30 Plants A Week Diet Is Trending In Europe. Why You Should Try It

July 7, 2023

Are you eating enough vegetables and fruits? If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you might automatically assume that you are. Without plant-based foods, we literally don’t have anything to work with! I myself fill at least half of my grocery basket with fresh produce, with the rest being filled out by pantry staples like pasta and couscous, and “for fun” eats like vegan cheese and proteins (tofu, seitan, etc). Without counting, I know I’m exceeding the “five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.” That’s almost too low a goal, right?

Five servings a day works to protect your health

In fact, this low-seeming number has been tested and proven to be effective. In 2021, a team of researchers led by Dr. Daniel Wang at the Harvard Medical School compared self-reported data of over two million people and found that the optimal servings of fruits and vegetables for lowered overall mortality, and lowered mortality from cancer, heart disease, and stroke, were just five. They even figured out the optimal breakdown of fruit versus vegetable: 2 servings of fruit plus 3 servings of vegetables. The study notably pointed out that more than 5 servings a day didn’t result in greater health benefits. And, they found that the biggest benefits came from leafy green vegetables, vitamin C and beta-carotene sources like carrots, citrus, and berries. Less so starchy produce like potatoes, peas (ugh, I happen to love peas!), corn, or fruit juice.

a woman wearing a scarf and a striped sweater is shopping for vegetables in a market.

30 vegetables and fruits a week rule

Purported benefits

But now, this simple guideline might become more challenging for even the most veg-forward of us. The newest dietary trend in the U.K. and France is to aim for 30 fruits and vegetables a week, espoused by Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London. But that doesn’t mean just 30 servings of five or six favorite fruits and veggies. It means 30 different types of produce! This dietary tip stemmed from the discovery that people who eat 30 different types of produce had more diverse microbiome than those who ate 10 different types of produce or less. The great variety of plants neutralize toxins and nurture beneficial gut flora.

Why is this so important? Professor Tim Spector’s team was the first in the world to discover that people’s weight and health conditions largely came from genetics. But they also found that some identical twins had vastly different health outcomes. By studying these twins, Professor Spector found that the main difference was in the twins’ microbiome. So, having an optimal gut flora is a key factor in your wellness, no matter what genetics.

How to make it work in your life

Is the number intimidating? I find it daunting, and I’m a seasoned vegan. But it can be accomplished by including all the herbs, nuts, spices, mushrooms, and whole grains into the count. Even coffee and dark chocolate are counted toward this quota, since they’re full of polyphenols.

Focus on whole plant foods that are not heavily processed to make this “30” rule work the best. Try doing a food diary for a week to see how many varieties you actually get. This might be the push you need to break out of the “kale and sweet potato” rut!

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Photo: Milada Vigerova via Unsplash

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Peaceful Dumpling is used for articles written by staff writers and freelance contributors who wish to remain unidentified.


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