• Experts recommend eating 30 plant foods a week for a healthy gut microbiome. 
  • I tried it and was surprised by how quickly I reached the target.
  • Focusing on adding nutritious ingredients to dishes is a sustainable way to eat healthily. 
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As a health journalist, I write about the buzzy topic of gut health a lot. So when I noticed lots of gut experts saying they aim to eat 30 plants a week, I knew I had to give it a try.

There are so many fads in the wellness world that I know to steer clear of, but the idea of eating 30 plants a week for gut health comes from a large 2018 study called The American Gut Project. It found people who ate 30 plants a week had more diverse gut microbiomes than people who ate 10 or fewer.

The gut is populated by “good” and “bad” microbes, and fiber, which is found in plant foods, feeds the good ones. Gut health researchers believe that eating different types of fiber results in a more diverse and, therefore, healthier microbiome. This, in turn, is linked to better overall health, immunity, mood, and even a lower risk of certain cancers.

Plants are so powerful when it comes to looking after our guts that experts agree the best thing you can do for your microbiome is to eat a high-fiber, balanced diet that’s low in ultra-processed foods, despite what the gut health supplement market, which has been valued at $12 billion, will have you believe.

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Having said all that, going into my weeklong experiment, 30 plants sounded like a lot. But more foods count as a plant than you might think. The definition of 30 plants includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds, coffee, and even dark chocolate.

I was also lucky to already be in a pretty good spot with my diet. I’ve never counted calories or tracked my macros, but when I tried out the DASH diet for a week last year I ended up forming some healthy habits like adding more wholegrains to my diet and eating breakfast. So I was excited to see what I might get out of this experience but worried I might not hit the target.

I mostly ate how I normally would but kept a note of all my meals and snacks throughout the week. I was surprised to reach 30 by day three and hit 40 plants overall.

It’s easier than you think to eat a lot of plants at breakfast

Oatmeal with blueberries, peanut butter, and almond flakes.

Author’s breakfasat of oatmeal with blueberries, peanut butter, and almond flakes.

Kim Schewitz



Every weekday, I ate oatmeal for breakfast with a combination of berries, nuts, and seeds. I found this was a really easy way to get in a variety of plants every day.

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I mainly used what I already had in the cupboard and bought a few punnets of different berries because they’re easy to sprinkle onto oatmeal. I usually just buy one type of berry a week, but I bought three types because I wanted my diet to be more diverse than it usually is.

Throughout the week I switched between strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, and peanuts, pistachios, and almond flakes. I also sprinkled on chia seeds.

I could have easily added even more fruits, nuts, and seeds, but I was already on track to hit my target early on. If you were planning on doing this long-term, however, buying bags of multiple types of nuts and seeds would be worth it as they last for a long time and you could switch up your combination daily.

I ate a lot of plant-based proteins

Author holding a bowl of pasta.

The author mixed boiled broccoli into pesto.

Kim Schewitz



Another way I ate more plants was by opting for plant-based proteins over animal products like meat and eggs. I am a pollo-pescatarian, meaning I eat chicken and fish but no other meat, so this wasn’t much different from how I usually eat.

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I ate beans, chickpeas, and lentils as alternatives to animal proteins. For example, I had refried beans in my tacos instead of chicken or shrimp.

Rather than a chicken curry, I chose a chickpea one when I went to a food market, and I added butter beans to my salad.

I also used red lentil or pea pasta instead of white pasta as the wheat in it doesn’t count as a plant for this experiement. You could use wholewheat pasta but I went with those alternatives as I wanted to add extra protein.

Frozen vegetables help with cost and food waste

As I buy and cook food only for myself, I had to consider cost and food waste. I’ve previously made the mistake of splashing out on lots of fresh vegetables only for them to go moldy before I get around to eating them because I’ve eaten out instead.

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For this reason, I ate fewer types of vegetables than I would have liked but having some frozen edamame and sweetcorn in the freezer meant I could add more plants to my meals easily without worrying about them going off.

I tried to add at least one additional vegetable to each meal. For example, I boiled some broccoli with pasta and mixed it all in with pesto.

Focusing on adding nutritious food feels sustainable

Two bowls of salad.

The author added as many plants as possible to dishes.

Kim Schewitz



Reaching my goal by day three surprised and comforted me. I think pretty much anyone with the time and means could eat 30 plants a week with relatively little planning, as there are so many types of plant food. Stocking up on nuts and seeds, as well as frozen fruits and vegetables, can lower the cost and make it easy to boost a meal’s plant count.

I enjoyed planning my meals around nutritious ingredients and focusing on what I could eat rather than what I should try to limit. By aiming for a high number of healthy foods a week, I probably ended up naturally eating less low-nutrient foods like refined carbs and added sugar.

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I think this is a pretty sustainable way to eat long-term and encourages a healthy attitude toward food. I’ll definitely keep aiming for 30 a week.