Have you heard of the latest gut health challenge? Usually we tend to steer clear of food trends and challenges but this one could be worth a try.
We all know that eating plants is good for us. However, it seems that eating a large VARIETY of plant foods is even better, improving our gut health by encouraging the growth of different species of bacteria.
Our gut microbiome is made up of trillions of micro-organisms and their genetic material that live in our intestinal tract. A healthy gut microbiome relies on large numbers of different bacterial species (i.e. the total number of bacterial species in our gut microbiome) and diversity (i.e. the amount of individual bacteria from each of the bacterial species present in our gut microbiome) of bacteria.
As we learn more about our gut we are beginning to understand the crucial role it plays in our overall health and wellbeing. A more diverse microbiome results in a more stable and resilient microbial community that is better equipped to powerfully protect our health. This includes lowering the risk of many common conditions which affect many of us.
The American Gut Study, the largest published study to date of the human microbiome, found that people regularly eating more than 30 different types of plant foods (i.e. fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds) each week had a significantly more diverse microbiome than those eating 10 or fewer different plant foods a week.
So the more different foods you can eat per week the better and diversity is really good for your gut!
It’s as simple as eating up to 30 different plants in a 7 day period. Each item only counts once in the week, even if you eat it lots. Get the family involved and stick a list on the fridge to see who can get to 30 in a week.
Its important to remember that we still should be eating 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables per day so a banana a day is great - but the banana can only count as one of your 30 a week!
TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED:
- Choose a start date for your 7-day challenge and commit to keeping track each time you consume a new or different plant food over the course of 7 days.
- Try a new fruit or vegetable that you have never eaten before each week.
- Herbs and spices are a really simple way to add variation and flavour to your cooking. Add fresh herbs to your salads and spices to your soups.
- Look for mixed beans e.g. four bean mix or soup mix to boost your bean variety.
- Buy frozen fruit to add to yoghurt, smoothies, oats.
- Include a plant food at every single meal e.g. top your oats with mixed berries, add grated carrot and lettuce to your chicken sandwich or mushrooms and onion to your omelette.
- Swap out meat for a vegetarian protein option 1-2 days a week e.g. beans, lentils, mushrooms etc.
- Salads and stir-frys are easy meal options to get lots of different plants on a plate.
- Swap the processed snacks for a handful of nuts, a piece of fruit or seeded crackers with some hummus and sliced vegetable sticks.
WHAT COUNTS AS A PLANT FOOD?
Plants include all fruits and vegetables, legumes (peas, lentils and beans), grains, nuts and seeds.
Nuts, Seeds and Grains
Cashews, pumpkin seeds, barley, quinoa, buckwheat, flax, hemp, chia, sunflower, sesame, oats, almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, rye, corn, coconut, pine nuts, pecans, pistachios, millet, pistachios, hazelnuts.
Green peas, chickpeas, mung beans, white beans red beans, pinto beans, broad beans, red lentils, green lentils, fava beans, split peas, kidney beans, cannelloni beans, lima beans.
Fruits and Vegetables
Berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, apricots, sweet potatoes, peaches, papaya, apricots, plums, melons, eggplant, lemons, lettuce, rocket, kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, spinach, chard, fennel, celery, beetroot, onions, plums, cauliflower, cherries, bananas, mushrooms, parnsips, turnips, oranges, spinach, apples, rhubarb, leek, pumpkin.
Herbs and Spices
Parsley, mint, sage, saffron, turmeric, thyme, basil, lemongrass, fennel, cumin, cinnamon, chives, pepper, cardamon, caraway, chilli, clove, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, paprika, rosemary, oregano, lavender, ginger, dill.
Give it a go and see how you get on! Any increase is a positive so if you go from 10 to 15 thats good for your gut.