Contributor: Brigid Titgemeier, MS, RDN, LD
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Have you ever noticed that your grocery list and your meal prep look the same every week? Some research does suggest that a lack of variety may help you stay on track with your diet.
But if you’re eating the same grilled chicken salad every day, it tends to get real boring, real fast.
Add a little spark to your meal routine and you’ll avoid diet burnout. Slip a few new foods into your grocery cart every week to increase variety in your diet. Research shows that this not only makes your routine more exciting and fresh — it may also offer impressive nutritional benefits.
Here are 4 reasons to rotate your foods:
1. You’ll get more nutrients
You may miss out on different nutrients that different foods provide if you eat the same foods every day. For instance, cashews and pine nuts are a good source of magnesium. But if you don’t occasionally eat sunflower seeds and hazelnuts, too, you may be skimping on your vitamin E.
The same rule applies to foods’ color. Each color of the rainbow brings unique nutritional benefits, essential for optimal health. For example, green veggies and fruits provide you with lots of plant-based phytonutrients like chlorophyll. But you may lack the phytonutrients from red, orange, yellow, and blue/purple plant-based foods. Try new color variations: purple cauliflower, white asparagus, sweet potatoes, rainbow-colored carrots!
2. You may live longer
Eating a nutritious diet with a lot of variety may lower your risk of mortality. A 2002 study of 59,000 women found that those who rotated 16 to 17 healthy foods through their diet had a 42 percent lower mortality from all causes than those eating 0 to 8 healthy foods.
The researchers concluded that nutritious variety was as important — if not more so — than limiting unhealthy foods. So instead of only focusing on limiting inflammatory foods, be sure to increase the variety of nutrients in your diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, healthy fats and lean protein.
3. You’ll reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome
In a 2013 study, researchers compared two groups of men and women, ages 40 to 69. The first group incorporated a variety of foods into their diet (such as fish, seafood, vegetables, seaweed, fruits, nuts, etc.).
The second ate a limited diet with very little variety. The study found that those with more variety in their diet were at lower risk of metabolic syndrome. This syndrome, involving abdominal obesity, low HDL cholesterol and high fasting glucose levels, increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
4. You may start losing inches
Rotating foods and eating a varied diet also helps increase the diversity of good bacteria in your gut. Greater diversity in gut bacteria is associated not only with better overall health, but also with weight loss.
In a 2016 study, researchers analyzed stool samples from 1,300 twins in the United Kingdom. They found a link between bacterial diversity and markers for obesity and heart disease. Especially strong was the link between more dietary diversity and less abdominal fat.
The researchers also found that the twins’ parents passed on microbes that can increase risk for the belly fat linked to metabolic syndrome. All the more reason to add variety!
The easiest ways to add variety and rotate foods? Try one or two new recipes each week using new ingredients. And aim to eat all the colors of the rainbow at least once a day!