42 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY January 25-31, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com Everybody poops, as a popular kids book opines, and as it turns out, poop is a key to understanding just how healthy we are—or not. A large-scale study published in 2019 called “The British & American Gut Project” analyzed over 10,000 samples of people’s poop and found that fiber is important, as has been long known. But the variety of fiber is perhaps even more important. The larger variety of plants people eat—fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, herbs and spices—the healthier their guts, which leads to better health overall. Queue the rush to popularize a scientific conclusion and turn it into a wealth of articles, books and eating plans. Search “eat 30 plants a week” and up pops a long list of articles like “Supercharge Your Gut! The Eat 30 Plant Food Challenge,” and “Plant Points: How to Eat 30 a Week and Why.” It’s been called one of the biggest health trends of 2024, and it sounds daunting at first. “My god, I can’t get my patients to eat five plants a day,” Dr. Joanna Oppenheim, medical director of the Lifestyle and Metabolic Program at Salinas Valley Health, remembers thinking. Eating a wide variety of plants helps feed the trillions of bacteria in the gut, which aids digestion and strengthens the immune system. “We call it the microbiota, which is slang for everything in your large intestine,” Oppenheim says. “The healthier the microbiota, the healthier the person is.” Not just physically, but mentally as well. Eating more plants means consuming more fiber, Oppenheim says, and she’s a big fan. “Fiber is the fuel for your microbiota. If your microbiota is more fed, that in turn will improve your immunity, your hunger balance and your overall health.” Unfortunately, fiber is what most adults and children lack. The goal is consuming 30 grams of fiber a day, but according to the American Heart Association, the average American only consumes half that. If everyone in the country consumed 30 grams a day, “100 percent of the population would be healthier,” Oppenheim says. Another reason Oppenheim is a big fan of fiber is because it requires a lot of work to digest by the gastrointestinal tract. The result is the food stays in your gut longer, which makes you feel fuller longer. That in turn could lead to weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight. In addition, because fiber isn’t fully digested, it helps clean things out. “It’s like a Brillo Pad, it’s scrubbing your intestines,” Oppenheim says. “It will keep the inside linings of your intestines really, really clean.” Studies have shown that consuming an adequate amount of fiber can prevent colon cancer and other ailments. “Fiber is completely underrated in my opinion,” she says. Getting more fiber can be done easily by eating high-fiber plant foods like beans and legumes, Oppenheim says. “They are a big bang for your buck,” she says. A cup of cooked lentils contain 15 grams of fiber, half of the daily requirement. Putting lentils on a salad can instantly boost how much fiber you’re eating. A cup of homemade, cooked oatmeal with a cup of berries can yield around 10 grams of fiber—add nuts or seeds for more fiber and protein. A handful (say, 23) of almonds as a snack equals around 6 grams of fiber. “It’s not that hard if you’re thoughtful about it,” Oppenheim says. To increase the variety of fiber— achieving those 30 plants a week—the doctor suggests tallying the number of plants you’re already eating and then aim for adding one to two new plants a week. For more ideas of different plants to eat, take a look at frozen foods and vegetables. They’re frozen at their peak, won’t spoil quickly like fresh produce and are relatively inexpensive. It’s a good way to try new foods, Oppenheim says. People already eating a plantbased diet may have an advantage, but remember, not all plant-based foods are equal. “An Oreo is plant-based,” Oppenheim points out. The cookie has zero fiber, and is loaded with sugar and additives. “It’s really important to understand that a fundamental part of health is actually very easy,” Oppenheim says. “Eat real food, food that hasn’t been created in a factory.” First course Dr. Joanna Oppenheim encourages her patients to make the vast majority of their diet “real food” that hasn’t been processed in a factory. It’s the best food for a healthy gut. Return of the Crabs…Crab season has officially begun. The season was delayed to protect the lingering whale populations in the area, but conditions have changed—for more, see story at mcweekly.com/food_wine. Local crab should now be available at all your favorite seafood locations. Deli Drive-Thru…Temple Beth El’s 68th annual Kosher-style lunch event takes place Thursday-Friday, Feb. 8-9. Pick up a deli pack with all the essentials for a lunch of about four servings. Each pack ($39) contains a pound of pastrami or corned beef, a loaf of rye bread, pickles, salad and chocolate cake. Yes, they bring in the goods from the East Coast. Order in advance to pick up in Salinas (at Temple Beth El, 1212 Riker St.) or Monterey (at First Presbyterian Church, 501 El Dorado St.). 424-9151, templebethelsalinas.org. Sweet Sixteen…Coffee Mia is celebrating 16 years in operation with a “Sweet Sixteen”-themed soiree from 10am to 2pm on Sunday, Jan. 28. There will be celebratory cake and coffee, and giveaways throughout the day at this locals’ gathering place. 250 Reservation Road, Marina. 384-0148, cafemiabrewbarandbistro.com. National Croissant Day… Tuesday, Jan. 30 is National Croissant Day. This sounds like a delicious excuse for a holiday and Cafe Carmel will be celebrating with a Croissant Bonanza, offering a variety of croissants—plain, almond and chocolate—at a special price. Buy three and get a fourth free. Ocean Avenue and Mission Street, Carmel. 624-3870, cafecarmel.com. More Time For Meat…The Meatery has extended its business hours. In addition to adding a whole new day of operation—Wednesdays—the gourmet butcher and sandwich shop is also now open from 10am to 6pm. 1534 Fremont Blvd., Seaside. 656-8810, themeateryseaside.com. Plant Knowledge… If you want to learn more about plant-based eating (start with the story at left), Pilgrim’s Way Books hosts a useful (and delicious) event on Friday, Jan. 26. From 6-7:30pm Kristen Tarman shares her knowledge on the subject, including ideas on where to shop and dine. Tickets ($35) include plant-based snacks and a $10 book credit. RSVP to cynthia@pilgrimsway.com. Dolores Street between 5th and 6th, Carmel. 6244955, pilgrimsway.com. By Jacqueline Weixel morsels Send a bite to eatanddrink@mcweekly.com “Eat real food.” Eat + DrinK Daniel Dreifuss Plant Power Eating 30 plants a week for gut health is easier than it sounds. By Pam Marino HEALTH & FITNESS