too toxic to be handled. I began to shun cashews as "not actually raw" and assumed that that was why they were unhealthy for me.
Raw vegan cheesecake made by Raederle for in-laws. April, 2012. Atlanta, Georgia State, U.S.A.
Raw cheesecakes were fun and delicious, but I easily traded that cashew-based recipe in and made raw apple pies instead. My raw apple pies use a crust of soaked almonds and dates. The topping/filling is made up of apples, ginger, and spices. This is a fairly low-lectin treat, as almonds are low in lectins. Now when I make my raw apple pies I peel the almonds which makes the flavor and texture even better and it removes the lectins that almonds do have.
Raw vegan apple pie by Raederle. Buffalo, New York State, U.S.A.
My stomach-cramping response to cashews supported my notion that all foods should be raw, and it was further supported by my nutrition data which informed me that cashews were a waste of calories. Yet with tomatoes I was led astray. It wasn't obvious if I was reacting to the tomato specifically because I never ate them plain. I made complex salsas and ate them on romaine lettuce and I rarely reacted poorly to those, although sometimes I did and I wasn't sure why.
I observed that I only really craved tomatoes in the heat of the summer after I'd been in the sun for a long time. I noticed this long before I knew that tomatoes are one of the richest sources of lycopene, an antioxidant that rapidly heals sun damage from the inside. I decided that eating tomatoes when they were in season, local and organic – or better yet, home-grown – was the most appropriate time for me to eat them. This was wise, but I was missing part of the picture. And later, (mostly in 2017 and early 2018), I stepped away from my old notion of "eat seasonally" as I tried to emphasize lycopene from a left-brained mindset.
Somewhere along the way (around 2012) I realized I was sensitive to garlic and onions – the two foods highest in FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides & Polyols). My friend was going on a low FODMAP diet, and I decided to try that. I felt better. Then I assumed that garlic and onion were what was wrong with salsa.
Years later (around 2016), when eating a diet that was half cooked food, I wasn't sure if I was reacting poorly to rice or not. Sometimes, when I ate it plain at home I was fine. But then when I ate it as someone else's house I wasn't fine. When I ate it with sauce I wasn't fine. I didn't blame the tomato sauce – I blamed it either on the rice or the complex food combination.
While reading The Plant Paradox I learned that pressure-cooked rice has most or all of its lectin content decimated. At home, we pressure-cooked our rice, but I sometimes ate it elsewhere and had trouble with stomach pain. And, of course, the tomato sauce topping was a source of lectins I was ignoring as something that "couldn't possibly" be bad for me.
Growing up I enjoyed my potatoes peeled and served with lots of butter. In my early twenties, when I ventured away from raw food I thought I might have some potatoes and see how I did with those. I figured they were pretty harmless because cooked carbohydrate (when steamed) was less dangerous than cooked fats and cooked proteins (which is somewhat true, depending on various factors). Again, I was confused by the fact that sometimes I reacted negatively to the potatoes and sometimes I didn't.
We were getting potatoes "all you can eat" style from our CSA (community supported agriculture) share the summer of 2012, and we were living on very little money at the time. To learn more about that, see my book, Living Big & Traveling Far on $8,000 a Year (Or Less!). We made the most of our CSA share by designing our meals around their "all you can eat" crops which were mainly kale and potatoes. So we ate steamed kale and steamed potatoes regularly.
By the end of the summer I felt like my stomach was a mess and swore off of both steamed potatoes and steamed kale. Yet later, I tried a peeled (and pressure-cooked) potato and didn't get the nasty burning in my stomach. Turns out the lectins in the potatoes (a nightshade) are once again, primarily in the skin. And, once again, my childhood taste-buds knew what they were talking about!
Even if you're not a highly sensitive person (HSP) genetically, you still have the ability to tap deeply into your senses and use your intuition to make great food and lifestyle decisions. Many people are – quite wisely – reluctant to take pills, for example.
Dr. Gundry tells a story about a woman in his book. The woman needed to have part of her intestines surgically removed. In her small intestine there were "webs" blocking the passage – only pinholes were open to allow food through. The culprit? Ibuprofen.
As a child I strongly resisted the urging of adults to take pain killers. I was in pain a lot, so this was a logical notion to many adults who took pain-killers themselves. Even my doctor recommended child-approved pain-killers. I resisted medications of all kinds even though I was repeatedly being recommended one thing after another. At my mother's insistence I did try some, but many of them I refused to take a second time.
