Think back to the last meal you ate. How many times have you eaten that same meal? Do you ever wish you could step out of your comfort zone and try new foods? What’s holding you back? EatLove has an extensive database of recipes so it’s easy to find something you’ve never tried before!
What Is Dietary Variety?
There are a few different definitions of “dietary variety.” For our purposes, we’ll define dietary variety as consuming a mix of different whole foods from the main food groups: fruit, vegetable, grain, protein, and dairy. Within each food group, there are tons of different options to choose from. Vegetables can range from dark, leafy greens such as kale to bright orange squashes such as butternut squash. Different foods have different vitamin and mineral contents and eating all of your vitamins/minerals is important for your health!
Dietary variety can also be defined as eating foods not limited to the main food groups. When you have a varied diet in the form of consuming a wide range of processed foods, refined grains, and sugar-sweetened beverages, this does not translate to better health outcomes, which is important to keep in mind (1).
Why Does Variety Matter?
Whole food dietary variety is important to get a variety of nutrients. If you’re eating the same few foods every day, it’s possible to “miss out” on certain nutrients. For instance, if you’re eating white bread as your main grain source, you may not be getting as much fiber and B vitamins compared to if you’re eating whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains. You can improve the nutritional quality of your diet by eating a wide variety of whole foods.
Additionally, research has shown that dietary variety was inversely correlated with body fat, which roughly translates to lower body fat with more dietary variety (2). Dietary variety has also been associated with lower risk of chronic diet-related diseases, such as hypertension and metabolic syndrome (3).
Eating different foods keeps things exciting — especially if you’re eating towards a certain health goal. By eating and enjoying a wide range of foods, you can develop a greater appreciation for food as more than just a fuel source.
Nutrients and Phytochemicals
Eating a variety of foods can also help you obtain nutrients from your food, including macronutrients, micronutrients, and phytochemicals. We talked about macronutrients and micronutrients in our nutrition 101 article. But have you heard about phytochemicals?
Phytochemicals are compounds found specifically in plant products and they have lots of different health benefits. There are thousands of different phytochemicals, but an example of a more well-known group is carotenoids, which may prevent cancer cell growth and heart disease (4). To get as many of these beneficial phytochemicals into your diet, start by eating a diverse range of plant-based foods!
Tips to Add Dietary Variety
· Try buying a new fruit or veggie at a farmer’s market
· Sign up for a cooking class to learn something new
· Have a potluck with friends
· Try a new recipe from a different cuisine (Psst: EatLove makes this easy with our advanced recipe search. You can search for foods in specific cuisines.)
· Add different colors to your plate
ASK YOURSELF THIS:
How often do you change up the meals that you cook? Do you find yourself eating the same thing most days? How do you feel about that?
Try cooking one new thing this week — a new recipe, cuisine, or even a new ingredient or spice! Use EatLove’s recipe database for inspiration. Our Recipe Search allows you to search for foods that fit your tastes and preferences, making it easy to try something new.