Ask a Nutritionist: Is 30 Plant Points a Week the New 5 a Day?

Hi Jess, I keep hearing people reference the ‘30 plant points a week’ guideline. This sounds like a lot of fruit and vegetables. Can you explain it to me?

To those out of the loop the concept of earning ‘30 plant points a week’ is an updated version of the classic ‘5 a-day’ recommendation for fruit and vegetables. It has been used a lot more frequently recently, but what exactly is 30 plant points and where did it come from?

Unlike the traditional 5-a-day guideline, the concept of ‘plant points’ expands beyond fruit and vegetables. Aiming for 30 might sound daunting, but the concept includes a wide range of plant-based foods in this target, including legumes, spices, herbs, nuts, and seeds. This approach doesn’t dismiss 5 a day, but offers a new perspective, focusing on increasing diversity to enhance gut health.

The idea stems from a study called ‘The American Gut Project’, which analysed stool samples from over 10,000 people worldwide. The findings revealed that those consuming at least 30 different plant-based foods weekly had more diversity in their gut microbiome than those who ate 10, sparking the 30-plant point-a-week idea.

What counts as a plant point?

Let’s look at the Super Six (the six main plant groups) to diversify your intake. Here’s how the points can stack up:

Vegetables

Spinach, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, red onion.

Each different vegetable counts as 1 point. Different varieties count as separate points.

Fruit

Apple, banana, orange, strawberries, grapes, pear, avocados, tomatoes.

Throughout the week, every time you have an apple, it is only 1 point for the week.

Wholegrains

Brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat flour, bulgar wheat.

Each type of wholegrain counts as 1 point.

Legumes

Chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, peas.

Each legume variety counts as 1 point.

Nuts & seeds

Almonds, walnuts, cashews, chia seeds, flaxseed, sunflower seeds.

Each type of nut or seeds counts as 1 point, a bag of mixed nuts can even cover 4-5 plant points.

Herbs & Spices

Cinnamon, turmeric, basil, coriander, black pepper, ginger, basil.

As the quantities are small, each herb or spice counts as 0.25. So, for every 4 herbs or spices, you earn 1 plant point.

Top tips to help you achieve 30 plant points a week

Mix up your weekly food shop: Instead of sticking to the same fruits and vegetables each week, vary your selection. If you go for spinach one week, try out kale the next.

Stock up on frozen and tinned fruit: These are convenient options to have to hand, and contrary to popular belief are just as nutritious, if not more.

Try new recipes: We are all creatures of habit but experimenting with recipes and trying different cuisines is a fun way to introduce new plant-based foods into your diet.

Add nuts and seeds to foods: These are so versatile. Sprinkle them on salads, yogurt, your morning porridge or even incorporate them into homemade granola or bakes.

Mix up your snacks: Instead of reaching for the same shop-bought snacks, get creative with homemade snacks. Try carrot sticks with hummus, trail mix with nuts and dark chocolate, and Greek yogurt topped with berries.

TL;DR

30 plant points a week shake up the ‘5 a day’ rule by encouraging you to enjoy at least 30 different plant-based foods each week, with the key being variety. The Super Six categories include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts & seeds, herbs & spices.

If the thought of hitting specific numbers, like the 10,000 steps goal, feels overwhelming, shift your focus to embracing diversity, and build this up gradually. Tips such as mixing up your weekly food shop and trying out new recipes may make it more manageable than you expect.

Jessica Stansfield RNutr

Huel nutrition team

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