When my mother gave me calcium I was particularly unhappy about how it felt in my stomach. Later, I learned that alkalizing one's stomach is generally a bad idea, as it neutralizes our powerful, protective stomach acid. This neutralization may have been what I was reacting to, or it may have been the long list of other ingredients in the particular brand my mother was using: polyethylene glycol, magnesium silicate, propylene glycol dicaprylate/dicaprate, croscarmellose sodium (associated with heart failure), magnesium stearate, titanium dioxide color (associated with inflammatory bowel disease) and hydroxypropyl methylcellulose. That's a whole mouth full of stuff other than calcium-citrate! You can see my spreadsheet comparing twenty-seven different supplements designed to support bone health here. To get access to all of my incredible spreadsheets (and support all the work that I publish freely to the web), you can sign up as a patron here.
The first time my mother gave me a magnesium I did have a dramatic reduction in pain in my joints, so I occasionally would have another magnesium. Yet, sometimes, inexplicably, I felt I didn't want to take that either. My intuition knows more than I consciously know.
As an adult I learned about the importance of various vitamins and began taking supplements. I talk about why supplements are very important in an article of mine, Do you really need supplements?. However, since I began Dr. Gundry's diet, I've been able to cut twelve daily pills out of my life: digestive enzymes.
For the past three years I've been "getting away with" eating a diet very high in cooked foods. Whenever I went out to eat Indian food I would take along my bag of enzymes and through the course of the meal I would take around seven tablets. At home, when eating rice or potatoes I would take a couple of enzymes. I learned which enzymes helped more with which foods. I learned how many I needed to take to ensure I wouldn't get stomach discomfort. It was a grand experiment, and I discovered that grains and beans required the most digestive enzymes. I discovered that no amount of enzymes would allow me to eat certain foods, such as quinoa. Quinoa would result in horrible stomach-cramping pain at night, fatigue and dark circles beneath my eyes no matter how many enzymes I took before and during the meal. You can see which enzymes I've tried and a detailed comparison of their constituents in this spreadsheet here.
Dr. Gundry explains that qunioa and amaranth actually have more lectins than wheat, which explains why my reaction to quinoa and amaranth is about the same as my reaction to bread. Almost. It turns out that the WGA (wheat germ agglutinin) lectin in wheat-germ is worse than gluten lectin.
Dry beans photographed by Raederle. September, 2012. Buffalo, New York State, U.S.A.
Long before I discovered digestive enzymes or owned a pressure cooker, I gave up on beans. Enough experimentation over time proved to me that there was no amount of safe bean consumption for me. Working with clients who had digestive issues I often recommended they try eliminating beans for a week, and in each case where the client did so, their digestion improved and their energy-levels lifted. Because of this, I wrote an article called Spilling The Beans . . . About Beans. I've now updated this article so that it also contains my new understandings.
Our ancestors were more in touch with their taste-buds and intuition. They knew they liked the taste and feeling of polished rice better. They knew they liked white bread better than brown bread. They knew to ferment their oats for weeks before eating them. In these processes they removed the lectins, the phytic acid and the enzyme inhibitors. They reduced seeds to the one thing they're really good for: tasty carbohydrate calories.
Raederle (me) taking advantage of "pick your own beans" as part of our CSA share in the summer of 2012. Near Buffalo, New York State, U.S.A. (I didn't actually eat any of these, as I have never been able to tolerate the taste of green beans. Mostly we marinated these in a lot of dressing and brought them to potlucks both fresh and dried in our dehydrator.)
Anyone who tells you that seeds are a good source of nutrition hasn't actually run the numbers as I have. I made exhaustive charts showing the nutrition in foods, measured per calorie, when I made my book, The Ultimate Nutrition Reference. Back then I didn't know about the dangers of phytic acid or lectins, although I did know about enzyme inhibitors. Yet even from the numbers alone, it was clear that fruits and vegetables were a far superior source of nutrition.
Cabbage photographed by Raederle.
Just 600 calories of vegetables can meet your official "recommended daily allowances" for nutrition in a day. With fruits, it takes 3000 calories. (More about that in my article, Is a fruitarian diet nutritionally sound?) The same can't be accomplished with seeds no matter how many of you eat, no matter what combinations you eat them in. Of course, few to no people eat literally "just vegetables" or "just fruits" or "just seeds" but there are many people who do get 95% or more of their calories from one of these sources, and most commonly when this is the case, it's seeds we're talking about. Seeds as in bread, pasta, pitas, doughnuts, cakes, biscuits, toast, cereal, muesli, oatmeal, peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, pretzels, and so on. Those are all seed-based or entirely seed-filled dishes.
