Have you ever wondered why variety in the diet is beneficial and just how much variety you should aim to have in your diet?
The link between the food we eat and our health is apparent: low-quality, nondiverse diets are responsible for the greatest burden of disease worldwide. Several studies have reported lower mortality and chronic disease rates among participants with higher between food group diversity, within specific food group richness (e.g., fruit and vegetables), and food item variety.
Yet, the food system is the primary driver of system food diversity loss. At present, rapid socioeconomic, demographic, and technological transitions, coupled with agricultural policies skewed toward a narrow range of staple crops, crop varieties, and animal species are driving a progressive homogeneity of human diets. Furthermore, the global food systems are mainly focused on cheap calories and energy-density rather than nutrients.
Food diversity is defined as the variety of plants, animals, and other organisms (e.g., fungi and yeast cultures) that are used as food and drink, both cultivated and from the wild. It is up to us to make those dietary choices each day; some of us naturally include a wide range of diverse food when choosing meals, but for many this isn’t the case, it is easy to fall into a trap of eating the same foods day in and day out.
Have you ever wondered why variety in the diet is beneficial?
1. To keep mealtimes fun and exciting
One of my favourite things about keeping variety in your diet is that boredom rarely happens. As well as trying new ingredients you will try different cuisines, different spices and different cooking methods, exciting!
2. For homeostasis
Choosing a diverse diet means you have continual access to a wide supply of vitamins and nutrients. If for some reason your supply of a particular nutrient is interrupted from one source, you have plenty of other sources from which to get that particular nutrient, making it easier to retain homeostasis.
3. For healthy gut
The gut microbiome is incredibly important to your overall health, and it is best to have a varied population. The best way to achieve this variety in the gut is to consume a diet filled with assorted foods.
4. For nutrition synergy
Nutrients require synergistic actions with each other to provide their beneficial effects. When you consume a variety of food, you gain from thousands of phytochemicals acting together to provide you with many advantages to your health. This is supported by research studies which look at individual nutrient supplementation which in some cases find the opposite effect. For example, one study found that vitamin E supplementation increased the risk of cancer, but Vitamin E in synergy with other nutrients is known to be cancer preventative.
5. For reduced inflammation
A variety of fruit and vegetable intake is inversely associated with lower amounts of the inflammatory biomarker. Because inflammation is associated with several chronic illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease, this is important for the prevention of chronic diseases.
6. For lower risk of food allergies and intolerances
When you eat the same food again and again, you increase your risk of developing a food intolerance or allergy to that food.
7. For earth system stability
Diets based on a wide diversity of (locally available, nonthreatened) species exert lower pressure on single species, hence increasing Earth system stability, resilience, ecosystem services, and enhanced productivity of natural and agricultural systems.