If you’re on social as much as we are, it seems everyone’s jumped on the healthy-eating bandwagon. Honestly, if we had a dollar for every super-green smoothie post or acai-berry bowl topped with banana, berries, chia, oats and nut butter – we’d be gorgie rich.

That said, as beautiful as these post-workout bowls and smoothies may be, are these people not bloated or crashing later? Cause we’ve been there, done that – with epic fail.

And it’s no wonder. Many of us are eating so-called ‘healthy foods’ which may be causing a host of health problems.  That’s according Dr. Steven Gundry, author of The Plant Paradox.

Earning his reputation as a leading cardiac doctor, inventor and researcher,  Dr. Gundry has been studying the human microbiome for over 15 years, with a focus on the connection between our diet and gut health.

According to Dr. Gundry’s research and years of treating hundreds of patients: The number one danger in the North American diet is a toxic, plant-based protein called lectin. And lectins are abundant in common foods including legumes, vegetables, fruits – and yes, whole grains too.

By removing lectins from our diet, our gut is saved from a constant war, allowing the body to naturally heal itself of common illnesses, while creating an environment for easier weight loss, healthier immunity, energy, mental performance and more.

We recently got a chance to meet Dr. Gundry at the Goop Wellness Summit. While enjoying an outdoor lunch of the healthiest, delicious kind (including a salad topped with kolhrabi, now a favourite lectin-free veg!), we probed the charismatic Doctor with a field of questions.  Here’s the download:

Q: Based on your research, you’ve developed a new Food Pyramid with a focus on consuming lectin-free foods, such as leafy greens and healthy fats, while canceling out legumes, grains and some dairy. Can you elaborate on lectins, and why we should avoid?

A: Lectins are sticky proteins plants contain and use as part of their defense system against being eaten. Believe it or not, plants no not want to be eaten!  But because they cannot run, hide or fight like their animal predators, they use chemical warfare to make animals who eat them or their seeds – sick.

When an animal’s health is compromised after eating a plant, such as it feels bad, it can’t move, or remember where a plant is, it chooses a new target and moves on. This all worked great until humans arrived. We eat things that do the above, but we keep eating them! Like the old saying goes, no intelligent animal would ever take a second bite out of a jalapeño pepper!

Q: Also in your pyramid, you’ve slotted a ‘pillar’ to not eat at all! To to fast every so often. Why do you recommend fasting – and can anyone do this?

A: Humans like bears, have a unique ability to go long periods of time without eating. Research shows that the longer we go between meals, the metabolically more fit we become. It’s called metabolic flexibility. This refers to the ability of the energy producing organelles in all our cells, the mitochondria, to rapidly switch from burning glucose for fuel to fat (in the form of ketones) for fuel. Ketones burn cleaner than sugar, and produce less oxidative damage.  In other words, you age slower! And who doesn’t want that?

Moreover, research from Dr. Dale Bredesen of the Bucks Institute shows fasting 12-16 hours between two meals lessens the chance of dementia. Finally, we have to realize that the idea of breakfast is not based on our past reality. When we crawled out of our cave in the morning, we didn’t say, “what’s for breakfast?” We had to find breakfast! And if we didn’t find it until dinner, that was “break fast”!

Q: How about breakfast for those of us who exercise in the morning? Don’t we need to refuel with protein, healthy fats?

A: Along with what I stated above, human studies show you will exercise better and longer, and reap higher gains in strength by exercising on an empty stomach! Remember, we exercised in the past for only one of two reasons: to find food or to avoid being food (being eaten). No one would go exercise if they were full!

Our dogs are the same way. When I finish my morning jog with my dogs first thing every morning, they sit there and stare at me to eat. They get it.  The hunt is over. We caught the rabbit, now let’s chow down! Would you really feed your dog before a 3-mile run? If you did, he or she would look at you after she finished eating and say, “no you go, it’s time for my nap!”

So my advice then, is to exercise on an empty stomach.  Wait about 20 minutes, then have a small amount of protein, good fat, and a few carbs.

