We have been taught the importance of getting our 5-a-day since we were children, and rightly so, as it has been proven that the number of fruit and veg portions consumed per day directly correlates to health and inversely with risk of chronic diseases.
Although it is great if you are getting 5 or more portions a day, it is likely many of us are consuming the same types of food every day – meaning we are lacking diversity in our diets.
It is easy for us to get stuck in a routine when it comes to food, picking the food we know and enjoy over trying something new. Although the typical
western diet does not lack calories, essential micronutrients are often left off the menu. Making simple changes changes to a diet can improve the availability of micronutrients and therefore also improve their health.
Diversity is limited across the world, especially when looking at grain in take where rice, wheat and maize provide more than 50% of the world’s calories from plants. This is particularly prominent in the UK, where wheat is the most popular grain and provides more than 75% of people’s fibre intake alone.
How diversity supports health:
Research has shown that those who consume a diet that includes all major food groups (fruit, vegetables, dairy, meet, nuts, seeds and wholegrains) could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
Although it is important to consider all major food groups when talking about diversity in your diet, the most important consideration is in your choice of fruit and vegetables. There is a huge variety of fruit and veg that comes in all colours, shapes and sizes, however choosing those of similar colours tend to contain similar phytonutrients could mean you are missing out on the phytonutrients of other coloured plants. That’s why it is suggested to choose a variety of colours that contain many different phytonutrients, in order to improve the diversity of your diet.
Carotenoids, flavonoids and polyphenols are all types of phytonutrients found in fruit and veg, these have multiple benefits within the body including antiocidant and anti-inflammatory effects, immune support and they also act as prebiotics to support digestive health.
There is plenty of research to support the importance of the health of the digestive system and a high diversity in the gut microflora is associated with improvements in overall health. A varied diet supports high microbial diversity, due to the fibre and polyphenols found in prebiotics that the gut loves to eat, and by doing so they improve the environment around them.
Easy tips on how to increase diversity in our diet:
It can often be difficult to come up with new meal ideas that ensure a diverse range of all the major food groups, which is when we then fall back into the habit of eating the same foods every day. Try these tips below to help improve variety in your diet:
*Add two new foods to your food shop every week that you have not tried before.
*Make smoothies for breakfast. This is an easy way to ‘eat the rainbow’ every day, adding mixed berries along with leafy greens, other fruits, vegetables and nuts.
*Try an organic fruit and vegetable box delivery, they provide a variety of produce each week along with recipes that you may not have tried before.
*Opt for fermented food like sauerkraut, miso, kombucha and kefir – which support the diversity of your microbiome