Seeds, however, can become a much healthier part of your diet if you eat them the way our ancestors did. Our ancestors fermented their seeds. Take natto, for example. Natto is a particular kind of fermented soy bean made in Japan. It's been discovered that the bacteria involved in the natto-making process create more vitamin K2 than any other. Natto is the highest source of vitamin K2 known to man, and it is generally the source of K2 extracted for use in supplements. (Other forms of fermented soy have little to no vitamin K2.)
Many people today are highly deficient in vitamin K2 because it is a nutrient made by bacteria and animals. It isn't found in the ground and plants don't make it. Plants make vitamin K1. Few humans eat enough plants or are healthy enough to make their own K2 from K1. We used to get it from healthy animals who grazed on plants all day long. Now, with animals being fed corn, soy and wheat instead of grass, the animals don't get the K1 they need, and therefore can't make the K2 they need, and their dairy and meet is full of lectins (as a result of feeding our livestock lectin-rich feed).
Cow photographed by Raederle. Spring, 2012. South-eastern Kansas State, U.S.A.
While I learned (through experience and intuition) in 2012 that raw dairy was good for me – even though I couldn't eat conventional, store-bought, cooked dairy, I now know this may not be entirely due to the milk being raw versus cooked. While studies have shown that raw milk has many health benefits over cooked milk, it is now revealed that seed-fed animals put lectins into their milk. When I started with raw milk I was automatically getting low-lectin milk because you have to feed an animal their natural diet and keep them healthy in order for their milk to be safe to drink raw. So whenever you find someone selling raw milk they must (by law) be keeping their animal healthy; and the easiest way to do that is to feed them their natural grass-rich diet.
Let's go back to natto – an old tradition at the breakfast table in Japan. The parts of Japan that ate a couple ounces of natto for breakfast every day had no hip fractures. Dr. Weston Price's "x factor" that made bones so healthy was and is vitamin K2. Weston Price knew there was something special in the brightly colored butter of grass-fed cows in the height of the summer. Weston Price called it the "x factor." We now know that vitamin K2 is what allows calcium to get where its going in your body. Without K2, you have calcium build-up in your arteries and low bone density at the same time.
Our ancestors knew to ferment their seeds, beans and grains.
Sourdough bread is another example. Most of the gluten – which is a lectin – in wheat is eliminated through the fermentation that creates sourdough bread. If you remove the wheat husk and wheat germ and make a sourdough bread from freshly ground white flour you end up with a nearly lectin-free result. This is the real reason why the French can eat so much bread and stay thin. They also know to keep all that healthy fat in their dairy and to enjoy plenty of butter from grass-fed brown cows or goats.
Why brown cows? Because they have a different type of casein which doesn't cause all the problems that the casein from Holsten cows causes. Casein, by the by, is a type of protein and so are lectins.
In reality, most protein is not your friend. In fact, you need very little protein to thrive. Our bodies recycle protein incredibly effectively because it is so essential to our wellbeing. In truth, we need less than thirty grams a day, but most Americans are consuming over sixty grams a day – including the vegetarians and vegans. While kidney damage from too much protein is common, a genuine protein deficiency is rare. When a protein deficiency does happen, it is not usually caused by diet, but by poor absorption.
Ironically, one of the culprits for poor absorption of protein and other nutrients is a type of protein – lectins! Other contributors to poor absorption – i.e. leaky gut – include the endocrine disruptors in plastics such as BPA, candida overgrowth, over-the-counter pain killers, prescription pain killers, prescription anti-acids, and a number of household chemicals.
White bread has often been demonized beside white sugar, but I'm not talking about conventional white bread. I'm talking about the old-style white bread where they used natural yeast as their rising agent and no shelf-stabilizers. The rising agents used today in America are shown to be so harmful to your digestive tract that they actually cause gluten sensitivity! When we're talking about the old-style white bread, we're talking about a complex mix of nutrients, despite its simple coloration. Table sugar, in contrast, is the same molecule repeated over and over. Table sugar is not complex, but rather, very, very simple.
Before you start hoping that artificial sweeteners are better, consider that a study has shown that a single splenda packet will kill off 50% of the good bacteria in your gut. I discovered splenda the same way I discovered everything else: the hard way. When I was sixteen I bought a six-pack of yogurt sweetened with splenda. I had one yogurt cup each morning. By day three I couldn't walk. My leg muscles would seize up on me and give out. I was out of school for several days, recovering. After that, I was done with splenda. I didn't eat the remaining three yogurt cups.
