Fans of five-time Grammy Award-winning musical artist Jon Batiste learned a little more about his personal life through the recent Netflix documentary American Symphony.
The film showcased the dichotomy of a pivotal year in the 37-year-old’s life when he rose to new heights in his musical career while supporting his wife Suleika Jaouad’s second battle with leukemia.
Viewers were able to see that Batiste—the former bandleader of The Tonight Show’s Stay Human—has led a high-energy life with many peaks and valleys, and always a deep purpose. How does the New Orleans-born singer, songwriter, and composer keep himself fueled through it all? It turns out, plenty of plant-based foods.
Jon Batiste’s plant-heavy diet
Batiste recently revealed his dietary preferences in an interview with Men’s Health and he spoke candidly about the foods he enjoys most—and their value in supporting his busy lifestyle.
When it comes to staples, Batiste says hydration is key and keeps plenty of coconut water in his fridge. He loves kimchi for gut health and, relatably, keeps an avocado on hand at all times.
“This is a staple for any kind of healthy people out there,” Batiste said in the interview. He’s also a fan of heat and keeps plenty of peppers and hot sauces in the fridge.
“I like to have some sort of non-dairy yogurt or kefir,” Batiste said, explaining that he loves yogurt, topped with honey and berries in the morning to “get yourself settled on a nice baseline.”
When it comes to his overall diet, Batiste explains that he changed the way he eats to fit his busy lifestyle at the age of 17. “I like to have things that just settle my stomach and help me to move,” Batiste said. “You know I’m always on the move.”
Batiste loves rice and pasta or “any kind of carbohydrates like that as the base of a meal.”
When asked about the weirdest diet he has tried, he instantly pointed to his childhood diet in New Orleans for its innovative combination of flavors. Batiste still enjoys those flavors but has modified them to fit his lifestyle.
“There are New Orleans foods that I cook and make new, healthier versions of that remind me of home and childhood but, you change things,” he said.
What are some of these swaps? He likes to use brown rice instead of white in the classic red beans and rice preparation for a little more fiber. Regarding dishes that call for sausages, he opts to swap alternative proteins that hit the same notes.
“It creates a sense of nostalgia of home but it also fits my lifestyle better,” Batiste says.
Batiste lives with his wife in Brooklyn, NY, which he says is an exciting place to be when it comes to food options and flavor fusions. “There’s also a lot of healthy restaurants around here,” Batiste, adding that New York City is vibrant and fast-moving yet still a place where health is a priority.
Batiste’s tips for a good vegan breakfast
When it comes to specific meals during the day, Batiste likes to think of breakfast as a time to consume good energy. Because his call times are often early—5am or 6am—he says he wants “something that is sturdy and sets you off in the right direction.”
What does that look like in a meal? Batiste showed off a colorful spread laid out in his kitchen, with bright juices, fruit, and vegetables.
“Grab you a coconut water and some overnight oats in a mason jar, you’ve got breakfast in two minutes and then you’re gone and solid until lunchtime,” he said. “Bang for your buck, baby. C’mon. You’ll get a lot from this food.”
So does Batiste follow a fully plant-based diet?
“I’m not so strictly vegan,” he said. “But for the things that work with my body, it tends to fall in that category.”
He shows off more of the spread, which includes a raw vegan pizza topped with shiitake mushrooms, onions, and a sprinkle of hemp seeds. “Now the hemp seeds is really something you can take into anything that you’re doing,” he said, suggesting a little sprinkle on rice, pizzas, and smoothies.
“You can sprinkle it in these ways and get so much impact from it,” Batiste says.
As he mentioned, Batiste does not follow a strictly plant-based diet, naming turkey bacon as his favorite protein, However, when asked about his favorite comfort food, he excitedly names a raw, vegan apple tart.
“When you grow up and you like apple pies and apple in any kind of sweet, and you get a version of it that’s vegan and still a tasty version—which I didn’t think was possible—I like that a lot,” Batiste said.
While the vegan spread was prepared professionally for the cameras, Batiste divulged that he loves to cook.
“It’s one of those things that gives me a sense of therapy, self-care, and thinking about how I’m doing about my body and feeding my family,” he said. “I just like that practice.”
Vegan food for gut health
From his morning non-dairy yogurt to his raw vegan apple tarts, Batiste focuses a lot on keeping his gut healthy. And he’s right, a lot of gut-healthy foods do fall into the vegan category.
The connection between a plant-based diet and gut health is strongly supported by numerous studies, indicating that foods commonly found in vegan diets are beneficial for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.
Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickled vegetables, which are rich in beneficial bacteria that contribute to a healthy gut. A study published in the journal Gut Microbiome highlighted that lacto-fermented vegetables, which exclude dairy ferments, stimulate the growth of probiotic bacteria and fungi in the gut and increase the production of short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate and propionate, which have positive effects on gut health.
Swapping animal meats with alternative proteins is also a good practice for gut health. Mycoprotein, or mushroom meat, has been shown to be as effective as animal protein in supporting muscle building and improving gut health. Additionally, plant-based meats have been found to increase levels of health-promoting gut bacteria. These foods are especially rich in fiber, which is essential for gut health.
Other gut-health promoting foods? Dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, leeks, and onions are particularly high in prebiotics. A high intake of these vegetables has been linked to improved blood glucose regulation, enhanced mineral absorption, and better digestive and immune function.
Batiste is part of a growing number of musical artists who are choosing plant-based foods for optimal gut health and to keep them in top-performing shape. Others who follow a similar dietary pattern are Metallica, Cher, and Lenny Kravitz (who has been vegan since 2016).