A healthy gut microbiome is a diverse gut microbiome and this can be boosted by eating a diverse range of plants. Below are my 5 top tips for getting a more diverse range of plants into your diet…
Plants are abundant with a range of beneficial nutrients including vitamins, minerals, plant chemicals (think antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds) and more importantly for gut health -fibre which is essentially magic food for the gut bugs.
Plants don’t just include fruit & vegetables but wholegrains, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas) nuts & seeds too...
It is very easy to stick to your favourite plants and habitually buy a small selection of 8-12 different ones each week, but research now shows that for optimal health we need to be eating a wider range of plants in our everyday diets. Ready for it? We need to eating a minimum of 30 each week...yes 30! This is particularly important for improving gut health.
30 can seem a lot at first so I always encourage clients to start with adding 5 extra plants to your next shop and build from there.
Here are my 5 top tips:
Smoothies are a great way to not only load up on nutrients and but also mix and match the plants you are eating. If you follow my smoothie guide you can easily get in 5-6 different plants in one go.
2. The freezer is your friend
Buying frozen fruit & vegetables is an easy way to diversify your plants (plus it is less wasteful). Frozen fruit & vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh produce. This is because they are frozen within hours of picking which helps lock in the nutrients. I regularly stock up on frozen blueberries, raspberries, pineapple, avocado and spinach to make smoothies. Frozen peas and edamame beans are also great freezer staples.
3. Bulk out meat dishes with legumes or vegetables
Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas) can be great additions to meat based dishes like stews, bolognese, curries. Red lentils in particular are great to add to soups & stews their consistency when cooked means that you can hardly notice they are in the dish (great if you are feeding a family who aren’t normally a fan of lentils!). Puy lentils, chopped mushrooms & carrots are great to add to mince based dishes too and means you can cut down on the amount of meat in the dish.
4. Aim for colour
The ‘eating the rainbow’ concept has good science to back it up. Each colour found in fresh produce is associated with different beneficial plant chemicals (e.g. antioxidants, anti-inflammatory etc). At each meal aim for as many different colours as possible. Eating both a red and green apple across the week counts as two too because of the difference in colour which means there is a difference in plant chemicals.
5. Eat seasonally
Eating seasonally can be cheaper, more nutritious (as they are not having to be picked before they are fully ripe to be transported across the world which can impact the nutritional value, plus they will be fresher) and is a great opportunity to experiment with new fruit & vegetables and new flavours. Eating freshly picked veggies & fruit also often means a better flavour. They are harvested at the best time so the taste is maximised.
Farmers markets can be a great source for seasonal produce and there are now lots of veggie box subscriptions which typically source seasonal products (many are organic too). I like Oddbox, Farmdrop & Riverford.
Enjoy! Michelle x