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This 30 Plants a Week Hack Helped One Woman Lose 227 lbs — How It Can Work for You

“I’m pain-free and have so much stamina … and it feels easy!” — Vicki Sheerin

Fed up with diets but still wish you were at a healthier weight? Here’s an amazing hack to try: Eat 30 plants a week. Turns out, that’s all it takes to radically improve your microbiome, the collection of 100 trillion microbes that call your body home. Current research, including some on identical twins, “shows that the microbiome plays the biggest role in determining the number on the scale—bigger than carb intake, exercise or even calories,” says nutrition expert Stephen Perrine, author of The Full-Body Fat Fix.

Perrine adds that this variety-focused version of a plant-based diet (which, by the way, doesn’t exclude animal-based food) boosts the microbiome very quickly, triggering rapid changes in bloat, energy, fat burn and overall health. Florida mom Vicki Sheerin says increasing the variety of plants she eats was the key that allowed her to drop 227 pounds. Keep reading to learn how you can use this twist on a plant-based diet to meet your health goals. 

Why your microbiome is important

While your microbiome is invisible to the naked eye, “it contains 70 to 90 percent of the cells in your body. Just 10 to 30 percent of the cells in your body are actually human,” says Perrine. So it’s no wonder the microbiome exerts a powerful influence. Our bodies rely on it for help with “everything from digestion and immunity to regulating weight, mood and inflammation.”

What makes one microbiome healthier than another? It’s all about the quality, quantity and diversity of microbes. To get more and better microbes, we need to consume a wide variety of the plant fiber and antioxidants that make beneficial microbes thrive. “We’re still not sure why, but people with the healthiest microbiomes eat at least 30 different plants a week,” shares Perrine, noting this was one of the first discoveries of UC San Diego’s American Gut Project, a huge database of microbes and health info helping scientists learn how to build the best microbiome.

Related: Taking Care of Your Gut Boosts Immunity, Clears Your Skin, and Improves Your Mood

The research behind 30 plants a week

To prove varied diets make a big difference for our microbiomes and waists, scientists compared Californians eating a typical low-plant, processed American diet to the Hadza tribespeople from Tanzania who eat over 600 unprocessed plants and animal foods a year. The California group had 277 types of gut microbes; the Hadza group had 730 types. Women in both groups burned the same calories through exercise, yet the Californians had 38% body fat and the Hadzas just 21%.

Translation: The more variety you get, the lower your body fat automatically goes. “It can be as simple as buying fruit salad instead of apples, mixed nuts instead of almonds,” says Perrine. “Have fun with it!”

Related: Drop 39 Pounds in 14 Days With This Special ‘Points System’ Diet

How 30 plants a week boosts weight loss

1. Inflammation reverses

We hear a lot these days about how processed diets cause inflammation that makes us achy, foggy and prone to disease. More surprising: Inflamed tissues release chemicals that block weight loss, says Perrine. These chemicals make it hard for blood sugar to be burned for energy — so energy falls, sugar is stored as fat and we inch toward type 2 diabetes. The same chemicals also keep the hormone leptin from killing hunger.

The good news? “A healthy microbiome is the master controller of inflammation.” Its microbes produce special cells that literally reverse inflammation, per a Columbia University team. Eat 30 plants a week, improve your microbiome and watch your well-being soar as unwanted fat finally disappears.

Related: Eating Like This Is a Natural Way to Reduce Painful Arthritis Symptoms, Study Finds

2. Lots of calories don’t count

Lab tests show that microbes actually consume calories. If you have a robust microbiome, “you lose as much as 400 calories per day to belly bugs,” notes Perrine. That’s enough to help you shed an extra pound a week.

3. Fat burning increases

A healthy microbiome “protects calorie-burning muscle,” says Perrine. How? Harvard researchers found that microbes help produce special compounds that repair and build muscles. Bonus: The same compounds also heal damage in the liver that slows fat burning.

