The challenge this week is to increase the variety of plant food that I’m consuming. It’s a fairly simple challenge, I logged the variety for last week and then tried to beat my intake this week! Whilst I think my diet has a good level of variety it’s easy, when busy with life, to return to the same foods rather than making the effort to seek out variety. Last week I ate 46 different plant based foods, from rye bread to mint tea to ground cumin in a chilli. This week, by paying a bit more attention to it I managed 60.
Why is variety good? There is much interest at the moment in the role of gut bacteria in our overall health. We know that having a large variety of bacteria in our gut supports a wide range of bodily functions such as the digestion of food, synthesising vitamins and supporting our nervous system. Whilst this is area of medicine is still at an exploratory phase, it seems that a number of both physical and mental diseases are linked to having a reduced variety of gut bacteria. It’s also not fully understood how exactly we can support the good bacteria, the levels are partly set by our genetic inheritance like a finger print, but some foods are known to make a difference, such as fermented and high fibre foods. The other generally accepted convention at this point is that if you eat a wide variety of foods then you can expect to have a good level of different bacteria in your bowel – a good thing! Take a look at https://gutscharity.org.uk/ for more information.
Another angle on this is about ensuring that we get all the nutrients that we need. When it comes to plant based foods they are more likely to contain the good stuff in the form of vitamins, minerals and fibre. I can get a bit light headed when I’m hungry so the fact that plant based foods are low glycaemic index (release their sugar slowly) works well for me. I very rarely eat meat, so along with fish I rely on pulses and lentils for my protein intake.
This week I also ate something I’ve never eaten before – a bitter gourd that I found in a local shop and where the shop keeper, along with another customer, kindly told me what to do with it! Interestingly I thought it smelt wonderfully of flowers, whereas my daughter thought it smelt of something rotting – like lilies when they’ve ‘gone over’. Taste-wise it lived up to its name, even after I cooked it up with some ginger and garlic, and so possibly not something I’d rush back to but I love the way it looks. Like a smallish extremely knobbly cucumber.
Nuts and seeds are supercharged nutritionally but also pack in the calories so I have to monitor my intake. I could eat half a jar of peanut butter at a time and that’s not a sustainable daily habit. Fruit is great, and generally lower in calories than you might think but overdo that and you can find yourself exceeding daily sugar goals. On the subject of tracking nutrients (and calories too) there are lots of free options out there. I was recommended My Fitness Pal https://www.myfitnesspal.com/ which gives me daily nutrition targets. Even if you don’t follow these really closely it’s useful for keeping an eye on your nutrient intake. Your needs are likely to shift over your lifetime, particularly for women.
So it’s been an interesting week. I’ve been really looking at what I’m eating and grabbing my note pad after every meal to add to the list which looked like this in the end…
Fruit and vegetables are some of the cheapest foods that you can buy so this definitely counts as a thrifty@50 activity, although as some of the foods are imported it’s not a completely green one (I’m working on growing more of my own). Definitely a challenge to check in on again in the future. I need to keep up my own good work 🙂