Think, Eat, Be Healthy

The Importance of Variety In A Healthy Diet

red onion, allium, garlic, tomato, sweet potato, artichoke, zuchini squash, yellow crookneck squash, turnip, eggplant, cucumber

A variety of vegetables that changes from day to day, week to week and month to month is best for overall health.

One of the dietary themes I stress is the importance of variety in the foods we eat. This means eating a variety of fresh whole vegetables, a variety of fresh whole fruits, a variety of fresh and dried herbs and spices, a variety of nuts and dried beans and a variety of beverages. A varied diet also ties in with my second most important dietary theme of moderation. If we consistently eat a wide variety of foods, we are less likely to eat too much of and become too dependent upon any one food. Including as broad a range of foods as possible in our diet also makes that diet more sustainable in the long term – we won’t get bored after a few months of eating the same vegetables and meats over and over. Other advantages of variety in a healthy whole food diet are:

*The more varied the foods in a diet are, the more likely that enough of all necessary nutrients for optimum health will be included in that diet.

*Variety increases the synergy among dietary nutrients, increasing overall absorption and utilization of those nutrients.

*A varied diet increases our exposure to a wider range of soil and other microbes, increasing the health and variety of our own gut microbial population and decreasing allergic tendencies.

oregano, greek oregano, herbs, fresh herbs, parsley, flat leaf parsley, orange mint, peppermint, fennel, rosemary, thyme, basil, sweet basil

Strive to increase the variety of all whole foods in the diet, including fresh and dried herbs.

I think it is very important not to depend too much on a small group of foods. There are a few whole foods like fresh ginger root, green tea, black pepper, fresh turmeric and raw unfiltered honey that I eat nearly every day. These staples are supported by an ever changing cast of vegetables, fruits, dried beans, fresh and dried herbs and spices, pastas, meats and dairy products from cows’, sheep’s and goats’ milk. There are really no foods that I eat every day and very few foods that I never eat at all.

lemon, blueberry, cherry, kiwi fruit, orange, peach, grapefruit, pear, star fruit, carambola, fresh whole fruit, fresh fruit

Fresh fruits are just as important to a healthy whole food diet as vegetables.

Every family of plants, such as the brassicas and the alliums, usually contain the same grouping of nutrients. But each individual member within the family will have its own particular amounts of each nutrient. If you want to get the full health benefits of eating brassicas, don’t just eat broccoli every single day but also eat Brussels sprouts, cabbage, mustard greens and horseradish root. Eating only onions from the allium family is not as good as also including garlic, leeks and shallots in the diet.

garbanzo beans, chick peas, dried beans, legumes, green split peas, split peas, anasazi beans, steuben yellow eyed peas, black eyed peas, black turtle beans, black beans, navy beans, white beans, great northern beans, lentils

The dried beans are an important source of dietary protein and fiber as well as minerals and other necessary nutrients.

My personal experience has been that the more different foods I make part of my regular diet, the more likely I am to try and to like a new food when I find it. Every new food added to any diet brings with it the possibility of providing the nutrients or synergy needed for our bodies to be their best. I don’t feel that extra vitamins, extra minerals, extra anti-inflammatory agents or other nutrients can ever cause harm in the amounts eaten as part of a healthy whole food diet and are only likely to make things better.

cinnamon, cinnamon stick, spices, whole spices, cumin, cumin seed, whole cumin seed, horseradish, horseradish root, whole fresh horseradish root, coriander, coriander seed, whole coriander seed, turmeric, turmeric root, fresh turmeric root, star anise, black pepper, black pepprecorns, whole black peppercorns, mustard, mustard seed, whole mustard seed, ginger, fresh ginger root, ginger root

Spices tend to be a good source of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant compounds and also vitamins and other nutrients.