There are countless reasons why I recommend people not only eat more plants, but also try to get as much plant diversity in their diet as possible. Two of the biggest reasons are:
Different fruits and vegetables contain different types of fiber, a type of carbohydrate only found in plant foods that benefits gut health, heart health, supports detoxification, blood sugar regulation, digestion, weight management and produces short chain fatty acids
Different fruits and vegetables contain different phytonutrients - phytonutrients are the chemicals and compounds produced by plants that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in the human body
Most people are not eating enough fiber on a consistent and daily basis. Daily fiber intake recommendations are at least 25 grams for women and at least 38 grams for men. Only 5% of Americans consume the daily fiber recommendations with the average American consuming just 50% of this recommended intake. The best way to increase your fiber intake is to increase your plant intake!
Phytonutrients are also referred to as phytochemicals or polyphenols. Some of the most common phytonutrients include carotenoids, resveratrol, flavonoids, phytoestrogens and glucosinolates. See below for a list of the benefits and plant foods that contain some of these phytonutrients. Different plants are made up of different phytonutrients, and therefore, provide different health benefits. The best way to ensure you’re getting a range of phytonutrients: eat plant foods of different colors! More color = more phytonutrients.
Benefits: Eye and immune health
Food Sources: Carrot, sweet potato, pumpkin, oranges, kale, spinach
Benefits: Heart and brain health
Food Sources: Grapes, wine, blueberries, dark chocolate, peanuts
Benefits: Heart health; may reduce risk of cancer
Food Sources: Green tea, coffee, apples, grapefruit, ginger, legumes
Benefits: Heart and bone health; may reduce risk of cancer
Food Sources: Soy, broccoli, carrots, coffee, legumes
Benefits: Supports detoxification; may reduce risk of cancer
Food Sources: Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, bok choy
A great place to start with increasing your plant diversity is counting how many plants and colors you have in each meal. Ideally you have at least 1 plant at every meal. Make it a fun game to see how many you can get in throughout the day!
I know I’m not alone in that I’m a creature of habit and I find that I have the same fruits and vegetables on rotation in my household. Sometimes I forget that there are options besides bananas, apples, berries, broccoli, carrots and leafy greens. While all of these foods are wonderful, there are SO many other fruit and vegetable options that I could be incorporating more into my diet. There’s a benefit to having grocery list staples but there’s even more benefit to adding more plant diversity and constantly introducing your body to new colors, fiber and phytonutrients.
One thing that has truly transformed my kitchen and increased my plant diversity ten-fold is Perfectly Imperfect Produce (PIP), a company that rescues ‘imperfect’ produce, packages it up and delivers it weekly so it doesn’t go to waste. Perfectly Imperfect Produce is local to Northeast Ohio but delivers across the state of Ohio. If you don’t live here, then I highly recommend finding a similar company in your area. Every PIP box is a surprise and with each delivery I suddenly have not only a very colorful and stocked kitchen, but one with fruits and veggies that I rarely buy when left to my own devices.
PIP has stepped up their game and made things even easier for us with their new ‘Diced & Easy’ meal kits. As I mentioned earlier, I like to ‘count’ my plants in meals. I recently made one of their meal kit recipes, a butternut squash fried rice with crispy tofu, and was blown away by the number of plants they were able to squeeze into just one meal (7!) and it was full of plants I LOVE but rarely buy myself. Here’s a pic of the butternut squash recipe - YUM! I mixed the leftovers into a big homemade Asian salad for lunch the next day and it was amazing.
A rescued produce and meal delivery service like PIP is at the top of my list for ways to add more plant diversity to your diet. It’s great for your health but also supports local farms and reduces food waste and I just love seeing what will come every week and the creative recipes in the meal kits. I’m excited to share a discount code for you to try PIP: use code “ABBY20” for 20% of your order. See below for 4 other accessible ways to increase the plant diversity in your diet:
Count colors and plants in your meals: counting plants and colors is so much better for your health than counting calories :)
Support your local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or Farmer’s Markets: good for you and good for your community!
Utilize both fresh and frozen produce: frozen is less expensive, has a much longer shelf-life and is just as nutritious as fresh!
Planning: try adding one new or different fruit or veggie to your grocery list every week. You can google what’s in season and use that as your guide.
Moral of the story: eat more plants and support local when possible! I’d love to hear if you’ve ever used a rescued produce service or if you have other tips for adding new and different plants into your diet. Send me a note here :)