When it comes to putting things into your body, consider that your ancestors never consumed isolated molecules by the spoonful. They did, however, refine their seeds and ferment them. Seeds without their hulls are very different than chemically refined so-called foods like hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup.
Good fermentation transforms many components that are harmful to us while simultaneously creating dozens of trace components that are highly beneficial to us. And how did our ancestors know if the fermentation was good or not? They used their noses and their taste-buds! They had their intuition to guide them. They didn't need scientific research because they were truly in touch with their bodies.
Raederle. December, 2017. Ithaca, New York State, U.S.A.
Perhaps most importantly, ancient peoples listened to their highly sensitive individuals. Highly sensitive people (HSP) make up about 20% of the population. In ancient times, the sensitive ones were revered and became the sages, medicine women, magicians, food tasters, temple priests, oracles, royal advisors and shamans. These sensitive individuals were able to detect toxins in foods more readily, as well as pick out the medicinal properties more readily. For more about this, read The Highly Sensitive Person. (Be sure to get the edition of the book with all the updated research in the foreword. The foreword is fascinating!)
Today, we shun our sensitive individuals and label them as "weak." Often our highly sensitive people are misdiagnosed as autistic or as having attention deficit disorder. Instead of seeing highly intuitive individuals in our hospitals we encounter left-brained doctors who "know what is best for us" as they sit their on their high-and-mighty pile of research.
You know what research is good for? Helping you understand what your body has been telling you all along!
My own intuition is something I've been nurturing for a long time. Let me give you another example of my intuition at work:
A few days prior to being given The Plant Paradox by a relative, I was having the thought, "Maybe I should try a meat and vegetables diet some time. It's been shown to be very effective for many people. Maybe it would work for me." From someone who hadn't eaten meat more than three times in the last decade, that was an unusual thought to cross my mind.
I was also thinking a lot about how much fatter Americans have become in the past thirty years and wondering what was happening. When I was a teenager it was estimated that half of adult Americans were fat. Now, a little over a decade later they're saying it's up to seventy percent. In truth, I'm dubious about the medical standard for being overweight, because when I'm out at a festival it seems more like ninety percent! I was trying to grapple with what I know is happening. I wondered if perhaps it was the increase in mercury toxicity, or the increase in genetically modified foods, or the increase in chemical shampoos or cell phone use. The answer is: all of the above and more.
Dr. Gundry talks about most of these things in conjunction with the obesity epidemic in his book. While reading it I sent my husband a text message that read: "I swear I precogged this book. I was talking about a meat and vegetables diet. I was brainstorming why everyone is getting fat. I was trying to understand why it was happening faster and faster in the past thirty years. I was grappling with my own recent weight gain and yours. And now, I'm reading the book that explains all of that and much more."
To be curious about something and then manifest the answer to your questions is a natural, frequent occurrence when you're deeply in touch with your emotions. To allow your feelings, your sensitivities, your truth to shine through opens the door to your intuitive knowledge.
The Plant Paradox Program focuses mostly on removing lectins. Dr. Gundry emphasizes that what you take out is even more critical than what you put in to your body. How can that be? It is because our bodies are so efficient at extracting what they need and recycling essential nutrients. Most of the reason why we need so many antioxidants to stay healthy is because we're inundated with so much toxicity and inflammation. That said, the seven cultures that live the longest in the world (the people of the blue zones) consume roughly a hundred times more antioxidants than your average American. And where do you get antioxidants? Fruits and vegetables – especially herbs and berries.
Flat-leaf parsley in Raederle's garden. Ithaca, New York State, U.S.A.
The Plant Paradox Program could be described as a "vegetables and meat" diet if you're specifically talking about wild-caught fish, herbs and crucipherous vegetables. For those of you who are sensitive to oxalic acid or FODMAPs, you might be wondering how you'd survive on a diet based on crucipherous vegetables. I certainly was concerned! How could I eat according to The Plant Paradox Program when broccoli, chard, cabbage and collards make me feel sick? Worse, what if I tried to stop being a vegetarian and found out that fish made me sick?
As far as I could recall, the last time I'd had a little fish I'd broken out all over my face and had stomach pains besides. I wasn't too keen on that. But The Plant Paradox was too well-aligned with my intuitions to ignore. So . . . I tried a fish.
