12 min read
Why Diet Diversity Is So Important
What is diet diversity and why is it important? Learn more as we dive into the benefits of a diverse diet, exploring our hunter-gatherer ancestors and how OLIPOP can help.
What Is Diet Diversity
Diet diversity involves eating a variety of different types of food with the goal of increasing your nutrient intake and improving your overall health. This public health recommendation was first introduced in the early 20th century as a way to reduce nutrient deficiencies.1
Variation is key to this dietary pattern, but what does a “variety of different types of food” really mean? There are several different ways we’ve measured diet diversity over the years:1
- The number of foods consumed: How many different types of food you’re eating in a given period. A diverse diet using this measurement would have a wide range of different types of food.
- Calorie distribution: How varied the calorie intake is of the foods you’re eating in a given period. A diverse diet using this measurement would have a higher diversity of high-calorie foods.
- Dietary quality: How many different types of high-quality or healthy food items you’re eating in a given period. A diverse diet using this measurement would feature a greater variety of healthy food items such as grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, etc.
According to the first form of measurement (number of foods consumed), you could have “diet diversity” by eating a variety of different types of processed or high-sugar foods.1 So although the first type of measurement is often used to describe diet diversity, it’s ultimately the third (dietary quality) that makes diet diversity a healthy dietary pattern.
How to Increase (Healthy) Diet Diversity
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the core elements of healthy diet diversity include:2
- Vegetables: dark leafy greens, beans, peas, lentils, and other vegetables
- Fruits: all fruits, especially whole fruits
- Grains: especially whole grains
- Dairy: fat-free and low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese or lactose-free alternatives
- Protein: lean meats, poultry, eggs, seafood, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds
- Oils: vegetable oils and oils in food such as seafood and nuts
To increase your healthy diet diversity, load up on a wide variety of these types of foods. And as you’re filling up your plate with these food items, make sure to limit or cut out the below:2
- Added sugars: Aim for less than 10% of calories per day, especially reducing your consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages
- Saturated fats: Aim for less than 10% of calories per day
- Sodium: Aim for less than 2,300 milligrams per day
- Alcohol: 2 drinks or less for men and 1 drink or less for women every day
Benefits of Diet Diversity
A diverse diet consisting of the different types of healthy foods mentioned above, while limiting those foods to avoid, can result in several health benefits:
Improved Gut Health
Your gut has its own mini-ecosystem consisting of a multi-trillion sized army of single-cell organisms that protect us against germs, break down our meals, release energy and produce vitamins. And just like any other ecosystem, it needs a healthy variety of species to survive.3
Research has found that individuals with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease often have lower microbiome biodiversity.3 This suggests that the inner workings of your gut have a pretty significant impact on your overall health.
A diet consisting of a diversity of healthy foods, especially foods from plants and animals, helps build a diverse microbiome.
Higher Macronutrient Intake
- Protein: Responsible for tissue maintenance, replacement, function, and growth
- Complex Carbohydrates: Responsible for energy production
- Healthy Fat: Responsible for energy, insulation, and vitamin absorption
You need all three for a healthy diet, and a diversity of food helps ensure you’re loading up on all these essential nutrients.
Higher Micronutrient Intake
Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function properly.4 Like macronutrients, a diverse diet helps ensure you’re not experiencing any deficiencies in these nutrients.
Water-soluble vitamins include:4
- Folic acid
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
Fat-soluble vitamins include:4
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Reduced Fiber Gap
Fiber is a healthy complex carbohydrate that your body cannot digest.5 As fiber passes through your body it helps aid in proper digestion, regulates your blood sugar levels, and keeps you feeling full for longer.6
The 2020-2025 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 22-28 grams of fiber for women and 28-34 grams of fiber for men per day. But more than 90% of American women and 97% of American men don’t get anywhere near that recommended amount.2 With a healthy diverse diet packed with high-fiber foods like these, you can help fix your fiber gap.
The Diet Diversity of Hunters and Gatherers
Fossils from Neanderthals and Paleolithic humans suggest that the diets from some of our early-day ancestors were incredibly diverse consisting of grains, wild grasses, starchy roots, plant foods, and game.7 And while it’s impossible to lump the diets of all hunter-gatherer societies together, most had a higher intake of micro and macronutrients compared to a typical modern-day diet.
While hunter-gatherer societies still exist today, thanks to modern-day food production most people rely on foods readily available for purchase, no hunting or foraging required. While this certainly has its benefits, it also has its downsides.
Compared to hunters and gatherers we often find ourselves trapped in unhealthy habitual eating patterns consisting of a small variety of foods.3 And for those without easy access to healthy food options, that diet diversity is even more limited.
While it might feel like we have more access to foods with modern-day food production, that’s not always the case. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, we've lost over 75% of plant genetic diversity since the 1900s as farms turn to more genetically uniform and high-yielding crops.8
As a result, instead of enjoying a variety of the over 250,000 known edible plants, most humans today are only consuming close to 150 to 2008. This limits our options for diet diversity, and as a result, the health benefits mentioned above.
OLIPOP and Diet Diversity
To maintain a healthy diverse diet today doesn’t mean you need to transition back to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Instead, the solution requires a more modern-day approach to the diet of our early-day ancestors.
This is how OLIPOP got its start. We knew that the average person today doesn’t have time to forage in the woods for berries and roots or seek out those 250,000 edible plants.
And while the problem of modern-day food diversity is bigger than a can of OLIPOP can solve, we believe the solution exists at the heart of our mission: breaking away from the norm with higher-quality ingredients. For example, when’s the last time you enjoyed marshmallow root or slippery elm bark? What about nopal cactus or calendula flower?
Our OLIPOP soda contains all of this and more (so much more!). Through a combination of plant fiber, prebiotics, and botanicals we’ve crafted a sweet and healthy soda that helps add diversity to the diet while feeding your hungry microbiome in the process. In other words, a modern-day soda designed to bring you the ingredients and benefits of an age-old diet.
Ready to give us a try? Order a 12-pack of one of our delicious and nutritious flavors online today. And check out our OLIPOP Digest to learn more about why OLIPOP is your healthier beverage alternative.
- de Oliveira Otto, M. C., Anderson, C. A., Dearborn, J. L., Ferranti, E. P., Mozaffarian, D., Rao, G., Wylie-Rosett, J., & Lichtenstein, A. H. (2018). Dietary Diversity: Implications for Obesity Prevention in Adult Populations: A Science Advisory From the American Heart Association. Circulation, 138(11). https://doi.org/10.1161/cir.0000000000000595
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, December). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025 (9th Edition). https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf
- Heiman, M. L., & Greenway, F. L. (2016). A healthy gastrointestinal microbiome is dependent on dietary diversity. Molecular Metabolism, 5(5), 317–320. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.molmet.2016.02.005
- What Are Macronutrients? (2021, June 2). WebMD. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/diet/what-are-macronutrients
- Fiber. (2019, October 28). Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Retrieved October 6, 2021, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/
- Carbohydrates: Types & Health Benefits. (2021, February 8). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved October 6, 2021, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15416-carbohydrates
- Pontzer, H., Wood, B. M., & Raichlen, D. A. (2018). Hunter-gatherers as models in public health. Obesity Reviews, 19, 24–35. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12785
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2004). Building on Gender, Agrobiodiversity and Local Knowledge. https://www.fao.org/3/y5609e/y5609e.pdf
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