30 Plant-Based Foods a Week for Gut Health!

Why Gut Health?

Every week there are new articles and reports on the ‘why’ of taking care of the gut’s health. The sheer volume of news on the topic in and of itself suggests this topic is really important. And it is!

The gut microbiome affects brain and mental health, immune and metabolic systems, and weight management – and all of this may just be the beginning. There’s so much more to learn! Health researchers are invigorated to discover the deeper layers of connection between the gut’s beneficial bacteria, individual strains and their impact on the body’s health systems. It’s fascinating stuff and everyday humans, like us, want to know the hacks to improve gut health and deliver improved health and wellness. Hint…hint…THE HACK is in the food we choose!

The Hack: The Super Six

One simple yet powerful way to support gut health is by eating a variety of plant-based foods. There are 6 main plant food groups to choose from, each can add different flavors, textures and mouthfeel attributes that combined create a unique, delicious meal or snack. Each food offers macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals). The myriad of colors can add to the visual presentation of food dishes, but more importantly (we think!) is an indication of the varying micronutrients and polyphenols each ingredient provides.

Fruits are half of the plant-based foods basics. This group offers a huge variety of colors and textures – and especially flavors. We mostly think of fruits as splashing sweetness to foods, but they also can be sour or bitter, and with varying intensity of a combination of these flavors. Bananas, grapefruit and pomegranates are a great example of these varieties.

Vegetables are the 2nd half of the basics. Like fruits, there is enormous diversity in color, taste and texture of veggies. Think broccoli rabe, beet and onion, as well as probiotic-rich fermented veggies like sauerkraut and kimchi.

Wholegrains are a wonderful way to add a base to a dish and add distinct texture. Think quinoa, steel cut oats, and corn.

Legumes are a powerhouse of macronutrients, particularly protein and carbohydrates (fiber!) Like each of the Super Six, there’s a fantastic selection of legumes that can fit any dish you’re creating. Black beans, red kidney beans and lentils are great options for keeping meals visually interesting, and always delicious.

Nuts & Seeds can add an interesting crunch to a bowl or be enjoyed as a superfood snack on its own. Consider great options like sunflower seeds, chia seeds and pine nuts.

Herbs & Spices create a heightened vibrancy in flavor, color and micronutrients and can instantly add delicious complexity to any meal or drink. Think mint, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric.

Mix It Up to Get to 30

The accelerator to get to 30 different plant-based foods each week – and a healthy gut – is in the delicious mix of Super Six foods added to any-day dishes. Here are a few meal examples to add up to 25 unique plant-based ingredients in a single day:

+5 at Breakfast: Steel cut oatmeal topped with strawberries, banana, walnuts and chia seeds.
+8 at Lunch: Lentil soup made with carrots, onion, garlic, celery, tomato, cumin, extra virgin olive oil and lentils (of course!)
+12 at Dinner: Mexican-inspired salad with baby spinach, black beans, avocado, red pepper, yellow pepper, sunflower seeds, red onion, cucumber, corn, tomato cilantro, alfalfa sprouts and topped with juice from a fresh-squeezed lime.
To make it easy to eat 30 different plant-based foods each week, start by 1) planning out your meals and snacks for each day the week, 2) shopping for / ensure you have all the ingredients needed (fresh, canned and frozen all counts!), and 3) meal prep what you can for a great start to each gut-nourishing week.

Referenced articles:

Schewitz, Kim. “A Gastro Dietitian Eats 30 Plants a Week for a Healthy Gut Microbiome. Here’s What she has for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.” BusinessInsider.com. Feb. 19, 2024. https://www.businessinsider.com/gut-health-dietitian-microbiome-foods-meals-30-plants-a-week-2024-2

Mikhail, Alexa. “Experts Say the ‘Diversity Diet” of Eating 30 Plants a Week Could Boost Your Gut Health. Here’s How to Get Started.” Fortune.com. Mar. 20, 2023. https://fortune.com/well/2023/03/20/improve-gut-health-diversity-diet-eat-30-plants-a-week/