50 Ways to Add 100+ Plants to Your Diet

50 Ways to Add 100+ Plants to Your Diet

WHY IS A DIVERSE diet so important?

It’s hard to know exactly, Daniel McDonald, Ph.D., a UC researcher, told me recently. One possibility is that, because microbes like to feast on plant fiber, the greater variety is simply healthier for them. Or it could be that certain microbes subsist primarily on certain types of plant fibers, so when we limit the categories of plants we eat, we hinder some aspects of our microbiome and wind up throwing the whole party into chaos.

There’s a second reason why a diverse diet is so much healthier, which has to do with phytochemicals—the unique nutrients found in plants. Each plant has its own set, and there are at least 25,000 different plant-based nutrients that we know of. (That’s a lot more than you’ll find in even the most comprehensive multivitamin!)

The Full-Body Fat Fix

The Full-Body Fat Fix

Each one of these thousands of nutrients plays a unique role in maintaining overall health: Some have been linked to slowing cognitive decline; others regulate immune system function; still others reduce blood pressure and arterial plaque.

But these diverse nutrients don’t work alone. They all work as part of a system, like an orchestra, to create a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. So, if your diet is limited to a routine of potatoes, apples, and broccoli, you’re not really feeding your body, or your microbiome, all of the nutrients it needs.

But there’s an unlimited array of ideas for maxing out your plant intake—without having to heat a skillet or pick up a menu.

Here are 50 favorites.

1. Amp up your loaf. Try a super-packed multigrain bread like Dave’s Killer Bread, which comes loaded with twenty-one different whole grains and seeds including whole wheat, flax, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, oats, barley, and more.

2. Sneak ground flaxseed into pancake or waffle batter. No one will know!

3. Or steam and purée some cauliflower, and sneak it into pancakes, muffins, even mac and cheese. Again, no one will know!

4. Up your pancake game even more by using buckwheat, a high-fiber, high-protein, gluten-free alternative.

5. Give every smoothie a minimum of six unique plants.

green smoothie fitness man lacing running shoes, athlete runner with green vegetable detox juice getting ready for morning run tying running shoe laces on grass fitness and healthy lifestyle concept

Maridav

6. If you’re a cereal lover, make a game of topping it with a different fruit, nut, and seed each morning of the week. Strawberries, almonds, and pumpkin seeds today; raspberries, walnuts, and sunflower seeds tomorrow.

7. Speaking of nuts, next time you’re hosting a cocktail party, get the nut mix with lots of different nuts, instead of those tired old peanuts.

8. Wait . . . did someone say cocktails? Let’s take something sinful and make it soulful: Muddle some mint for a mojito; use fresh ginger in rum drinks; float some juniper berries in gin. (Just make sure you eat the herbs—no second drink until all the plants are gone.)

9. And if celery garnishes your Bloody Mary, make sure you eat that, too.

10. Wrap your sandwich in cauliflower wraps instead of those sad flour tortillas.

11. Speaking of which, when at a Mexican restaurant, always ask for corn tortillas, which are made from whole grain, instead of flour tortillas, which are just white flour and lard.

12. Never eat ice cream naked. Always top it with nuts and berries (most Froyo joints have plenty of options).

13. And never order a pizza without at least one vegetable topping. Try something new: artichokes, fresh garlic, spinach, broccoli.

14. Check out the new “rice” options, including broccoli, cauliflower, and hearts of palm.

15. Or, instead of plain old white or brown rice, cook up a wild rice blend, which can contain four or five different plants.

men holding a riceberry in a white bowl

Bebenjy

16. Play around with new pasta options, including dried pastas made from lentil, chickpea, or brown rice.

17. Or forget about dried pastas altogether and check out alternatives like spaghetti squash or zucchini spirals.

18. Speaking of pastas, you can find frozen raviolis stuffed with spinach, mushroom, eggplant, and squash. Why limit your meal to just one?

19. Check the freezer section for unusual smoothie ingredients—jackfruit, acai, coconut, aloe vera, dragon fruit.

20. Swap that milk chocolate out for a dark chocolate bar that’s 72 percent cacao or better.

21. Speaking of chocolate, cacao nibs are broken pieces of cocoa bean that make for fun dessert toppings or even additions to your morning cereal, along with berries and nuts.

22. Find new flours for baking, such as almond, cassava, coconut, chickpea, oat, teff, sorghum, millet, hazelnut, and cauliflower.

