Dietary Diversity: Try the 30-Plant ChallengeDec 30, 2022 09:31AM ● By Alora Frederick
With the new year comes new intentions for improving health and well-being. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only around half of the people that make New Year’s resolutions are successful. Of all the resolutions made, more than half are related to health. What may distinguish a successful resolution from an unsuccessful one is whether or not it is SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. The numerous New Year’s diets, detoxes and cleanses are not attainable and relevant. A temporary, extreme change in dietary changes does not merit lasting, sustainable results. Fortunately, there are SMART and simple resolutions that will merit beneficial health outcomes that last.
A common New Year’s resolution is to “eat healthier”, but this is not specific enough to create significant change. Alternatively, a SMART goal would be to participate in the 30-Plant Challenge. The 30-Plant Challenge is the simple yet specific goal of incorporating at least 30 different plant foods into our diet each week. This not only includes fruits and vegetables but also encompasses grains, beans, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices.
This challenge was born from the research done by The American Gut Microbiome Project. This project has found that a diet with a variety of fibers and resistant starches supports a more diverse microbiome. Microbial diversity is key for the well-being of the microbiome, which also translates to the well-being of the whole body. Their research also found that eating at least 30 plants a week increases short-chain fatty acid-producing bacteria. Increased short-chain fatty acid production will greatly aid in many health-related New Year’s resolutions. This is because they improve intestinal cell health, support the immune system, decrease inflammation, decrease the risk of colorectal cancer and support a healthy metabolism.
The 30-Plant Challenge does not omit animal-based foods, rather it places an emphasis on consuming a variety of plant-based foods. Additionally, there is some flexibility with the timeline of the challenge from as short as one week to one month at the start. Eventually, the goal would be to regularly incorporate at least 30 plant-based foods on a weekly basis. However, each individual should strive to take it one week at a time in order to prevent overwhelm and retraction of the resolution. What makes the 30-Plant Challenge different than other dietary programs is that it can be completely personalized. The 30-Plant Challenge can work for any personal preference for food, cultural food choices or dietary restrictions. As long as 30 different plants are consumed, it does not matter which plant-based foods they are.
The approach and structure of the challenge can also be tailored to the individual. The plant foods could be divided equally to eat four to five different plants a day, or several in a smoothie or single meal. Smoothies could easily incorporate fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds; for example, a mixed berry smoothie with almond butter, chia, flax and spinach. Warming up with soup is another practical way to load up on plant foods. There could easily be 10-plus plant foods in a single soup recipe.
The 30-Plant Challenge is the perfect way to create dietary diversity, improve well-being and participate in a New Year’s resolution that will stick.
Alora Frederick, RDN, LDN, is an integrative and functional dietitian in Waltham, MA. She is currently accepting new patients at JohnsonCompounding and Wellness for virtual nutrition appointments. Schedule a free,15-minute introductory call at NaturalCompounder.com/Alora.