Submitted by Alicia DeRuscio, B.S.
Community Education Assistant
“Healthy” Starts In The Garden
According to Harvard Health and the University of New Hampshire, there are many reasons to grow your own food! Gardening can be beneficial to your health, the environment, and can even help save you a few extra dollars throughout the summer and fall months.
Gardening For Nutrition
When you grow your own food, you not only increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat, but you also consume a greater amount of nutrients. Prior to being sold in grocery stores, produce goes through a long process of being shipped and delivered across the country, and is not always picked at peak times. During the shipment and delivery process, fruits and vegetables often lose many beneficial nutrients.
If you grow your own produce, you’ll be able to pick your fruits and vegetables when they are ripe, providing you with fresh, flavorful options that are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to fuel your body. Having your own garden also allows you to eliminate pesticides and other contaminants that are used on grocery store produce.
Gardening For Physical Activity
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should get at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week as well as two days of muscle-strengthening activities each week. The CDC considers gardening, including weeding, digging, hoeing, raking and planting a moderate aerobic activity and therefore can help improve heart health, flexibility and body strength. Regular physical activity can also improve your body’s immune system, help decrease stress and heart rate, and boost your mood.
An outdoor garden is a great way to increase your sun exposure and get more Vitamin D! Vitamin D is important for maintaining strong bones and teeth and can help protect against certain chronic diseases. The CDC recommends always protecting your skin when in the sun by using a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 before going outside.
Help The Environment
Shipping and delivering produce throughout the country requires long travel times that rely on fossil fuels and increases pollution of the environment. If you grow a garden you can help reduce transportation and decrease the harmful effects of pollution.
While it may seem costly to start your own garden, in the long run it can actually help you save money. According to the UNH, buying seeds, plants and a few supplies to maintain your garden can yield a great amount of produce in the summer and fall months. This allows you to avoid those extra charges tacked on to produce for growing, harvesting, shipment and delivery.
Spice Up Your Meals
The CDC recommends filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. There are endless amounts of produce to grow in an at-home or community-based garden, and many ways to use your fruits and vegetables during meal time.
Try these simple ways to add your fresh-grown produce from the garden to your meals:
- Zucchini Noodles – Instead of pasta, use a spiralizer to create zucchini noodles and substitute them in your favorite pasta dish.
- Summer Salads – Put a little summer twist on your salad by topping fresh greens with strawberries, blueberries or blackberries.
- Cauliflower Pizza Crust – Try making a cauliflower pizza crust with fresh-from-the-garden cauliflower, a couple of eggs, grated low-fat parmesan and low-fat mozzarella cheese, along with your favorite seasonings.
- Kale Chips – Bake kale in the oven with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper for a nutritious, crispy snack.
Extend Your Harvest
While many think that late summer means the end of gardening, it’s actually the perfect time to plant cool-weather vegetables. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, many vegetables thrive just as well in cooler weather than in warmer weather, and some even taste better after a frost. Vegetables including kale, cabbage, parsnips, carrots and brussel sprouts get sweeter from cooler weather and can survive in the ground longer without much harm from the cold.
To determine the best plants to grow, check the “days to harvest” information on the back of seed packets. In general, your vegetables should be grown just prior to the first frost of the season. The Farmer’s Almanac lists several fast-growing vegetables that are ideal for late-summer planting including:
- Squash and Zucchini
- Leaf Lettuces
- Snap Peas and Snow Peas
If you’d like to learn more about gardening or are preparing for a fall harvest, visit the United States Department of Agriculture’s website for up-to-date resources at https://www.nal.usda.gov/home-gardening.
For more information on good health, contact HealthLink Littauer at 518-736-1120 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.