Creating a vegetable garden is incredibly rewarding. The heightened culinary flavors alone are worth the effort, but in addition to having access to a surplus of delicious healthy foods, there are many other wonderful health benefits that the whole family can enjoy.
Vegetables grown in a personal garden have a far superior nutrient profile than those purchased from a grocery store. Many vitamins and minerals enter the edible part of the plant during the ripening process. Unfortunately, many foods sold commercially are picked before they are ripe, and haven’t reached their full nutrient potential. Growing your own allows you to eat far more nutritionally dense vegetables that also come packed with flavour! Certain foods can be chosen for the garden based on their individual nutrient profiles. For example, tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C, potassium, folate, Vitamin K, and the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Zucchinis are high in Vitamin B6, folate, riboflavin, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, potassium, manganese and fiber. Kale is loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, folate, potassium, iron, and calcium. Having an abundance of accessible vegetables encourages increased vegetable consumption in general, which improves overall intake of nutrients that are essential for overall health. Plus, some youngsters who are picky eaters may be more inclined to try a variety of vegetables that they helped care for and watch grow.
Improved Connection with food
Enjoying fresh produce harvested from a personal garden is extremely rewarding, and promotes a more mindful state of eating. Taking the time to appreciate, smell, and savor the food actually enhances digestion. This “cephalic” phase of digestion is triggered by the thought, sight, or smell of food, and triggers the release of digestive juices such as saliva, stomach acid, and pancreatic enzymes which all help breakdown food for better absorption.
Hidden Fun Exercise
Whether it’s shoveling soil, weeding, pruning, or watering, tending to plants strengthens muscles and moves the body in plenty of different ways. While some forms of exercise are repetitive or planar, gardening provides more abstract movements that strengthen and stretch various muscles that may be neglected otherwise. The fact that this physical activity takes place outdoors in the fresh air adds even further benefit.
Tuning into the Seasons
Our bodies traditionally evolved to consume what was available in the nearby environment at different times of the year. In the colder months with limited vegetation, humans used to eat primarily animal products, which have a naturally warming constitution, and assist in energy storage over the winter. In the spring, when fruits and vegetables grow more abundantly, humans were greeted with natural detoxification and cooling foods for warmer temperatures. Growing a garden allows you to eat what was traditionally available in your surroundings, and what your body may be silently craving at that time of year.
Gardening has been shown to reduce stress and improve mood. Apart from the boost in nutrition that could be playing a role here, the act of being active outside and engaging with plants has its own independent benefit. Even weeding can provide a unique relaxing meditative experience.
Happy gardening, and happy eating!