It turns out that the reason I had that reaction to fish back in 2012 was almost undoubtedly because it was a farmed fish that had been fried in olive oil. Dr. Gundry explains that olive oil is hard on people with leaky guts and lectin sensitivity because there are constituents in olive oil that look like lectins and are therefore attacked by the immune system. I stopped being able to eat olive oil many years ago (around 2014), and I was reassured to finally have an explanation for why. Also, farmed fish is fed ( —drum roll please— ) corn and soy! Even if it is "organic" fish, it is still being fed corn and soy. It's just organic corn and soy instead, which is an improvement because it isn't loaded with glyphosate, but the fish is still loaded with lectins.
This time, I had my wild-caught fish fried in ghee and had no problem.
In fact, I went on to have a different fish every day for two weeks. I'd had little exposure to seafood as a child, so it was a new adventure to me. I'd never had cod, halibut, flounder, rockfish, or haddock before in my life. I'd also never before had avocado oil, which has become my cooking oil of choice. Unlike olive oil and coconut oil which both leave me feeling very sick, avocado oil leaves me feeling light after a meal of fried food. I would have never believed it was possible!
What else to eat besides fish? Dr. Gundry recommends eating only a small amount of fish. He personally only eats fish on the weekends, in four-ounce portions, and during the week he stays vegetarian. He calls himself a vegequarian. During my own transition I ate eight to twelve ounces of fish a day, partly because I was unsure what else to eat at first.
I soon discovered steamed cauliflower which does not have lectins and is low in oxalic acid and FODMAPs and therefore suitable for me at this transitional time. Eventually, as my gut fully heals, I should be able to tolerate FODMAPs and oxalic acid again, according to Dr. Gundry. This, I highly look forward to. I'll happily trade in oats and get to eat garlic and onions again!
Oats, I now believe, are the primary cause for my weight gain, dental problems, and digestive sensitivity over the past couple years. I was introduced to a hand-roller which allowed me to have home-rolled oats that were genuinely fresh. Then I would add boiling water and berries for a fresh, hot cereal. This has made for great travel food, especially with added ginger for motion sickness. Unfortunately, Dr. Weston Price and Dr. Gundry agree that oats are one of the worst foods for you. Weston Price discovered that children who ate oats were much more likely to have dental cavities than children who didn't. Dr. Gundry found that his patients who ate oats had more digestive issues and autoimmune disorders and removing oats was part of healing these problems.
"Travel Oats" from my recipe book, Appliance-Free, 5-Minute, Revitalizing Recipes, originally only released for my patrons. It will be available to the wider public after it has been revised to become a low-lectin recipe book. Ithaca, New York State, U.S.A.
Ancient peoples considered oats to be suitable to eat after three weeks of fermentation. Dr. Gundry says that even pressure cooking is not enough to make oats safe for many people, especially those with autoimmune disorders.
Oats have been hard for me to detect as a problem in my diet because I usually ate them in small portions and accompanied them with ginger root. Because the ginger root lifts my spirits, improves my circulation, and helps my sinuses clear up, I have not always recognized oats as a problem. Furthermore, whenever I had not eaten oats in a long time, they felt great. But when I started eating them daily I soon began to notice an addictive pattern where I wanted more and more of them. This is probably because my flora changed over time as I was eating them, and the bad flora that wanted more oats started taking the steering wheel of my cravings.
Earlier this summer I read Cure Tooth Decay which is primarily based on Weston Price's work. I was very impressed with the studies in the book and the information. I quickly cut back on phytic acid and incorporated Green Pasture's Royal Blend into my diet. This began helping with my teeth immediately, but I couldn't conscience trying to eat the diet outlined in the back of the book. Nigel's diet outline is very rich in meat and takes little consideration for how the healthiest cultures in the world eat. Dr. Gundry's book, however, added further credence to the findings of Weston Price and incorporated the wisdom of our healthiest ancestors around the globe.
Dr. Gundry claims that on his diet you will not need toilet paper. That's a bold claim. To my astonishment, in just a couple weeks that claim came true for me. Nothing slimy left behind!
Now, it is September 2018. I've been following The Plant Paradox Program for about three weeks. While eating primarily fried food, I've lost excess fat off of my hips and my skin has remained similarly clear to how it was before I began the program. I've stopped taking digestive enzymes with my meals. I was taking seven to twelve enzymes every day. Now I'm just taking one a day because one of my enzyme tablets also contains an array of other useful vitamins such as vitamin D, vitamin K2, and magnesium.
Despite eating a lot of foods that used to constipate me, I've not been constipated. For example, I used to find that yogurt was constipating, but I've been eating a lot of grass-fed sheep yogurt and have not been constipated as a result. Last summer I tried eating this same yogurt and found I couldn't get anything out for days at a time. According to my new understanding, the reason why the yogurt is no longer constipating me is because of an overall shift in my friendly flora and healing in my digestive tract.
