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The 30 plants a week challenge

08 May 2024 at 14:06

The 30 plants a week challenge

You may have heard that we should be eating 30 different plants a week to maintain good health – and it really isn’t as difficult as it sounds.  Here, we will explain why eating a wide variety of different plants is beneficial and give you some easy tips on how to achieve this.


The research

A large study of 10,000 people was conducted to examine how the food we eat affects the health of the gut.  The research has been promoted by Professor Tim Spector, who led the UK part of the study. Previous advice has focused on volume (e.g. 5-a-day) but this new research really highlights the importance of variety over volume.

Plant foods and gut health

We already know that having a healthy gut is key to overall health, and that the more beneficial bacteria your gut contains the better. Different plants contain different types of fibre, which in turn feed different types of beneficial bacteria in the gut (our ‘microbiome’) – the result of eating a wide variety of different plants is that more types of beneficial bacteria can flourish, supporting overall health. There are other benefits to eating plant foods - plants are rich in chemicals called polyphenols which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to further boost health.

How can I eat 30 different plants a week?

30 may sound a lot, but in fact it is really easy to achieve and you don’t have to be a health fanatic! Plants are not just fruit and vegetables – you can count nuts, seeds, pulses, herbs and spices in the total. Even high quality cocoa and coffee count.

  • Get into the habit of topping salads with nuts, seeds and chopped or dried fruit
  • If you tend to have the same breakfast or lunch every day, aim to mix things up a bit
  • Look for snacks that add to your daily total such as olives, hummus, nut and seed bars
  • Challenge yourself to add an extra vegetable to each meal
  • Make good use of herbs, crushed garlic and grated ginger to flavour your meals
  • Buy frozen berries and frozen mixed veg for days when there is nothing in the fridge

Remember that it’s variety over volume – if you buy three different types of nut you don’t need to eat a whole bag every week, just add a few into your meals.

30 different plants per week is only 4 or 5 each day. Here are a few ideas to get you going:


  • Soaked oats topped with a mixed breakfast sprinkle e.g. chopped nuts, seeds, ground chia and dried cranberries (5 plants)
  • Any fruit or nut based muesli (4-6 plants)
  • Branflakes topped with a few walnuts, raisins, banana chips or cacao nibs (4-5 plants)


  • Olives with sundried tomatoes (2 plants)
  • Blueberries with yogurt, pumpkin and sunflower seeds (3 plants)
  • Hummus, carrot and cucumber sticks (3 plants)
  • Fruit, seed and nut bar (4 or 5 plants)
  • High cocoa dark chocolate (1 plant)
  • Glass of fruit juice (1 plant)


  • Mixed salad (lettuce, cucumber, sweet peppers, grated carrots and shredded cabbage) topped with chopped walnuts (6 plants)
  • Vegetable and chickpea soup (3-4 plants)
  • Bag of stir fry (beansprout, carrot, onion, cabbage) with brown rice and cashews (6 plants)
  • Mixed bean salad in viniagrette with hummus and lettuce (7 plants)


  • Chicken and mushroom stir fry (onion, carrots, mushrooms, peppers) served with egg-fried cauliflower rice (5 plants)
  • Lentil bolognese with tomatoes, carrots, courgette and celery (5 plants)
  • Roast lamb with carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and parsnips (4 plants)
  • Chicken curry made with coconut milk and ground almonds, plus choice of veg (5 or more plants)


  • Frozen mixed berries topped with ice cream (2-3 plants)
  • Apple and blackberry pie with cinnamon (4 plants, counting the grain in the flour)
  • Yogurt with mixed seeds and raisins (3-4 plants)


Photo by Aliona Gumeniuk on Unsplash

Tags: Plant based | Gut health | Nutrition

Posted in Health | Nutrition | Research

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