Eat more plant foods

Most of us are familiar with the 5-a-day message encouraging us to all eat more fruit and vegetables, but did you know that only 29% of adults and 18% of children achieve this?!

 An important finding that has come out of the American Gut Project, which is an ongoing study looking at thousands of people’s stool samples and food diaries, is that people who eat 30 or more different plant foods a week have a more diverse gut microbiome.   Studies have shown that having a greater variety of helpful bacteria in your gut brings health benefits.

So how can we achieve this?

 Plant foods include: starchy carbohydrates, beans and pulses, nuts and seeds, soya products such as tofu, fruits and vegetables.

 Top tips for including more plant foods in your diet include:

  • Include small servings of whole grain carbohydrates with your meals.  Excluding carbs from your diet means you are missing out on fibre and prebiotics and your gut microbes will suffer.

  • Eat a greater variety of fruits and vegetables each week.  Try some different vegetables and don’t eat the same type of fruit every day.

  • Cook some new dishes.  Try some new recipes and look at having more meat-free days, so that you are including plant sources of protein in your diet such as beans and tofu.

  • A serve of fruit and vegetables is 80g.  Aim for at least 3 different types with your main meals and extra as mid-meal snacks.

  • Try a savoury breakfast such as beans on wholemeal toast with grilled tomatoes or porridge with grated carrot, cinnamon and raisins added.

  • Snack on nuts and seeds, add them on top of cereal or toast them and sprinkle them on salads.

  • Make some dips such as hummus, pea and mint or baba ganoush and enjoy them with vegetable crudités.

  • Add more plant foods to meat dishes such as bolognese by adding vegetables to your sauces or adding beans or lentils to the dish.


The important thing to remember is that variety is key, so even if you are a way off 30, with each different plant food you eat each week you are one step closer!

Ruth Harvey