Q: What do you eat in a typical day?

A: From January to June during the weekdays, I do not eat breakfast or lunch. I like to eat all of my calories usually between 6 and 8 o’clock at night so that 22 out of 24 hours I am fasting. On the weekends I continue to skip breakfast and have a salad for lunch. The rest of the year I rarely eat breakfast but have a salad for lunch. Dinners are greens based with leaves, shouts (think asparagus), flowers (think broccoli or cauliflower), lots of olive oil, avocados.  A few times a week, my wife and I will add a tuber like a sweet potato, yucca or taro root. Weekends, we ‘ll typically add some wild shellfish, or safe wild fish.

Q: Interesting that you like and include shellfish as part of  your eating pyramid.  Why so? Aren’t they the bottom feeders of the ocean?

A: I think sardines and anchovies are great but getting people to eat them is like pulling teeth! And no, wild shrimp and crab or free swimmers, are not bottom feeders! They’re filter-feeders. Along with oysters, mussels and clams, research shows they’re the most efficient source of a clean ocean we have.  So farming these shellfish improves our oceans! For more on that, read the Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the Maryland Blue Crab, entitled Beautiful Swimmers by William Warner.

Another reason to eat them is because shellfish have a great ratio of the Omega-3 DHA and the Omega-6 our brain needs.  Now, what you should not eat in my opinion is most salmon, as it’s farmed – not wild.  If you see ‘organic salmon’, it’s a guarantee it’s farmed, so run!

Q: In your book, you elaborate on the importance of prebiotics as much as probiotics. Are these okay for kids too? How do you recommend parents delve into this?

A: Yes, kids should have plenty of pro and prebiotics. But, it’s the latter that is really important. Prebiotics are the foods that good bugs need to flourish and thrive. You could take all the probiotics, but without prebiotics, they will never grow.

Q: Following the advice of various naturopaths, we’ve undergone food allergy tests in the past. Do you believe allergy tests like these can be of value?

A: Food allergy tests are expensive and rarely worth the money. I’ve found that most so-called ‘allergies’ to foods disappear when The Plant Paradox eating program is followed. Some fascinating cases are documented in the book.  My advice? Don’t waste your money! Instead, follow my program and eliminate the foods I ask you to give-up for a while, and be amazed at what happens.

Q: If not food allergy tests, are there certain tests you recommend most people ask of their doctor?

A: Yes.  My top recommendations are: Vitamin D, a fasting insulin level, a HbA1C level, a HS-CRP level and a test for Apo E gene.

Q: Where fruit is concerned, you argue we’re best to avoid unless in moderation, and in-season. When looking at the ingredients for your Vital Reds supplement however, we see it includes organic apple peel, aronia berry, cranberry, strawberry and blackberry – among others. Why so?

A: I invented Vital Reds to give people the polyphenol benefits in fruit without the sugar. In fact, just this week at the World Congress of Polyphenols in Vienna, I presented a paper that Vital Reds dramatically removed inflammation from the lining of blood vessels in humans with coronary artery disease.

Q: Also on the topic of supplements, what are your top 3 for the average person?

A: Most people need to get 5,000 IUs of Vitamin D3; 1,000mg of DHA (from fish oil or algae oil), methyl B12 and methylfolate.

Q: Last, if there’s any one piece of info you feel most people don’t know and NEED to know, what would it be?

A: We are rapidly being poisoned by our food, medicines, and consumer products. People need to make a stand because your doctor and your representatives are ill informed! For more on this, I encourage any one to read about the seven worst offenders in chapter 4 of The Plant Paradox.

The Gorgie take: After reading Dr. Gundry’s book and learning more about the foods we eat, we’ve started making some minor tweaks to our diet.  For starters, we’ve cut way back on peanut butter, choosing almond instead.  We’ve also tried exercising on an empty-ish stomach.  So far, so good.  But one thing we’ll never give up? Bread or pasta! And the good news is we don’t have to either.  In fact, Dr. Gundry recommends white sourdough bread and al-dente pasta as two safe options.