I was usually mentally sharp before, but I was often sluggish after eating potatoes or oats. I would opt to lay down and not want to talk about anything “logistical” for a while. I would opt for fiction, as any of my non-fiction books might be too taxing. Now I find that I'm sharp virtually all the time. (The exception to this has been when I was exposed to some nasty chemicals while visiting a friend.)
Could pancakes be good for me?
Shockingly, a lot of what I've been eating this past week has been . . . pancakes. This flies in the face of everything I thought I knew about health and nutrition. These special pancakes I've been making are lectin-free, which separates them from 99.99% of all pancakes made in America. Below is the recipe I've been perfecting as I've literally been making these every day during this initial trial of the Plant Paradox Program. (Editor's note: I've continued making these pancakes for years, so what you see below is an updated, carefully refined recipe.)
Photo: Raederle's Cassava-Flour Pancakes. September 2018. Ithaca, New York State, U.S.A.
Cassava Flour Pancakes by Raederle
- 3–4 duck eggs, pasture-raised (or 1–2 duck eggs plus 1 goose egg*)
- 1 banana, ripe (optional if you're using apples)
- 1–3 apples, peeled and cubed (optional if you're using banana – I've come to prefer just apple and no banana over the years)
- 3 Tablespoons butter, pasture-raised brown cows or non-cow butter (A2 β-casein) (completely optional – creates a richer flavor)
- 5 Tablespoons coconut yogurt or A2 β-casein, grass-fed yogurt (completely optional – works well with banana but isn't needed with apples)
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- ¾ cup organic cassava flour (I'm using Anthony's brand.)
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda, aluminum-free
- 3 Tablespoons avocado oil per frying pan (for frying)
- 3 Tablespoons butter, pasture-raised brown cows (A2 β-casein) or 2 teaspoons MCT oil (completely optional, garnish)
- ½ teaspoon ceylon cinnamon (garnish)
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom (garnish)
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla powder (garnish)
- Wash, peel, and cube your apples if you're using apples. You can sprinkle them with nutmeg, allspice, and/or cardamom at this stage for a subtle flavor within your pancakes. (I like to vary mine and sometimes I add one or more dessert spices to the apples prior to frying, and sometimes I only add a spice or two as garnish.)
- Fastest method: Put the eggs, banana, butter, and yogurt into your blender. Blend to fully combine. (About twenty seconds in a high-speed blender.) I used to prefer using the blender back when I used butter, yogurt, and banana. Now that I just use apples in place of these ingredients, I now prefer the hand-blender method.
Fluffier method: Use a whisk or Bamix immersion blender (I love my Bamix!) to whip the eggs until fluffy. Then add banana, butter, and yogurt (if you're using any of these) and blend a little more, leaving some small banana chunks.
- Add the flour, salt and baking soda. Blend thoroughly (ten to twenty seconds in a high-speed blender). Or you can do this part with a fork – it goes quickly.
- Add your apples (if you're using apples – my favorite) and stir until coated in batter. (You can also add a handful of frozen blueberries here, but only add a few if you're using frozen – their coldness can prevent the inside of your pancake cooking through.)
- Scrape down the sides completely with a spatula and stir to ensure their are no clumps of flour left. Blend again briefly.
- Heat your cast-iron frying pan on high-heat with three tablespoons of avocado oil for about one minute.
- While your pan is heating, stir the lemon juice into your batter to create that final magical reaction between acid and base that helps to create delightfully fluffy pancakes.
- Pour two to four small pancakes into your frying pan. Cover. Let sit for ten seconds and then turn down the heat to medium. Wait another thirty seconds, then turn down to minimum.
- For the next minute I do exercises or wash dishes. Then return and check on your pancakes.
- If your pancakes have bubbles popping, they're ready to flip. If they slide around in the pan when nudged, that's another sign that they're ready. I like to flip mine as early as possible to minimize the forming of acrylamide which is a carcinogen formed when browning carbohydrates. This means that I flip mine before they are dry on top, so the batter slops a little while flipping – I just ensure the slopping remains in the pan! Turn the heat up again right before flipping.
- Right after flipping your pancakes, do a quick count to five and reduce heat to medium. Do exercises or dishes for thirty seconds and then reduce to minimum.
