It’s no longer 5 a day…

… but 30 plants a week! Everyone’s talking about gut health, aren’t they? Even us… But there’s a good reason for it – as more and more research is done, we are getting a greater understanding of how important gut health is to our general health and wellbeing. (Spoiler Alert: It’s really important)

As a by-product of this better understanding, some medical advice is being modified. Where once we were advised that five portions of fruit and veg a day was the recommended amount, now it’s 30 plants a week. So in light of this, we wanted to look at why this is the case, what it means, and how you can achieve it.

Why 30 plants?

The fact that plants are good for us isn’t exactly news, is it? We all know that we get a wonderful array of nutrients and vitamins from these kinds of foods, but the latest research, including this huge study of 10,000 people in Britain, Australia and the US, has gone into more detail than ever before about the relationship between plants and our gut health.

The main aim that we should all have when it comes to gut health, and by extension our general health, is to get the perfect balance of microbiomes in our system – the right community of bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa. There are literally trillions of these microbes in your gut, and they all have a role in our bodies: they get nutrients from food, digest fibre and proteins, produce vitamins, boost our immune system and protect our bodies from pathogens.

This is all essential to us feeling well, but it’s the fibre digestion that we’re particularly interested in today. There is a recommended daily amount of fibre for adults (30-35g), but what has been discovered recently is that it’s not just about the amount of fibre, but also the type of fibre.

Every plant has a different fibre, and they all have a slightly different impact on our body. As this study in 2019 showed, the bigger the variety in what plants you eat, the better your overall health. This was true up to about 30 plants, as the benefits plateaued after that. So the new recommendation is to try to eat 30 plants a week.

What counts as a plant?

It might seem a bit misleading to say 30 plants a week, because you don’t need to eat the actual plant – it’s anything that comes from a plant. So on top of the obvious fruits and vegetables, your 30 a week can also come from mushrooms, beans, seeds, nuts, pulses, herbs and spices. It’s the plant fibre that we’re after.

So all of a sudden 30 plants a week doesn’t seem quite so daunting. Where it can get a little bit difficult is when we think about portion sizes, because that’s when it gets quite variable. You won’t be able to eat the same weight of say, basil, as you will with apples, for example. You just need to keep focusing on variety.

You also need to eat a bit of common sense. While foods like coffee, popcorn and dark chocolate will count towards your 30 plants a week, if you overindulge in any of these you will be undoing a lot of your good work – the whole point is variety.

How to get more plants into your diet?

The best way to look at it is like this – getting 30 plants a week is not about reducing the amount of food you eat – it’s about adding to it.

Do you have porridge for breakfast? Try topping it with a seed mix and soft fruit. Making a pasta sauce? Make sure you add in garlic, celery, carrots, onion, tomatoes, oregano, mushrooms and basil – maybe some chickpeas too. You get the idea – build on what you would normally eat, don’t take anything away. 

Make a rule for yourself – every time you make a meal, add in an extra plant that you haven’t had that week. Keep nuts in the cupboard for snacks, and keep a well stocked spice rack so that you can keep adding in new ingredients to meals. You may find that the end result is not just better health, but a whole world of new flavours.

We really like the WhatYourDoctorEats  – she’s straightforward and lovely and her recipes look delicious! Her whole focus is on balancing blood sugar and adding variety to her diet. Even something as basic as simple as fried eggs gets 4 plant points by adding a few choice toppings.

And here’s a fun fact for you – we just happen to feature 35 different fruit and veggies in our range. Start the day with Big 5, have a Cauliflower Power soup, and you’ve already totted up 9 different plants. We know what you’re thinking after seeing this: “How am I going to limit myself to just 30 plants a week?!”. Well don’t worry – it’s fine to go over 30. Our record is 46!

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