I’m sure you’ve heard you should be aiming for five portions of fruit and veg per day but now there’s a new number on the scene.
Diversity is key to great gut health and nutritionists have found we should aim to consume 30 different plant-based foods each week.
A lot of us are creatures of habit so it can be hard to think of 30 different plants to eat each week, let alone implement it.
Luckily, by plants, we aren’t just talking about fruit and veg, it includes wholegrains, nuts and seeds too.
The American Gut Project looked at stool samples from more than 10,000 citizen scientists from around the world and has found some valuable insights into the differences in our gut microbes.
One of the most interesting things they discovered was that individuals who ate 30-plus different types of plant-based foods per week had a more diverse mix of gut microbes than those who ate less than 10.
Why does gut diversity matter?
A more diverse microbiome results in a more stable and resilient microbial community that is better equipped to powerfully protect your health. This may include lowering your risk of colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, coeliac disease, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, obesity, allergies, and depression.
How does eating more plants create a more diverse microbiome?
Plant foods contain prebiotics – the types of fibre that act as food for the beneficial microbes found in our gut. A variety of plant foods means there’s a variety of prebiotics available to keep the good bacteria happy and abundant.
Many other plant compounds have been found to be beneficial too, such as the flavanols in cocoa. So yes, chocolate can be included in a healthy diet.
Is it realistic to consume 30 or more different plant foods per week?
The term ‘plant foods’ probably covers more groups than you think.
Those included are:
- wholegrains such as oats, brown rice, quinoa and rye
- fruits (tinned, frozen and dried count too)
- beans and pulses such as lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans
- nuts and seeds.
Here’s what to switch up to ensure you’re getting a good variety.
Fruit and veg boxes
Instead of opting for your usual online food shop or supermarket basket, why don’t you give a vegie box a whirl?
Vegetable and fruit boxes often work out as great value for good quality products, and a lot of them support local farmers too. Most include seasonal produce and change regularly.
There are many great options out there, including boxes for one, wonky veg options and farm to home boxes.
Pick up a mixed bag of salad rather than one variety to boost a salad. Remember, different colours of the same food count too, so if you are adding capsicum, add a green and a red one.
Swap out regular pasta for lentil, pea or chickpea versions. Many of them taste great and, let’s face it, pasta is often overpowered by the sauce anyway.
Use the freezer
Frozen food shouldn’t be shunned, it’s a great way of having nourishing food on hand. It also helps cut down on food waste and can make your grocery bill cheaper.
Frozen staples to keep on hand include:
- spinach to add to smoothies and hot meals
- peas for a boost of veg in stir fries and curries
- fruit to top porridge or yoghurt for breakfast
- ratatouille mix to whip up a quick meal with fish or lentils.
Make your own snacks
A handful of nuts make a great snack. Instead of having just one type of nut, enjoy mixed nuts or a trail mix that contains nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
Write it down
Slowing down and tuning in to what you are eating can enable you to see if you are getting enough variety over the course of your week.
Note down what you’ve eaten and tally up the number of different plants you’ve consumed over the week.
Going full vegan or vegetarian for the seven days is definitely not required – just make sure your meals aren’t dominated by meat so you don’t get too full to consume your plants.
How many plants do you eat each day and week? Why not count them up and share how many in the comments section below?
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