- After cooking on minimum for about a minute, test the pancakes with a fork to see if they are done. Flip them a couple times to see how they look on both sides. If they're not done, cover for another thirty seconds. If they are, transfer them to a plate and add MCT oil (or melted butter), ceylon cinnamon, vanilla powder and/or cardamom.
- Now start cooking your next batch of pancakes, remembering to turn the heat up before putting them into the pan. Be careful of your second batch – now that the pan is already quite hot, the pancakes will cook faster the second time around. Turn down from high to medium a little sooner, and from medium to minimum a bit sooner, and after you've flipped them, consider turning the heat off with the pancakes covered and letting them cook through that way for two to five minutes.
*I don't recommend using just goose eggs as the consistency isn't as good, but the flavor is excellent with goose eggs because their yolks are so flavorful.
In June 2020 I released a youtube video where I make these pancakes. It isn't exactly a cooking video, however, but I do discuss my feelings and experiences with my journey from raw foodism to eating pancakes a little. Watch it here.
Ceylon cinnamon is another food that my intuition speaks to me about. As much as I love the sharp flavor of cassia cinnamon – which is the common kind sold in America – I can tell there is something unsettling about it in my stomach. When I discovered ceylon I was delighted. It has a lighter flavor, and also a lighter feeling in my stomach. While cassia is great for rare occasions, or in small doses, it isn't appropriate for daily consumption in the same way that ceylon is.
Raederle's photography of apples using garden plants for background. Photo originally taken for potential inclusion in my board game, Decisive Desserts. Buffalo, New York State, U.S.A.
Dr. Gundry is an incredibly intelligent, educated and wise individual, however I do believe he is a little militant against fruits in an unfair way. Yes, many of our hybridized fruits are overly sweet. Yes, unripe fruits that have been gassed to ripen are rich in lectins and bad for us, especially in quantity. Yes, too many sugars can feed cancer cells and upset an already imbalanced endocrine system. All of that said, I listen to my experience and intuition first and foremost, so let me tell you about my experience with fruits.
I've never liked most vegetables very much. I love lettuce, which happens to be low in oxalic acid and FODMAPs and lectins. Coincidence? I think not. I also love citrus fruits and ripe berries. When I really started healing my body back in 2010 it was while I was doing a 100% raw diet that eliminated nuts (including cashews, which are not actually a nut). I ate primarily fruits, a lot of lettuce, and some freshly ground flax seed. In three weeks of eating this fruitarian diet I lost excess fat I didn't realize I had, I gained a couple pounds in muscle, my stomach flattened and toned, my skin cleared, my energy levels skyrocketed, my mood improved, my quality of sleep improved and my gums were healthier and bled less while I brushed.
Interestingly, Dr. Gundry says that freshly ground flaxseed is one of the few seeds that is okay to eat. He explains that our microbiome is adjusted to handle the lectins present in flax because our ancestors have been eating flax for thousands of years. (Unlike chia seed which was introduced much more recently to the western world.)
Later I returned to my fruitarian diet many times as a way to set myself right after things went wrong. Each time I found it to be refreshing, but each time I found myself craving a wider variety of foods after one to three weeks, and I would step back into a more complex diet. My fruitarian cleanses often looked like this:
Low Lectin, Fruitarian Cleanse
- 1 ripe banana or mango
- 1 cup frozen blueberries or 2 Tablespoons raw carob powder
- 1 tablespoons flaxseed, ground
- Enough water to blend
- 1 grapefruit
- 3 mangoes with cardamom
- Peeled and de-seeded cucumber, sliced and served with unsweetened mustard
- 8 to 16 ounces of lettuce
- 2 handfuls of spinach or spring mix
- 1 Tablespoon flax oil (cold-pressed, refrigerated)
- 1 Tablespoon flax seed (fresh-ground)
- 3 olives
- 1 apple, peeled, minced 2 pinches ceylon cinnamon (on the minced apple)
- 1 dash sea salt
- 2 sheets nori, crumbled (raw, organic)
Yet now, following The Plant Paradox Program, I'm finding I feel nearly as good eating pancakes and fried fish! This really proves to me how true it is that what you take out of your diet really does matter more than what you put in. Nevertheless, the fruit cleanse is powerfully hydrating and rich in antioxidants, so it isn't surprising that I find myself even more energetic and clear-minded on the fruitarian cleanse.
