Professor Tim Spector, of ZOE COVID study and author of books on scientific nutrition, has recently said we should eat 30 different plants a week. It was in his weekly YouTube update on COVID numbers, testing and diet.
Not one to generalise (his research into nutrition is all about unique response to various foods in various people), he sensibly pointed out that pandemic has not been all doom and gloom, diet wise. Some people put on weight and some lost. Many drank more alcohol; equal numbers limited their vino intake. We snacked more, others snacked less, and so on.
But he agreed with (me and you and) the recent government report that we all could do with being more active and eating better: more varied food, fermented rather than ultra-processed – and this mind-boggling number of various plants.
You may well feel like blowing your top at such an outlandish recommendation. Not FIVE a day now but THIRTY A WEEK! How could an ordinary person find all those plants to eat? And it would cost a fortune! But if you stop and think, perhaps it’s not such unreasonable advice.
‘Plant foods’ need demystifying I feel. All this ‘plant-based’ and ‘plant-diet’ threatens to become a science of putting one foot in front of the other. We are all eating mostly plants already, apart from some crazy keto fanatics and babies.
Everything that is not meat, fish and derivatives (diary) is plant based. Bread is made of cereal and so is pasta. Nuts are plants. Potatoes are plants. Jam is plants because it’s made from fruit and in fact even sugar is plant-based. It is not only all about munching raw vegetables, thank heavens.
Of course not all of those plant-based foodstuffs should be consumed in vast quantities especially if they are a result of complex processing, like sugar, white bread and cakes. And let’s remember that alcohol is not only plant-based but also fermented: double goodness! Plus there are plants consumption of which is restricted, or altogether illegal.
The last examples are just me being the devil’s advocate, because throwing numbers at the audience instead of encouraging common sense is a bit risky.
‘Varied’ is the key word for me, prof. Tim. Balance and moderation, instead of being gutted I only managed 28 plants this week. A little bit of things we KNOW are not so healthy and much more of the beneficent stuff, plant-based or otherwise, is ideal.
Let’s cook some varied dishes then this week, like proper lasagne from scratch (5 different plants in the ingredients) or cheesy sweet potato tray bake (3 plants). You might fancy a smoked fish salad bowl with Vietnamese dressing (9 plants!) or crispy minced pork noodles with cucumber salad (7 plants).
I’d like to make pork schnitzel this week (no plants unless breadcrumbs count) and serve it with zingy carrot salad (all plants). And as we’re coming into the tomato season, there will be creamed corn with tomatoes (4 different plants inc. pine nuts and basil) for lunch at least once.
Try banana nut granola for breakfast, a triple whammy of plants, or fry that banana with bacon rashers if that’s more your thing. That will be only one plant item but high satisfaction levels.
Plant-based desserts? I’m happy to oblige: baked figs or peaches, Athens mess with the last of this season’s strawberries, or watermelon granita. An interesting tomato starter (plant) and roasted vegetable dish (plants, all plants) recipes coming soon.
Stay well, keep cooking varied and balanced food and forget about counting your plants! See you again next week.