Experts say we need to eat 30 different plants per week to make a real difference to our gut health. Here’s how to do it with wild food.
We all know the age-old 5-a-day adage to improve long term health, but experts now believe it’s not just about quantity but the variety of plants that matter too. This isn’t just a trend – there’s scientific evidence to back this up and Zoe.com has a detailed explanation on this here
A healthy gut is essential for our overall well-being. And a balanced gut microbiome can improve digestion, boost the immune system, and promote mental and physical health. Plants are a valuable source of prebiotics, which provide nourishment for the ‘good’ bacteria in your digestive system. So it makes sense that a diverse microbiome leads to a stronger and healthier gut!
The key principle behind the ‘diversity diet’ is to make sure you have a balanced intake of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, as different plant-based foods offer unique health benefits. Think stacks of colourful veggies, juicy fruits, wholesome grains and proteins.
The path to a diverse plant-based diet is a delicious one, filled with exciting flavours and culinary adventures. But it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when we tend to rely on a small selection of plant-based choices and it’s understandably easier to stay in our comfort zone. Familiarity brings comfort, and it’s human nature to gravitate toward the foods we know and love. While these choices are undoubtedly healthy, they don’t represent the full spectrum of plants available.
Break it down step-by step by creating a weekly meal plan that includes plant-based recipes. Get creative and go for a rainbow of colours and types of produce. While there are many ways to achieve this, one often overlooked option is literally growing on your doorstop. And it’s easier than you think. Wild foods are within our reach all year round, whether it’s Nettles and Wild Garlic in spring, Elderflower and Hawthorn berries in the summer, Rosehips and Sweet Chestnuts in the autumn or Sea Buckthorn and Mallow in the winter.
Wild foods are packed full of diverse nutrients, freshly picked, and they’re chemical-free. They can help supplement where our nutritional needs might be lacking from a typical, supermarket-bought diet. While supermarkets are a convenient option, the quality of the fresh food is often substandard, having travelled many miles before it reaches your plate.
Wild Greens: Dandelion, lamb’s quarters, and purslane are packed with vitamins and minerals. Use them in salads, smoothies, or sautés.
Berries: such as blackberries, elderberries, and blueberries are not only delicious but also rich in antioxidants. Add them to your breakfast cereal or make a tasty jam.
Wild Mushrooms: Foraging for wild mushrooms like chanterelles and morels can be an exciting adventure.
Nuts and Seeds: Acorns and chestnuts can be roasted and added to various dishes. For seeds, consider using wild chia seeds or purslane seeds in your cooking.
Herbs and Spices: Many wild herbs like oregano, thyme, and rosemary can be used to season dishes to boost flavour and gut health!
Fermentation: Wild fermentation is an age-old practice, from wild-fermented sauerkraut to kimchi. These foods are teeming with beneficial probiotics that enhance gut health.
As always, if you’re foraging for wild foods, it’s really important to only harvest plants that you can correctly identify with confidence. Use reputable field guides, seek guidance from experienced foragers, and be mindful of the environments you are foraging in.