I had an early experience with the power of elimination when I was only seventeen. Following Dr. Mark Hyman's advice I removed a list of things from my diet:
- Hydrogenated oils
- Refined sweeteners (both artificial sweeteners and "natural" sweeteners such as organic cane sugar)
- Meat, eggs and dairy
- Gluten and wheat
By removing the above things alone I was able to lose thirty pounds in thirty days while sitting on my butt playing World of Warcraft (a video game). I didn't exercise at all. I mostly ate potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice and lettuce. Back then (in 2007) I peeled my potatoes and I cooked them for hours on the stove-top with onions and carrots in the same pot. I often added organic vegetable broth as well, but since then I've learned to avoid tetra-packs like the plague.
I wasn't eating a nutritious diet rich in antioxidants. I wasn't eating any of the "super healthy" stuff I know about now. All I did was remove the majority of the toxic food from my diet and the majority of my problems went away. I had been having acid reflux daily, and that stopped completely. I had been having headaches, joint pains, muscle cramps, insomnia, and more. All of that was reduced or eliminated by simply taking out the most toxic stuff.
Later I started wondering if I could just eat enough kale or antioxidants to "compensate" for foods that didn't usually agree with me. I found that in some cases I could. Like, if I had enough spirulina in the same meal with cashews, I found that I wouldn't get stomach cramps. I found that I could "get away" with more almonds by having them within my ginger-rich apple pie recipe. Now I know I can "get away" with more almonds simply by removing their skins! Which is very easy once the almonds are soaked and rinsed. The skins pop right off, usually in one piece.
Shockingly, the world isn't listening to Dr. Gundry any better than it has listened to the dietary luminaries that have come before, despite all the research and evidence backing him up. The web is full of misinformation that misquotes his book in heinous ways. The wikipedia page about lectins, for example, says that Dr. Gundry's diet is very limited and excludes fruits, vegetables, eggs and fish. This isn't true at all. He says not to eat farmed fish, or eggs that have been raised with grains. And he repeatedly talks about the importance of vegetables. Primarily, he says that nightshades should be avoided, or skinned and peeled. In truth, he's truly arguing for how humans ate traditionally, just as Dr. Weston Price was in many ways.
For me, it isn't the research or evidence that convinces me. I believe that lectins have been bothering me all along because it explains my sensitivities to particular foods perfectly. Reading The Plant Paradox gave me answers to questions I've had for a long time. I will continue to write about this and explore it in the months to come. For now, you can explore the full guidelines for The Plant Paradox diet and contrast it to other diets in this comprehensive spreadsheet I made for my own reference. Hover over cells with a black triangle in the upper-right corner for more information about that cell.
Update: I'm now four weeks into The Plant Paradox Program and my gut is healed enough that I can now eat three avocados in a single day without any upset! Soon I will be trying olive oil to see if my body can tolerate that (which would be a first in seven years). Also, I've now published a new article which may be of use to you if you're just now starting the program: Q & A for the Plant Paradox Program.
Update: Continue reading with my six week update on eating a lectin-free diet.
Here is a two-day example of what I ate during my first three weeks:
Day 1, Raederle's Low-Lectin Transitional Diet
- ½ cup sheep yogurt (grass-fed)
- ¼ cup cherries or blueberries, thawed from frozen
- 1 teaspoon Wiley's Finest orange-burst Wild Alaskan Fish Oil
- Aqua ViTea Komucha (I select this brand because it is the least sweet, i.e. the most fully fermented)
- Cassava-Flour Pancakes (recipe above)
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons Green Pasture's Royal Blend
- 4 to 10 ounces greens
- 2 or 3 hardboiled duck yolks from pasture-raised ducks (on my greens)
- 3 to 8 olives (on my greens)
- ½ head cauliflower, pressure-cooked with plenty of sea salt and black pepper
Day 2, Raederle's Low-Lectin Transitional Diet
- 1 grapefruit, sliced in half and enjoyed with a grapefruit spoon
- 6 spoonfuls sheep yogurt or raw goat's cream from grass-fed animals
- 1 spoonful Green Pasture's Royal Blend
- 4 to 10 ounces wild-caught fish, pan-fried in avocado oil with sea salt added after cooking
- 10 to 20 olives and/or ¼ avocado*
- 4 to 10 ounces greens, usually lettuce with sea salt
- Plantains (organic, peeled, semi-ripe), sliced and fried in avocado oil
*You could easily have a full avocado. Dr. Gundry often recommends them in his book. I have been slowly increasing my intake of avocado as I've had trouble digesting them in the past, undoubtedly due to my gut being so leaky in the first place. Update: After four weeks on The Plant Paradox Program I ate an entire avocado by itself (and loved it!) and didn't have any adverse reaction! I'm very excited!
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