Monthly Archives: July 2013

How Many Plants Do You Eat in a Day?

I once read somewhere that the Japanese try for a minimum number of plants every day in their diet for best health. The number was quite high, thirty I think. But last night as sleep was approaching, I wondered how many different plants I ate that day. The question and answer came after the fact, I did not plan to try to maximize variety, but it sorta happened anyway.

What I Counted:

Every different fruit, vegetable, herb, spice, grain, and legume.

What I Didn’t Count:

Blends, like the Vegan protein powder I add to my oats, curry powder, kimchi, and lemon juice.


  1. Oats
  2. Maca
  3. Cacao
  4. Goji berries
  5. Cranberries
  6. Blueberries
  7. Apricot
  8. Chia seeds
  9. Cinnamon
  10. Cloves


  1. Wheat (tortilla)
  2. Purple potato
  3. Purple cabbage
  4. Purple onions
  5. Cilantro
  6. Jalapeno
  7. Mayacoba beans


  1. Rice
  2. Red lentils
  3. Garbanzos
  4. Spinach
  5. Broccoli
  6. Tomato
  7. Poblano
  8. Ginger

There you go. Minimum 25 different plants. I wasn’t really trying, but I did create a new recipe, the lunch burrito, and I was trying to clean out the refrigerator. Some lunch plants reappeared at dinner, but overall, the variety was there.

So how important is variety?

Many of us, myself included subscribe to the “more is better” mentality. If a few plants are good, more is better, right? All those plants have a different blend of nutrients, right? More is better, right?

Maybe, maybe not

Globally, many long lived, healthy cultures ate relatively few foods. The Tarahumara got 90% of their calories from two foods: Corn and beans. The Okinawans got 70+% of their calories from sweet potatoes. Ditto for Papua New Guinea. But that’s calories. Many vegetables, herbs and spices are very low in calories but could contribute a lot of nutrients.

The Final Call?

Variety can be valuable, but we probably don’t have to obsess over it. Instead, like Dr. Joel Fuhrman says, we should feel grateful to be blessed with a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, herbs and spices, never before witnessed. If it’s a culinary plant, it’s got value, so eat what you enjoy.