“When I think about variety [of plants], I go back to the American Gut Project, which is the origin of this concept of [how] dietary diversity translates into a healthier gut microbiome,” Bulsiewicz says. See, the American Gut Project conducted a study to understand more about the different kinds of bacteria present in the gut. In this study, researchers found not only that eating more plants, in general, can help improve gut health, but that a specific number of different plants each week led to the healthiest microbiome in those participating.
“What they discovered is that people who were consuming more than 30 varieties of plants per week had the healthiest gut microbiomes,” Bulsiewicz says. He adds: “Each individual plant is feeding different families of microbes, and a variety of microbes within an ecosystem, including the gut ecosystem, is a measure of health. It’s a measure of resilience. Variety in our plates, translates into variety within our gut microbiomes, and that ends up becoming a win.”
We know, 30 seems like a lot of different plants to eat in one week. It certainly takes some effort, which is why planning out your grocery trips on a piece of paper or notes app will be particularly helpful in meeting this goal. “Use every single meal, every single time you’re in the kitchen, every time you go to the supermarket as an opportunity to emphasize dietary diversity,” Bulsiewicz says. “If it’s on your mind when you’re in these places, then it happens. The next thing you know, you’re not even counting, and you’re doing 40 or 50 different plants in a week.”
And here’s the thing—you don’t just count the plants you eat as a dedicated snack or a side dish. Rather, you’re tallying up every single plant in your diet. For example, if you eat a slice of multigrain bread that has seven different grains in it, you’ve just added seven plants to your weekly count. The same goes for soups, salads, and smoothies—you can pack these meals with a variety of plants without thinking too much about it.