You may have heard that we should be eating 30 different plant foods each week for our overall health. This may seem like a strange number, and you may even wonder how you can eat so many different plant foods. Today, we are here to take you through the evidence behind this number and tell you what it means for you and your diet. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog about how you can hit 30+ plant foods per week. But first, you may be wondering where the number 30 comes from…
Why the number 30?
Researchers conducting the American Gut Project found a number of health benefits associated with eating 30 different plant foods per week. Compared to those who consumed 10 or less different plant foods per week. Those who consumed 30 or more had much more diversity in their gut microbiome (more on the Microbiome head to this article). They also showed an increase in the number of bacteria which produce compounds called short chain fatty acids. These short chain fatty acids are good for the cells in our digestive tract and can help to prevent cancer risk. Those who consumed 30 or more plants per week also had lower levels of antibiotic resistance.
Why does it matter?
Whilst it is not fully understood, current evidence suggests that a diverse gut microbiome results in better health overall. This is because the different microbes (microorganisms such as bacteria) living in our gut play different roles in our health. For example, we require different types of microbes to be able to fully digest the different foods that we consume.
When we eat fibre, it isn’t fully digested in our stomach. Instead, it feeds our gut microbes which then produce a compound called short chain fatty acids. These short chain fatty acids help to keep the cells in our digestive tract healthy, reducing our cancer risk. If we increase the diversity of plant foods we are eating, we can help to increase our fibre intake.
Finally, antibiotic resistance is a problem that many people are talking about. This describes the inability of antibiotics to kill certain types of bacteria which become ‘resistant’ to the drugs. This can become a problem if one of our normally friendly microbes gets out of control or finds itself in the wrong place! The American Gut Project showed that eating a greater variety of plant foods reduces the amount of this antibiotic resistance in our guts, which is a win for us.
What does this mean for me?
You may be wondering why this is important to you. Not only can adding more variety of plant foods into your diet be good for your overall health, but it can help to keep our gut microbiome healthy. Our gut microbes play an important role in many aspects of our lives, including our mental health. We should be aiming to keep our gut microbiomes healthy for our overall wellbeing. Plus, if it’s as simple as increasing the number of plant foods we eat each week, then why not give it a go!
If you are reading this wondering how you can easily manage to eat 30 different plant foods each week, then stay tuned for next week’s article. We will be giving you some simple tips to increase the number of plant foods you are eating each week.
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McDonald, D., Hyde, E., Debelius, J.W., Morton, J.T., Gonzalez, A., Ackermann, G., Aksenov, A.A., Behsaz, B., Brennan, C., Chen, Y. and Goldasich, L.D., 2018. American gut: an open platform for citizen science microbiome research. MSystems, 3(3), pp.e00031-18.