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Diversifying Your Diet Improves Health



a diverse diet leads to improved overall health
What does a diverse diet look like?

A diverse diet improves overall health


Diversifying our diet improves nutritional intake and supports a healthy microbiome, which leads to improved overall health (1) (2).


Before we delve into how a diverse diet improves health, we need to understand that the “diverse diet” we are speaking of here is based on clean whole foods like vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and eggs, and does not include highly processed food items.


With this in mind, a diverse diet includes many different food groups or foods consumed in a certain period (weekly), providing various macro and micronutrients that the body requires for proper structure and function (1).


A 2020 study published in Frontiers in Pediatrics concluded that children who were fed a diverse range of foods in the first year of life increased nutrient intake, positively impacted the child’s gut microbiome composition, and was associated with reduced allergy outcomes (5).


The human body is host to communities of microbiota, microbes that live in and on each one of us, without which we could not be healthy, and these microbes rely on the foods we eat as their food too (2).


Restricting certain food groups over time, like fruits and vegetables, can lead to losses of species within the microbiome that can negatively impact our overall health (2).  For example, the gut microbe, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, produces the short-chain fatty acid butyrate, which supports our gut barrier, protects us from infections, and is the main source of fuel for our colon cells, and F. prausnitzii feeds on prebiotic fibers found in foods like bananas, onions, and garlic (3) (4).  It’s a symbiotic relationship, we feed them, and they feed us!


Studies show that a diverse diet of whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, legumes, olive oil, and some meat was associated with a lower risk for chronic conditions like cognitive decline and eye disease (6).

 

What does a diverse diet look like?


Foods are made up of many nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals, and plant foods contain phytochemicals that protect us from disease. 


Each food contains a different array of these substances that work together to supply our body with energy and elements that help it function optimally. 


The best way to ensure getting the nutrients the body requires each day is to consume a diverse whole-food diet.


A diverse diet includes foods from different food groups like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, animal/fish protein, nuts, seeds, and whole dairy (7).


Here are a few examples of nutrients found in different foods (7):


·       Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provide dietary fiber and an array of vitamins and minerals

·       Legumes are a source of plant protein

·       Meat, poultry, and fish are sources of complete protein and fat-soluble nutrients

·       Nuts and seeds contain healthy fats and micronutrients

·       Dairy supplies protein and calcium

 

Tips to begin diversifying your diet


1.     Consume vegetables at each meal, aiming for more than 5 types/day
2.     Have your fruit with your meals, or make it your dessert, aiming for at least 3 different fruits/day
3.     Be sure to have a protein source with each meal, animal or plant proteins
4.     Incorporate legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans) into each week's meal plan
5.     Be sure to include healthy fats like nuts, seeds, dairy (if tolerated), and oils like olive oil – these are easily added to salads

For healthy whole-food dinner recipes check out our recipe blog here

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