Should I avoid lectins when I have Hashimoto’s?

Last week I read a book entitled The Plant Paradox – The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy Foods that Cause Disease and Weight Gain, by Dr Steven Gundry.  The premise of the book is that many of the foods that people consider healthy, like certain fruit,  vegetables and whole grains, contain the antinutrient lectins, which is a defence mechanism of the plant and therefore harmful to humans. 

Which foods contain lectins and should be avoided, according to Dr Gundry? To highlight a few:

  • All nightshades, including tomatoes, peppers (sweet and hot), eggplant and potatoes
  • All beans, including sprouts
  • All lentils
  • Other veggies such as cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins
  • Melons
  • Dairy from certain cows
  • Soybeans
  • Whole grains, sprouted grains and grasses, including rice, wheat, corn, oats, bulgar, wheatgrass
  • Nuts and seeds, which includes cashew nuts, pumpkin, sunflower, chia and peanuts.

I am always interested in reading and learning about things that can help to improve my health.  I read the book, which seems to have some logical arguments. But are lectins really the issue behind my thyroid disease and Hashimoto’s?

My month of eating clean

Last November I did a clean-eating month, the Elimin8 programme offered by Lisa Raleigh.  I was keen to try it out, as it seems that so many other things just haven’t worked for me. 

The Elimin8 programme focuses on removing 8 things: processed or refined food, added sugar, salt, caffeine, animal protein, dairy, wheat, alcohol, and also to great new habits like dry brushing and journalling.  There are a few guidelines, like eating fruit in the morning, and eat as much as you want or need.  The programme included legumes, rice, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and much more.  Foods, that according to Dr Gundry, all contains lectins. 

So what happened to me?  Slowly I started to feel better, sleep better, and have more energy.  I didn’t need to take a nap in the afternoon.  And, bonus, I lost 5 kilograms in weight, which have since not returned. 

But the focus of this post is not about the Elimin8 programme.  It is about lectins.  I ate a lot of lectins, and I was feeling so much better eating these lectin-containing foods.  How does this compute?

The real research on lectins

Foods that contain lectins, such as beans and tomatoes, actually have a heap of health benefits.  

In a video posted in September 2017 on, titled Dr. Gundry’s The Plant Paradox is Wrong (click here to watch the video – it’s only 5 minutes 20 seconds), Dr. Michael Greger discussed his critique of the book.  

Then, in another video, Dr. Greger highlighted the health benefits of lectin-containing foods, and by simply cooking these foods, you significantly reduce or even destroy the lectins.  Click here to watch that video – it’s only 7 minutes and 10 seconds).  

The healthy foods (with lectins) of my
go-to references is Dr Jonny Bowden, a nutritionist who calls himself “the nutrition myth buster” ( I love his work.  One of my favourite books is his The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.

The foods that the author lists in this book are foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, contain fiber, contain antioxidants, and have a low glycemic load. Let’s have a look at the (lectin) foods that made the grade in this book:

  • Oatmeal, quinoa,
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers (both sweet and hot)
  • Eggplant
  • Beans
  • Garbanzo Beans (chickpeas)
  • Lentils
  • Cashews, peanuts (including peanut butter), pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds,
  • Certain diary products, including raw organic milk (with certain caveats), Greek yoghurt, kefir, lassi,

(Potatoes didn’t make it into the book because “I just don’t think they have enough nutritional wallop to counterbalance their effect on blood sugar”, according to Bowden.)

Should you be eating food that contain lectins?

I have decided that I am eating beans, lentils and other foods that contain lectins.  It has worked for me in the past (when I did the Elimin8 programme) and the health benefits are great.  

Adele du Rand

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