We all know that eating plenty of plant foods, particularly vegetables is good for our health but how much do we really need to eat? Well 30 different plant foods a week is what research from the world’s largest microbiome study is suggesting. Participants who had 30 or more different plant foods a week in the study compared to those who had 10 or less, had a greater diversity of microbes living in their intestine. We might still have a lot to learn in the area of the microbiome, however we do know that diversity of microbes for gut health is a good thing.
The Go for 2 and 5 campaign has been around since 2002 telling us to eat 2 fruit and 5 serves of vegetables a day, it seems this is easier said than done as we know from ABS data in 2014 that 93%of Australian adults in our last National Nutrition Survey didn’t achieve the five serves of vegetables per day and 50% didn’t eat enough fruit. How can we boost our diets with plant foods to improve our health, it seems we may need a different strategy?
Counting how many different plant foods you have per week,with the aim to hit 30 might be a novel way. You can include seeds, nuts,legumes, lentils, grains, herbs and spices along with fruit and vegetables of course.What does the serve need to be to count? Well we don’t really know, but I am suggesting a sprinkle of parsley as a garnish wont count as one. Use your judgement as to what you think is a serve but don’t get too hung up on it, just try for variety, more than 30 and have some fun.
You may think you are eating different plant foods when you are eating the same one different ways. If you are eating bread made from wheat, pasta from wheat and breakfast cereal from wheat, then that is one type of plant food. This is where you can widen your horizons a little and look for bread that contain other grains and seeds too, such as rye, barley and oats. You can eat rice, quinoa, freekeh, pulse pasta and barley, there are many grains to choose from.
Increasing your variety can add up quickly if you include herbs regularly to your food. In a week you could work your way through a bunch of parsley, coriander, mint or fresh basil, by adding it to vegetables, soups and salads. We talk about plant foods having dietary fibre some of which may be prebiotic fibre (fermentable fibres) that feed your gut bacteria. There are also other compounds called polyphenols which many plant foods including herbs have. These have antioxidant functions in our body. Some of these polyphenols are not absorbed early on in digestions and end up in the large intestine where gut bacteria can ferment them, producing beneficial compounds that enter your bloodstream and help with the immune system, inflammation and overall health.
Any competition can be a great motivator for people to get started. In your family or even with friends, who can include the greatest variety of plant foods for the week, with the ultimate target 30 or more. You could then move on to add new parts to the competition; how many new plant foods you try with innovative ways to cook them. The ultimate prize we are hoping is the benefit to your health and with more research we will continue to learn what the diversity of gut microbes brings.
Check out my Instagram video where I show you from my pantry and fridge what 30 different plant foods a week can look like for you.
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