I have a lot of excuses for not posting very much this summer. But I hate excuses, so I’ll only share one (below) because it’s relevant to this site! One thing I don’t hate: sweet potato hash. I’m currently obsessed to the point where I eat it every morning for breakfast!
[Feel free to jump straight to the Sweet Potato Hash recipe if you’d rather not read about my new diet]
My relevant excuse: I’ve been having some health issues (digestion problems, severe headaches, etc. etc.) since the spring and was desperately trying to figure out what was going on. I did plenty of expensive medical tests to find a whole lot of nothing, but what I did eventually find (for free, at the library) was the book The Plant Paradox by Dr. Steven Gundry—a complete lifesaver.
Long story cut very short, I am now trying a lectin-free diet. In case you’re wondering, it is indeed more restrictive than my already restrictive diet, but as I always say, I feel better and that’s all that matters to me. People often tell me that they could never follow the diet I’m on, but I bet if they experienced the symptoms like I have, it wouldn’t be such a difficult change to make.
So what is a lectin? I’ll let Dr. Gundry do the explaining on that one. What I can tell you is some of the foods that have lectins: gluten, dairy, legumes, grains (even gluten-free ones), some fruits and veggies, certain nuts, soy … Annnd I basically just described everything I eat. Except those first two, of course, which I cut out several years ago.
Once I read The Plant Paradox I knew I wanted to at least test out the diet and see if it could help my most severe symptoms: headaches and digestion problems. I jumped right into phase three of the diet (skipping the more restrictive phases one and two) and for about 8 straight days was feeling great. I was less bloated, my headaches were already starting to become more infrequent. Then came along a day where I had no other choice but to eat out for all three meals and thought I would be fine even if I did have to eat some lectins. Maybe you’ve already guessed what happened next: I was very wrong. That night I experienced symptoms I’ve never even noticed that I had. All of a sudden my joints were swelling up to the point where all I could do was lay on the couch. I felt dizzy and nauseous and just generally very bad. The next morning I woke up and my face was swollen to the point where I looked like a different person. I was very close to calling in sick to try and figure it out, but luckily the swelling went down while I went about my morning. I decided that day that I couldn’t mess around. I needed to commit and do it right.
Since then I’ve stayed on the diet and felt great ever since, except for a few nights when I didn’t have a choice but to eat lectin-containing foods. I did purchase a supplement that can help block lectins, but I’ve yet to notice if it really works. I’m using them just for emergencies, so we’ll see how it goes.
How to Make Sweet Potato Hash
The mornings have been a little tough to figure out what to eat on a lectin-free diet, but luckily I love sweet potatoes and eggs in the morning, so I developed this simple sweet potato hash. Technically peppers are not lectin-free, but this was from my garden and I roasted it over an open flame and was able to take off the skin and de-seed it to remove many of the lectins. If you’re strictly following the diet, just leave the peppers off and it will be just as delicious!
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed in small pieces*
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- ½ tsp. turmeric
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- ½ tsp. onion powder
- ¼-1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped (leave out if you're strictly lectin-free)
- Scallions, green parts only, sliced on a bias
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- In a medium or large bowl, toss peeled, cubed sweet potatoes with olive oil. Add paprika, turmeric, sea salt, onion powder and black pepper and mix to combine. Pour onto a sheet pan. If the pan is crowded, feel free to split it between two pans.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven and stir the sweet potatoes. Be gentle as they may still be soft and you don't want to smash them. Add the chopped poblano pepper to the pan and return it to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
- Remove the pan again and add your finely minced garlic cloves for the last 5 minutes of the cook time. If the sweet potatoes are getting too dark, it's OK to turn off the oven at this point and let it cook with the residual heat, maybe propping the oven door open if possible to let some heat out. You just want to barely cook the garlic until it smells heavenly.
- Remove from the oven and top with scallions. Serve hot with scrambled eggs or tofu scramble (vegan option), tempeh bacon and hot sauce if desired!
Pro tip: Make the sweet potatoes ahead of time (even double the recipe!) and refrigerate overnight so you can scoop them into a bowl, microwave, and top with an egg in the morning. Add lots of hot sauce and you’ve got an excellent start to the day!
Complete the meal by making your own lectin-free tempeh bacon. It’s super fast and easy!