30 plants a week success story: Dr. Gloria Crosslin, 64

“My wake-up call came when my cardiologist told me my heart function had decreased to only 44%,” remembers Dr. Gloria Crosslin, an on-air personality for a Washington, D.C.–area TV station. “I knew I had to make a change.” She switched to a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet focused on plants. Gloria had a blast experimenting with smoothies, giant salads and roasted veggies with a variety of seasonings. For snacks, she’d reach for an assortment of fruit and nuts. How did her body respond? In one week, she shed 10 pounds and already felt good enough to add exercise.

As Gloria continued to eat a variety of plants (along with unprocessed animal foods), her desire for junk disappeared. Over two years, she dropped 140 pounds. “I’m off all medications, my heart is great, and I even won the Ms. Virginia Senior World pageant.” Adds Gloria, 64: “The more plants you eat, the better!”

30 plants a week before and after: Vicki Sheerin, 40

Before and after photos of Vicki Sheeren who lost 227 lbs with the help of 30 plants a week
Krystal Radlinski/Verve Studio

Despite a lifetime of punishing crash diets, Vicki Sheerin hit 397 pounds. “I was so inflamed, it hurt to move,” recalls the Florida widow, 40. Seeking a way to feel better, “I got intrigued by how people eat in ‘Blue Zones’ to live long and healthy lives.” She gradually transitioned to a Mediterranean-style diet built around lots of plants. From apricots and black beans to walnuts and zucchini, she crammed her meals with good stuff. “Without even being strict the first month, I lost 35 pounds and my cravings for sweets and processed food were gone.” It allowed her to incorporate intermittent fasting into her routine (a strategy that has also been shown to help strengthen the microbiome).

As her journey continued, she began to crave healthy dishes like coconut curry with 15 plants per serving. “My kids joke that I take long romantic walks through the produce section,” she shares. In 21 months, she was down 227 pounds from her all-time high. And all her inflammation was gone. “I’m pain-free and have so much stamina. I’ve been maintaining for four years — and it feels easy!”

Easy ways to eat 30 plants a week

Want to try the Full-Body Fat Fix approach? It’s easy! Simply skip processed food and aim to include as many different types of seeds, nuts, fruits, leaves, roots and stems possible. You should also include 25–30 grams of protein and breakfast. Small amounts of animal products are fine if desired. We’ve got plant-crammed ideas to inspire you below.

Sample breakfast: Loaded smoothie bowl

plant based diet: Close up of healthy breakfast with acai bowl, fresh berries and fruits
Alexander Spatari/Getty

Blitz 1 cup any frozen fruit blend, 1 ripe banana, ½ cup plant protein powder, 1½ cups nut milk, 1 Tbs. nut/seeds and dash spice.

Sample lunch: Loaded spring salad

plant based diet: Salad with quinoa, rucola, avocado, radish, strawberries, fetacheese, peas
lacaosa/Getty

Extras like avocado, berries, green peas and quinoa add variety to a traditional salad while making it fun and extra filling

Sample dinner: Loaded veggie pizza

plant based diet: Cauliflower pizza crust with tomato and spinach. toning. selective focus
nata_vkusidey/Getty

Bake up a cauliflower pizza crust topped with pizza sauce, optional cheese and lots of veggie toppings.

Bonus recipe: Easy red sauce with 12 plants per serving

plant based diet: Homemade red tomato sauce with garlic and basil in a wooden bowl closeup. horizontal
ALLEKO/Getty

This delicious recipe would be perfect over chickpea pasta

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. frozen mirepoix blend (a mix of carrots, onions and celery)
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 Tbs. oregano
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 1 cup mushrooms, diced
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 2 cups chopped spinach
  • 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  •  2 Tbs. tomato paste

Instructions:

  1. In pot, sauté seasoning blend, garlic, oregano and salt to taste, 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in zucchini, mushroom, carrots and spinach until soft. Stir in remaining ingredients and ½ cup water; boil.
  3. Lower heat and simmer 15 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender.

Serves 8.


Click through for more on the benefits of plant-based eating:

Plant-Based Protein: 6 Types and Top Benefits of Plant Protein

This Genius 50-50 Plate Hack Is Helping Women Lose Weight Effortlessly

New Science Reveals That Simply Adding Two More Servings of Veggies a Day Can Powerfully Speed Weight Loss

New Twist on Whole30 Is Helping Women Lower Cholesterol, Eliminate Pain & Lose Serious Weight

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