Are You Getting 30 Different Plants Per Week?
Our gut microbiome, the microbes (bacteria, fungi, viruses, basically the tiny things we can't see) in our gut, can be affected by the foods we eat or don't eat. There is a growing body of research suggesting the microbes in our gut impact our health, not just digestion, but also our immune system, blood sugar, mental health, weight, and more. There are both good (beneficial) microbes and bad microbes that can reside inside of our gut. There are many factors that influence how many and which microbes we have as outlined in the below image (Carding et al., 2015).
For today, we will focus just on the diet aspect. There are many different "good" species of microbes that we want to reside in our gut. They feed off of fibers, which are found in plant foods. And, different species prefer different types of fibers and different foods, hence the importance of variety on plants.
The American British Gut Project studied over 11,000 individuals and found that those eating 30 different plants per week had a more beneficial gut microbiome.
Okay, that's great-but how do I realistically do that?!
In order to get 30 different plants per week, a little planning will really help. First, what is considered a plant?
General dietary recommendations say to eat 4-5 servings of vegetables per day and 1-2 servings of fruits per day. If we follow this and don't eat the same ones every day, we can easily get to 30. Let's look at some examples.
Variety in Breakfast:
If you like a sweet breakfast like yogurt or oatmeal, switch up the fruit and nuts/seeds you add.
Strawberries, chia seeds, and cinnamon
Peaches, almonds, hemp seeds
Apples, walnuts, cinnamon, and nutmeg
If you like a savory breakfast like eggs and toast:
Eggs with sautéed spinach, tomatoes, fresh basil
Avocado toast with crushed red pepper flakes, over easy egg, arugula
Variety in Lunch:
Buy different greens to switch up salad greens throughout the week
Spinach, Arugula, Kale, Romaine, Spring Mix
Switch up legumes as either a topping or side dish
Chickpeas, Lentils, Black Beans, Hummus, Bean dip
Snack on a different fruit with different nuts from breakfast time
Banana with peanut butter
Orange and handful of pecans
Hummus with carrots, radishes, cucumbers, bell peppers
Cottage cheese with fruit and seeds
You can get variety by changing out the grain/starch component and vegetable at your dinners.
Corn, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, butternut squash, quinoa, farro
Broccoli, beets, asparagus, green beans, cauliflower, squash, zucchini, cabbage
Change your seasonings!
Paprika, red pepper flakes, black pepper, cumin, onion, garlic, ginger, leeks, shallots, turmeric, fennel, coriander
Basil, mint, dill, cilantro, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, lemongrass
Variety is key to having a good, diverse, happy gut.
Most of us are creatures of habit, so just finding small ways to increase variety can help! If 30 different plants sounds overwhelming, start with just switching out one plant each week when you grocery shop. Carrots instead of bell peppers, cauliflower instead of broccoli, purple potatoes instead of white, oranges instead of apples.