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  • Hannah Pheasant Oldfield

Is it true I should eat 30 different plant foods a week?

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

I hear you saying, I thought we were meant to aim for 5 different fruits and vegetable a day? So, let’s start by explaining this new target and some of the terminology behind it.

Where does the 30 different plant foods a week come from?

Researchers from the American Gut Project (1), the world’s largest published study on the human microbiome found that people regularly eating 30 plus different types of plant foods per week had a more diverse microbiome than those eating 10 or fewer different plant foods a week.

What’s a microbiome?

A healthy microbiota is your community of gut bacteria. The trillions of bacteria in your gut are made up of different strains, they each do a different job, and they all like different kinds of plant food so variety is key.

How does it link to health?

A more diverse microbiome is better at protecting your health and reducing your risk of disease including inflammatory bowel disease, coeliac disease, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, arthritis, obesity, allergies, mental health, and many more.

What changes should I consider making to my eating habits to make it more plant based?

We need to eat at least 30 different plant foods each week…fruits vegetables, wholegrains, legumes (eg lentils, chickpeas, beans), nuts, seeds, herbs, spices (anything that has been grown). But each item only counts once in a week even if you eat the same plant food multiple times in a week.

How do I get started?

First have a look at the list below for what counts as plant based. It’s a starting point, an initial list that will hopefully set you off on the right track, but it’s not 100% complete. You’ll gradually develop your own plant-based shopping list and will no doubt be sharing ideas with me during consultations!


Examples of plant foods

NB: herbs and spices count as a 1/4 point.


Then, it can be helpful to start tracking your weekly progress (see free Dishy Dietetics weekly tracker).

Don’t feel disheartened if you find you’re currently not reaching 30 a week. Set a realistic goal to increase by 1-2 extra plant foods the following week and see if you can gradually reach the target of 30 over a few months. Any increase in variety and diversity is good for your gut. Small changes also gives your gut a chance to adapt to the increase in fibre in your diet.

Try and aim to consume plant foods with every meal and snack; you don’t need to change to a vegan or vegetarian diet to achieve the challenge. The high gut diversity was seen in both meat-eaters and vegans who ate 30 different plant foods a week.

One last fact for those people motivated by the environment: people who follow plant based diets tend to have smaller environmental footprints through a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and land use and water!

Here is a sample Dishy Dietetics plate that is rich in plant-based foods: lentil tacos (cooked green lentils, onion, garlic, mushrooms, grated carrot, passata/tinned tomatoes, ground cumin, ground cayenne pepper, chilli powder, and black pepper) topped with some grated cheese and Greek yoghurt plus shredded lettuce and diced cherry tomatoes and cucumber on the side (I pile these on the top of the tacos!). A total of 9 1/4 different plant foods!

If you’d like support to achieve 30 different plant foods a week, book a consultation by completing the enquiry form on the contact page.

Keeping with the theme of gut health, the next Dishy Dietetics post will focus on probiotics and prebiotics. Subscribe (no spam, I promise) to receive the Dishy Dietetics’ posts.

References:

1. McDonald D, Hyde E, Debelius JW, Morton JT, Gonzalez A, Ackermann G, et al. American Gut: an Open Platform for Citizen Science Microbiome Research. mSystems. 2018;3(3).

https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2018-05-15-big-data-from-worlds-largest-citizen-science-microbiome-project-serves-food-for-thought.aspx

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