bowl full of colourful veggies, rice and lettuce

How To Eat 30 Plants a Week

You've likely heard that you should be eating 30 plants a week. We asked Registered Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert to explore the science behind why 30 is the magic number, exactly what counts as a plant, and how it might be easier than you think to bump the numbers.  

Why 30 plants per week?

We know that eating a variety of plant-based foods is beneficial. When it comes to the specific advice on fruit and veg consumption, we’re all familiar with the phrase “eat at least 5 a day”, however, research from the American Gut Project suggests a new approach may be more beneficial.

Let's dig into the research

The idea that dietary diversity can benefit our health, and that our gut microbes may be involved, has come to a front in various research since the early 2000’s. However, in 2018, researchers published results from the American Gut Project, a collaboration of researchers and more than 10,000 “citizen scientists'' from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The research found that people who consume at least 30 different plant-based foods each week had a higher diversity of microbes in their gut than those eating 10 or fewer. Your gut microbes refers to all of the microorganisms (e.g. bacteria) that live within your gut. The bacteria/microorganisms that live within your gut are completely unique to each individual, and the human gut microbiota consists of over 100 trillion microorganisms.

The research also showed that people who hit the 30 mark had more bacteria that produce short chain fatty acids. Acetate, propionate, and butyrate are three major short chain fatty acids, and their bioactivities have been widely studied. Research has found that these short chain fatty acids can have many health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory, immunoregulatory, anti-diabetes, anticancer, cardiovascular protective, hepatoprotective, and neuroprotective activities.

Each strain of bacteria in your gut needs different types of plant foods to function effectively and help keep your body energised and healthy. Hence eating a wide range of plants helps to cultivate a varied and flourishing garden of beneficial bacteria in the gut. A more diverse microbiome, rich in beneficial bugs, has links to a better functioning and more resilient gut. Some scientists think it may even help you live a longer and healthier life.

What is a plant point?

Eating 30 different plant types a week can actively support your gut microbiome and using plant points can help you keep track of how much variety you’re eating. Unlike the “5 A Day” campaigns that tends to target only our regular consumption of fruit and vegetables, plant points recognise the importance of consuming all plant-derived ingredients and properties. In this context, a plant is any kind of food that has been grown: not only fruits and vegetables, but also grains, beans and pulses, nuts and seeds and herbs and spices. Dark chocolate, extra virgin olive oil, tea and coffee even count towards your 30 plant points per week.

How to hit 30 per week

Many people struggle to reach their 5-a-day and may feel daunted at the prospect of 30. However, once you understand the amount and variety of plant foods that count towards the 30 per week, it will feel much easier to achieve.

What counts exactly?

  • Fruit and vegetables: Each different fruit and vegetable counts as 1 point. Different varieties count as separate points, e.g. cherry tomatoes are different to beef tomatoes. However, if you had a banana on Monday and Tuesday, it still counts as 1 plant point that week.
  • Wholegrains: All whole grains count as 1 point. White pasta, bread or rice are not included due to the processing they undergo that strips them of many of their nutritional properties.
  • Beans and pulses: Different kinds of beans, peas and lentils each count as 1 plant point.
  • Nuts and seeds: All nuts and seeds, e.g. almonds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc. each count as 1 plant point.
  • Herbs and spices: Due to the small quantities we tend to eat, each different herb and spice counts as ¼ of a plant point. If you include 4 different herbs and spices in a meal, you will have 1 full plant point.
  • Dark chocolate: Minimally processed dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cocoa counts as a plant, however, it’s still important to enjoy chocolate in moderation.
  • Tea and coffee: Tea and freshly ground, instant or decaf coffee all count as ¼ of a plant point.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: As with tea and coffee, extra virgin olive oil counts as ¼ of a plant point.

Here are 8 tips to get you started

  1. There are no exact serving sizes for any plant point. However, remember that a portion of fruit and/or vegetables for 5-a-day is roughly 80g.
  2. Different colours of the same vegetables count as separate points. For example, red, green, and yellow bell peppers count as three different plants.
  3. Be wise about your snacks, for example, choosing mixed nuts instead of one type of nut will give you more plant points. A bag of mixed nuts often contains 4-5 plant points per portion. The same counts for beans - a tin of mixed beans will reap more plant points than a tin of one type of bean.
  4. Sneaking greens into your meals - whether it be in a soup, smoothie or curry - will help to increase your plant points and also offer an array of nutritional benefits.
  5. Swapping out your usual whole grain, whether it be rice or pasta, for something different like bulgur wheat or quinoa, will increase your plant points.
  6. Experiment with toppings on yoghurts and other breakfasts or desserts. You can add nuts, seeds or mixed fruit and increase your plant point intake.
  7. Try different types of pastas – in most major supermarkets you can now find lentil, buckwheat and even pea-based pastas.
  8. Freeze your fruit and vegetables to add to dishes at a later stage. Stocking up on a variety of produce can be pricey. Tinned, dried and frozen fruit and vegetables still count as a plant point. You can buy them frozen, or freeze your leftovers to use again.

While gut health is not as straightforward as focusing on a single number, aiming to exceed 30 plant points a week can be a great motivation to diversify your diet with a range of research-backed benefits. If the number 30 feels daunting, start with small dietary tweaks and inclusions and gradually build up your target using the tips in this blog. Remember, as with everything in nutrition, focus on improvement and not perfection.


American Gut: an Open Platform for Citizen Science Microbiome Research | mSystems
Health Benefits and Side Effects of Short-Chain Fatty Acids - PMC.
Microbiome connections with host metabolism and habitual diet from 1,098 deeplyphenotyped individuals | Nature Medicine
The gut microbiome of healthy long-living people - PMC
The influence of diet on the gut microbiota and its consequences for health