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30 plants a week

Sun, 19 May, 2024

Are you feeling virtuous because you’ve been dutifully eating your five-a-day? You can now lose your cheer because you’ve not been doing well at all. Five-a-day is so last year. It’s now 30 a week.

Scientists and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall are recommending that we eat a variety of 30 different plants a week, for maximum health impact. Sticking to that prescription will make your gut bacteria multiply happily, thus granting you long term health benefits.

Why the magic number 30, you and I might ask? Will mere 27 let you go down with scurvy, rickets and diabetes? Apparently that’s the variety conducive to creating the largest diversity amongst the gut microbiome. And the more diversity, the better they’ll work towards fighting inflammation, aging and obesity. Aren’t they quite the progressive bunch, those bacteria?

Sigh. While it obviously makes sense to eat as many plants as possible, this 30 challenge is to my mind a bit of a panicky fad. First thing, as we can admittedly widely read in the news, all sorts of foods are included in that range, with spices, herbs, nuts and chocolate all counting. Bread counts. Coffee counts. And although health benefits might falter slightly, I’ll staunchly argue that wine and cakes are also very much plant-derived and so should be rightly allowed in the 30.

But the faddish side of it is in the dictatorial approach: hold that apple! you’ve already had one on Tuesday so this won’t count! It’s counter effective nonsense.

If your diet is varied, balanced and includes all kinds of foods in moderation, you really don’t need to bother with counting seeds in your bagel. Similarly to protein obsessives who unnecessarily mix whey powders even though their protein intake from food is perfectly sufficient, a weekly menu of diverse, homecooked foods will keep your microbes happy.

But of course, any encouragement to eat better is valuable so if folk want to count plants, knock yourselves out. Plus, here’s where the ‘3-ingredient-recipe’ lobby is biting the dust. How many of those will you need to get anywhere near your challenge? Give me Ottolenghi’s long ingredient lists every day of the year!

And a few recipes now with long lists of various plants. For breakfast, try banana nut granola, that will count for at least nine plants. For lunch, have a smoked fish salad bowl with Vietnamese dressing – that will be a count of ten, easily. You can mix your own dukkah – that’s 10 already if you make turkey schnitzels with dukkah coating. That with new potatoes crushed with dill and chopped olives – whoah! we’re going into overdrive already! But seriously – that’s my point. It’s not a big deal to eat so many varied plant-derived foods. Just don’t stop seeing the forest for the trees.

Several more varied suggestions below, including even desserts: baked peaches, watermelon granita or Athens mess, once those berries we can buy have been picked closer to home. Happy counting!

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About me

Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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