What is a plant?

When you hear "plant," you might be thinking "kale." But the truth is, there is so much more to plants than just leafy greens. Plant-based foods include fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains.

Why should I eat plants?

There's no question that eating more plants is associated with better health outcomes. Not only are plants great sources of vitamins and minerals, but they are packed with hundreds of types of fibers and thousands of compounds that are biologically active, called polyphenols.

Adding more plants to your diet can help you boost your gut health, lower inflammation, and reduce risks of heart disease, diabetes, and other metabolic conditions. Here’s how:

  • Plants have a very important role in gut health. The fiber and polyphenols in plants help improve your gut by feeding your good bugs, and keeping your microbiome diverse. As plant-based food contains hundreds of different types of fibers and thousands of polyphenols, it can feed many specific types of gut bacteria, helping you grow your garden of good bugs. Each of your bugs have specialized roles – breaking down foods, fighting infections, or creating specific chemicals that your body needs to function at its best. The greater the diversity in your gut, the larger the variety and breadth of skills your team of bugs have! A healthy gut helps you fight inflammation, and our science shows it can also help with blood fat and sugar control.

  • The fiber and polyphenols in plants can help lower inflammation by preventing blood sugar spikes, as well as lower cholesterol levels.

  • Fiber also helps keep your bowel habits regular, warding off unpleasant effects on the gut such as constipation.

  • Plants are also densely packed with essential vitamins and minerals which we need for our optimum health and wellbeing.

Aim for at least five portions of plants a day

Many of us struggle to get enough gut-boosting fiber in our diet. General guidelines recommend 30g of fiber per day but diversifying your sources is very important. So aim to get your fiber from at least 5 different plant groups per day. If you are able to incorporate more, feel free to do so! You may need to build up your intake to allow your gut to adjust to larger doses of fiber.

I ate an item that has fiber, but you did not count it as a plant. Why?

There are a few reasons why an item you eat might not count towards your plant target. Most often this is because we only count a plant once per day. So if you have two apples that will only count as one. We do this to encourage greater diversity.

We also consider the portion size to ensure you're getting enough fiber from the item. Very small quantities will only contribute to your plant count when combined with other items. For example, a salad with several different vegetables may count as 1 portion towards your target.

Fiber can also be found in some other foods, such as bran cereals, which we don't count. Though all fiber is beneficial, these types of foods tend to be highly processed, which is less beneficial for your overall gut health, and may negatively impact your blood sugar responses. We recommend focusing on whole plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains that are minimally processed.

Read more:

Read about the ZOE food quality score and how it is calculated

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