    23. Up your dipping game with sweet potato chips, plantain chips, or taro chips.

    24. And if you’re dipping chips, make your own salsa fresca with chopped tomatoes, parsley, onion, seeded jalapeño, and lime juice. Or swap in guacamole or hummus for boring onion dip.

    25. Snack on dried seaweed (yes, kids love it, too).

    a plate of food

    hiroyuki nakai

    26. Look for alternative crackers like Mary’s Gone Crackers, which are made of brown rice, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, and flaxseed.

    27. Or forget the crackers altogether and try munching on mushroom crisps or cauliflower crisps.

    28. Try Banza mac and cheese—it’s mac and cheese made with chickpeas.

    29. Look for soup mixes with a wide array of beans and lentils instead of just the same old black bean soup.

    30. Pile fresh herbs on top of any fish or chicken you roast in the oven. A little olive oil and salt is all you need to turn it into a flavor explosion.

    31. Pour hemp seeds into any smoothie or breakfast cereal. They’re loaded with protein, fiber, and healthy fats.

    32. Include one piece of fruit every time you have a snack. Craving some cheese? Pair it with an apple. Want chocolate? Cherries or strawberries will go well with that.

    33. Give Granny a break. Sure, everyone loves the firm texture and crisp flavor of Granny Smith apples, but there are dozens of varieties to experiment with, and each one is its own plant. Play around with Gala, McIntosh, Fuji, Cortland, GoldenDelicious, Pink Lady, and all the other varieties on offer.

    34. Same goes for tomatoes—try cherry, beefsteak, plum.

    35. Or pears (Bartlett, Bosc, D’Anjou).

    pears pattern fruits arrangement in a row rhythm with shadows minimal flat lay green background

    MEDITERRANEAN

    36. Look for spring or mesclun mixes in the supermarket, and consider picking up some unexpected salad greens like water- cress, sprouts, frisée, and chicory.

    37. Move beyond peanut butter and keep almond butter, sunflower butter, and cashew butter on hand as well.

    38. Skip the jellies and pick up some of those fancy jams at the farmers market. They’re made with whole fruit—you can see the seeds inside—and that counts.

    39. Or go one better and use whole berries with your peanut butter and whole-grain bread. Raspberries and blackberries are especially delicious.

    40. When it comes to berries, go wild. Wild blueberries are a dramatically different plant from those raised on farms, and you can find them in the freezer section. Or check out the briar patches in your neighborhood and see if you can track down some wild raspberries or blackberries in summertime.

    41. Try unusual nuts like macadamia or Brazil nuts.

    42. Use dates to add sweetness. Blended into smoothies or chopped into brownies or muffins, they’re a whole-plant alternative to honey or sugar.

    43. Skewer your expectations. Instead of plain old steak or chicken, use cubes of meat on skewers with mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, even pineapple. (Tip: Soak wooden skewers in water before putting them on the grill to keep them from burning up prematurely.)

    44. Make the salad bar your friend. See how many different colors you can fit on one plate. Don’t sleep on the beets, radishes, and green beans.

    45. Play around with different types of citrus. Instead of just navel oranges, try mandarins, blood oranges, kumquat, tangelo, pomelo—there’s a whole world of flavors out there.

    46. Pie before cake. Pumpkin, blueberry, apple, peach, cherry . . . anything with a whole fruit in it is a better choice than plain old white flour.

    a man is photographed as he is holding an apple pie while it is snowing outside

    The Picture Pantry

    47. Stock your fridge with chia seed pudding. Add chia seeds, a nondairy milk like oat or soy, and a touch of honey. Stir, let sit for ten minutes, then stir again and refrigerate. Serve with chopped fruits on top. It’s a breakfast; it’s a snack; it’s a dessert!

    48. When in doubt, get the chili. From Waffle House to Wendy’s, plenty of restaurants that seem far from healthy offer plant-rich chilies.

    49. Spice up your salad with flowers. Violets and nasturtium are two common edible flowers that seem to grow anywhere. Pick them, let them sit for a few hours on the counter to release any bugs hidden within, and add to your salad or decorate your plate as a garnish. And then . . .

    50. Eat the garnish. Whether it’s a sprig of mint on a scoop of ice cream, an orange slice on a tequila sunrise, or a frond of parsley on a plate of pork chops, most of us ignore these modest plant offerings—and pass up an opportunity to feed our microbiome what it craves.

    This article is an excerpt from The Full-Body Fat Fix: The Science-Based 7-Day Plan to Cool Inflammation, Heal Your Gut, and Build a Healthier, Leaner You!

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