There’s long been a question regarding what type of diet is “the best” diet for human health. Is it a vegetarian or vegan diet, with only plant foods? Does high protein work for everyone? Recently the carnivore diet, which is all meat-based, has come on the scene. Is that the best?
There is no shortage of diet guidelines to follow, yet what does science day? The recent study “American Gut: an Open Platform for Citizen Science Microbiome Research” revealed that incorporating plant foods can reap health benefits.
To be more specific, the article recommends 30 different plant foods into your diet per week. Yes, you read that right. Thirty different plant foods every week!
To be clear, the addition of plant foods does not mean you have to be vegetarian. This study suggests the addition of plant foods (instead of processed foods) is a move in the right direction, regardless of the kinds of protein you consume.
Why are plant foods important?
Plant foods are well-known to aid with heart health, diabetes, and some cancers. However this research looks into the benefits of plant varieties and the gut microbiome.
The gut microbiome is defined as the “microorganisms, including bacteria, archaea, fungi, and viruses that live in the digestive tract.” It is made up of trillions of genetic material containing microorganisms.
These microorganisms are critical to numerous functions of your health. In fact, the past few decades of research have indicated that the health of the gut microbiome, while not an organ, is just as, or more important than your most most critical organs – brain, heart, and liver.
What exactly is considered plant foods?
- Vegetables – leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, celery
- Fruits – berries, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, melons
- Whole grains – rice, oats, quinoa, corn
- Beans and Legumes – black beans, edamame, lentils, red beans, black eyed peas
- Nuts and Seeds – almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
A majority of plant-based foods have benefits that reach beyond your gut health. Plants provide vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that all work synergistically to support the way your body functions. This optimal function leads to a decrease in heart disease, improvements in balancing blood sugar, a decrease in various cancers, and an increase in energy levels.
Who benefits from plant based foods?
There are benefits to plant based foods for everyone. Looking to lower your cholesterol? Plant based foods can contain high amounts of fiber to do just that.
Have a family history of cancer? The color of various plant-based foods have antioxidants to work in your favor.
Want to lose weight, fiber can also increase satiety, helping you feel fuller longer.
What does it look like to have 30 plant-based foods every week? It’s easier than you think.
A mix of nuts to include almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, and sunflower seeds contains four different plant foods.
A salad with lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers provides a different four plant foods. Throw in some black beans and there’s another plant based food.
Add sauteed onions, garlic, and mushrooms to your baked chicken and you have three more.
Meeting thirty plant based foods requires you to put effort, but it is not as hard as you may think. Additionally, adding in plants does not mean that you have to abandon meat based products. It means that you are just adding in plants.
In the upcoming posts we’ll give you specific ways to add plants to each meal, so stay tuned…