Some people may find comfort in this routine. Others would find themselves in the uncomfortable and frustrating situation of feeling "stuck in a rut."
A few years ago, we ran across someone who literally ate the same thing every day. Lunch was six slices of bread, mayo and turkey slices (yes, 3 sandwiches for lunch every day). The process to put these sandwiches together was a repetitive well-oiled machine, and he could do it with his eyes closed. Dinner was a couple of packets of instant oatmeal. He never wavered. Ever. When we asked him why, he said, "It's easy, and I never have to think about what I am going to eat."
This is a true story -- we DID NOT make this up!
We have also known people who decide to eat healthy, and every meal includes brown rice, broccoli and chicken (or maybe some salmon once in a while for "variety").
So, we are curious what you think...does variety matter?
The correct answer is "YES!" - as long as the variety you are getting is a wide range of REAL food (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and lean meats).
And, if someone says, "I don't eat the same thing every morning. Some mornings I have a muffin, other mornings a donut and sometimes I grab a pastry." Guess what? They ARE eating the same thing every morning...these ingredients are the same (primarily refined flour, sugar, butter, and oil) - they are just packaged differently in this seemingly "variety" of breakfast items.
So, when we say "variety matters," we are talking about a wide variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Of course, vegetables like mushrooms and cauliflower count too, even though they aren't so vibrantly colorful.
One study evaluated the relationship between the dietary diversity and mortality in an adult Mediterranean population. The participants with the highest dietary diversity, particularly in vegetables, showed 32% and 45% less risk of death for all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality (compared to those with the least diversity in their diets).
Why does variety matter?
Like each one of us is created uniquely, each food is created with its own unique "personality."
For example, tomatoes are loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin E and antioxidants (especially lycopene). Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are a Vitamin A powerhouse, and are also one of the best sources of beta-carotene (a powerful antioxidant).
Even different varieties of the same food have a unique package of nutrients.
Take grapes, for example. All grapes contain their own sets of antioxidants. Red and black grapes contain higher levels of the powerful antioxidant resveratrol, which works as an anti-inflammatory and helps prevents cardiovascular disease, while green grapes contain catechins, which provide numerous benefits including promoting a healthy gut.
Think about each of us. When we are trying to solve big problems or pursue big opportunities, we know we can get the best results when we have a diverse group of people working together. Each person brings their unique package (personality, background and experiences) to help the team achieve significantly better outcomes than one or two people working on their own.
Food is the same way...the more diversity, the better!
Each food brings its unique package of nutrients to help us achieve better health than eating the same one or two foods all the time. Fruits and vegetables literally have thousands of different nutritional compounds. It is impossible to understand exactly how they work in different combinations, but it is clear that the more diversity and variety, the better! And, your gut will be much healthier with a more diverse diet, especially with a strong emphasis on plants.
What are the pros and cons of eating the same foods over and over again?
For our friend who ate his three sandwiches every day for lunch and oatmeal every night for dinner, he is right, it is super-convenient. He doesn't have to do any meal-planning. His trips to the store are a piece of cake. Heck, he could probably set up a recurring pickup or delivery and never even have to step foot in the store. And there is no thought or brain power required to decide what he wants to eat.
Of course, there are several disadvantages to this approach. We have already talked about the health reasons why a more diverse diet, especially focused on a wide variety of REAL food, would be better. Of course, the other big disadvantage is BOREDOM!
Let's face it, the food we eat should bring joy to our lives! If we view eating as simply a way to ingest calories to provide energy for our bodies and keep us going, we are missing out on one of the greatest joys in life! Eating a wide variety of REAL food, especially focusing on eating with the seasons, can truly be life-changing. We have seen it first-hand with so many Eat REAL America members - they have found so much more joy from their meals and have dramatically improved their health at the same time!
We have a challenge for you!
It probably won't surprise you that most of the vegetables consumed in the U.S. consist of fresh and frozen potatoes (French fries of course!) and canned tomatoes. Most of the fruits consumed in the U.S. consist of apples and apple juice, orange juice, bananas, grapes and watermelon.
We challenge you, for the month of July (and hopefully longer), to pick one or two "vegetables of the week" and "fruits of the week" and make a conscious effort to enjoy them throughout the week.
By the end of July, our hope is you will have significantly increased your dietary diversity, improved your health and enjoyed some amazing meals all at the same time!
In case you need some inspiration, here are some foods you can try:
Remember, you can type any of these in the search bar on the website and find some great-tasting ideas!
Give it a try for July and please keep us posted on your progress!