By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
The latest findings around the gut microbiome are showing that it is more valuable for your immune system and overall health to have diversity in the organisms. Similarly, recent research is showing that botanical diversity in our diets has a more protective role compared to larger amounts of foods with fewer phytochemicals. What this means is that we should be aiming to have variety in our plant-food choices – variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds as well as herbs and spices. This is also a great strategy to reduce the risk of developing food sensitivities which are more common when we over-do staple foods.
Some benefits of high botanical diversity diet:
- Significant reduction in DNA oxidation (1)
There is a positive correlation between the number of unique plants we eat and microbial diversity, regardless of whether you are vegan, vegetarian or omnivore (2)
- Those who ate more than 30 types of plants per week had reduced abundance of antibiotic resistance genes (2)
- Eating a higher diversity of brightly coloured plant foods has a dramatic effect on short chain fatty acid (SCFA) production (3)
- By including a variety of colours in your diet, you are creating an environment with many health benefits: improved detoxification, hormone health, liver support, cardiovascular health, brain health and more.
CHALLENGE: Can you eat at least 50 different plant foods in 1 week?
For 1 week, keep track of every different food you eat, aiming for more than 50 selections of every colour (red, orange, yellow, green, purple/blue).
How to count them:
- red and white onions count as 2 different foods; as do red and white cabbage
- bread and pasta count as just one food: wheat
- herbs, spices and oils each count as individual ingredients
- include all plant-foods: vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, grains, fat and oils, herbs and spices.
You can track your foods simply with a note in your phone, or use the attached PDF: Phytonutrient 50 food challenge handout.
To help with your tracking, here are food ideas from each colour.
Eating the rainbow for a variety of phytonutrients:
Benefits: anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, heart health, hormone health, liver health
Benefits: anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, Immune health, reproductive health, skin health
|Bell pepper||Orange||Squash (acorn, butternut, winter)|
Benefits: anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, cell protection, cognition, eye health, heart health, vascular health
Benefits: anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, brain health, hormone balance, heart health, liver health
|Asparagus||Celery||Greens (arugala, chard, collard, dandelion, kale, lettuce, spinach)|
|Bok choy||Granny smith apple||Olives|
|Brussels sptrouts||Green peas||Zucchini|
Benefits: anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, cognitive health, heart health
|Berries (blue, black)||Eggplant||Plum|
|Cabbage (purple)||Fig||Potato (purple)|
|Cauliflower (purple)||Kale (purple)||Raisins|
|Chard (purple)||Olives||Rice (black or purple)|
Benefits: anti-cancer, antimicrobial, gastrointestinal health, heart health, liver health, hormone health
|Cocoa||Legumes (beans, lentils, hummus)||Seeds (flax, hemp, sesame, sunflower)|
|Coffee||Nuts (almond, cashew, pecan, walnut)||Tahini|
|Garlic||Pear||Whole grains (barley, brown rice, oat, quinoa, rye, spelt, wheat)|
Please share your chart with me, and whether this changed the way you ate this week. It takes a little extra effort to break your usual habits with food selection and grocery shopping, but it’s a very simple way to help your gut microbiome, which based on the multitude of recent studies is truly the centre of your health.
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