GOAL: Consume 30 Plants Per Week
Why is 30 the magic number?
Bear with us for a few minutes whilst we get a little sciencey...
The American Gut Project was the largest study of it’s kind looking into how diet and lifestyle can affect the human microbiome. The study particularly showed that the number of different plant types a person consumes plays a role in the diversity of their gut microbiome.
What is the gut microbiome? The gut microbiome refers to the bacteria living in the gut that aid in digestion and supports the integrity of the gut. Those who ate 30+ different plant foods per week had gut microbiomes that were more diverse than those who ate 10 or less. These people with the higher diversity also had fewer antibiotic resistance genes in their gut microbiomes. And interestingly, those in the study with mental health disorders were more likely to have low diversity in their gut microbiome.
Certain types of bacteria may be more common in people with depression than those without. The effect that food can have on our mental health is thought to be linked to two reasons. One is the specific nutrients in foods that support functions in the body to operate normally and support our brain health and mood through nerve functioning, hormone function and more. The effect could also be due to the bi-directional communication that occurs through the gut-brain axis. Some even refer to the gut as the second brain due to the constant communication from the gut to the brain.
The bacteria in the gut microbiome are thought to be a key influencer of this communication, so looking after gut health is a key dietary strategy to look after our overall health, in particular brain health and mental health. This is where the goal of consuming 30 plant-based foods stems from.
The Mediterranean Diet
Over the next 8 weeks, you may also hear us referring to the Mediterranean Diet. The reason for this is that the Mediterranean Diet has also been linked with improved mental health outcomes. The Mediterranean Diet is a plant focused diet that promotes eating an abundance of vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, fruit and wholegrains, and smaller portions of meat and dairy than the traditional Western diet. This dietary pattern can help us to reach our goal of 30 plants per week thanks to it’s plant based focus, which can promote better gut health and in turn promote improvements in mental health.
How to increase the number of different plant foods you are eating
It may seem daunting to jump straight into eating 30 different plant foods each week, but reaching the number 30 is much more achievable than you may think.
When we talk about plant foods, we aren’t just referring to fruits and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables are two of the six groups of plant foods. The other plant food groups include nuts, seeds, wholegrains and legumes. Anything which is grown counts towards your weekly plant food count.
With just a few simple changes to what you are eating, you can easily increase the number of different plant foods you are eating and get to that magic number 30.
Simply start small and work your way up.
Over the next 8 weeks, we will showcase a particular plant food group, provide simple tips and ideas to increase your intake of that food group so that you can build sustainable habits and work towards 30 plant foods per week.