What is diet diversity?
The term ‘diet diversity’ relates to the range of different fruits and vegetables we eat within our diet. The reason diet diversity is important is because it’s been shown that eating as wide a range of fruit and vegetables as possible has excellent health benefits.
As this way of eating can be hugely beneficial to the digestive system I thought I’d encourage you to try a fun diet diversity challenge where each day you and your family will try to eat a rainbow of different coloured fruits and vegetables to encourage variety within your diet.
Why should I try the diet diversity challenge?
Eating a wide variety of rainbow-coloured foods benefits us because the colour pigments found in fruit and vegetables occur as a result of the different phytonutrients they are made of.
Some examples of these nutrients include:
Anthocyanins – found in purple and blue fruit and vegetables, such as blackcurrants, blackberries, blueberries, aubergine skin, red cabbage, cranberries, cherries and grapes.
Carotenoids – found in yellow and orange fruit and vegetables, such as carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, papayas, and apricots.
Lycopene – found in red fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and tomato products, watermelon, pink grapefruit, pink guava, and papaya.
Allicin – found in white foods, such as onion and garlic.
Folate – found in dark green leafy vegetables, such as turnip greens, spinach, romaine lettuce, asparagus, brussels sprouts and broccoli.
Indoles – found in green vegetables, such as broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts and turnips.
Saponins – found in legumes, such as soya beans, beans, peas and lentils.
How will the diet diversity challenge benefit me?
If you choose to have a go at my diet diversity challenge (and hopefully adopt it into your diet long-term) you’ll gain a number of health benefits because research has shown that diet diversity improves:
Mood and brain cognition
It’s been found that eating a diet that’s high in a wide range of fruit, vegetables and nuts leads to improved mental health, mood and brain cognition. It’s believed that this may be due to the fact that many plant foods are natural sources of neurotransmitters which may positively influence the nervous system.
Fruit and vegetables tend to be low calorie due to their high fibre content. As a result, when compared with high calorie foods (such as burgers, pizza or biscuits) we can eat much more fruit and vegetables for the same amount of calories. This makes us feel fuller for longer. Therefore, eating a diverse diet can be beneficial for weight management.
Another great reason to try my diet diversity challenge with your family is that it’s been found that offering a wide range of vegetables to children increases the amount of veg they will actually eat. It’s also been proven that it leads to them eating fewer unhealthy high calorie foods too.
Reduced fall and fracture risk
Eating a diet high in diverse vegetables has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of falls and fractures in the elderly.
A longer healthy life
Research has shown that the diet diversity challenge principles are a brilliant way to help increase longevity of life, but it also increases the likelihood of living those years in a state of good health.
It benefits the gut microbiome
It’s been found that eating a diverse diet filled with fruit and vegetables positively impacts the gut microbiome (the micro-organisms which are found in the digestive system) due to the amount of fibre consumed. In fact, people who eat a wide range of plant foods have much wider diversity in their gut microbiome.
So, how do I do the diet diversity challenge?
If you’d like to have a go at my diet diversity challenge I’d recommend that you simply start ‘adding in’ more fruit and vegetables to your diet.
For instance, if you usually have cereal for breakfast try adding a handful of blueberries on top. If you have toast, add a sliced banana.
If you usually have a sandwich and a packet of crisps for lunch why not leave the crisps and add a small side salad? Or if you have salads for lunch you could add a sprinkling of seeds on top.
For dinner you could add a vegetable you’ve never tried before to your plate.
As always, if you’ve got IBS I’d recommend checking the Monash app to make sure that the fruit or vegetable you’re thinking of having is suitable for FODMAPs.
It’s all about keeping the diet as diverse as possible because the greater the variety of plant foods you eat the more benefits you’ll gain.
Also, here’s a link to a really handy printable diet diversity challenge sheet that’ll help make it a fun challenge for all the family. Kids love ticking off each fruit or vegetable they eat!
If you decide to try my diet diversity challenge I’d love to hear how you get on, so please get in touch!