|Prioritize Your Plate
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrate March as National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme is Personalize Your Plate. To emphasize the importance of Nutrition Month, I have been posting daily on social media different fruits, vegetables, legumes or grains to highlight the vast health benefits of each. The variety of plant-based foods is so plentiful that I have had to be very selective in my featured choices. Did you know that there are 300,000 plant species in the world that are edible? Can you count the number of foods that you eat each day, week or even a year? If you are like most creatures of habit, chances are the variety of plants that you consume needs to be expanded and diversified!
“Eat the rainbow to find your pot of gold,” is the key to optimal health according to Will Bulsiewicz, MD, MCSI, (Dr. B). In his book, “Fiber Fueled, he writes, “Diversity of plants should be on your mind every time you eat.” WOW, that is powerful. However, Dr. B further explained, “The greatest determinant of your health during your lifetime is the food that you choose to eat.” Not all can boast that they have a rainbow on their plate at every meal, which may be the root of many chronic diseases in society.
Dr. B discusses the gut microbiome and how it relates to overall good health. He states, “The single greatest predictor of a healthy gut microbiome is the diversity of plants in one’s diet.” Dr. B qualifies “diversity” as being at least 30 different plant species each week to improve the microbiome.
I know what you may be thinking, “What does this mean for me?” You can start by counting the number of plant-based foods you have in a day. For example, here’s what I ate yesterday:
Breakfast: oatmeal, triple berries (blueberries, blackberries & raspberries), ground flaxseeds, soy milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, turmeric and ground pepper. (12 items)
Lunch: PhytoFit Rainbow Salad (green & red cabbage, carrots, celery, beets, apple, radish, zucchini and lemon juice), black lentils and hulless barley. (11 items)
Dinner: Stuffed Shells Florentine with tomatoes & mushrooms (pasta shells, tofu, spinach, tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, onions, garlic, parsley, basil and oregano), roasted Brussel sprouts, and a WFPB flan (tofu, dates and almond milk). (15 unduplicated items)
In just one day, my plant variety was over 35 because I strive to make a “rainbow on my plate” a daily occurrence. I prioritize my plate!
Dr. B encourages abundant fiber in one’s diet. What is fiber and how much fiber do we need are both million dollar questions? First, fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be broken down. It is only found in plants or plant-derived products such as psyllium (i.e., Fibercon or Metamucil). When we eat plants—fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, we are consuming vital phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and much more; Fibercon or Metamucil do not provide these essential nutrients. If you examine the Standard American Diet, you recognize that it does not contain much fiber. According to Dr. Neal Barnard in his book “21-Day Weight-Loss Kickstart,” Americans consume 10 to 15 grams of fiber each day. However, a healthy diet should have around 40 grams,” according to Dr. Barnard, and more fiber is a hallmark of a whole food, plant-based lifestyle.
To make consuming fiber easy, check-out the fiber counts in each category below: