Why do you garden? Do you know all the health benefits of gardening? Naturally, the fresh produce is what we get but I’ve listed below what I think are some of the many health benefits of gardening.
1. Physical Exercise
Gardening is a great way to participate in physical exercise. Gardening for 2.5 hours a week can help achieve the same target heart rate as a moderate-intensity workout. It also provides light strength training. Ever wonder why you are so sore after pushing that wheelbarrow around? Also, it keeps joints mobile and flexible. The constant bending of the knees and elbows promotes and increased range of motion. Digging and planting help hand strength, dexterity, and hand-eye coordination.
2. Stress Relief
Gardening for 30 minutes decreases cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that is directly related to stress levels. There is a link between elevated cortisol levels and many different health issues; immune function, obesity, memory and learning problems, and even heart disease.
3. Improved Mood
There are specific naturally occurring bacteria (mycobacterium vaccae) in the soil linked to serotonin levels in the brain. Studies have shown that interaction with this bacteria increases serotonin production. The physical activity, being surrounded by nature, and the satisfaction of working have all been shown to decrease levels of depression. Maybe people should stop taking antidepressants and try putting their hands in the soil and gardening.
4. Vitamin D
Another one of the many health benefits of gardening is exposure to direct sunlight. This increases Vitamin D. An increase in vitamin D increases calcium and has been shown to reduce risks of heart disease, osteoporosis, and various cancers. Low Vitamin D levels have the potential to increase the chances of heart problems.
5. Nutrient Density
Nutrient dense foods are high in nutrients but relatively low in calories. These foods contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. The problems are that today, commercially grown fruits and vegetables have fewer nutrients in them that were found 25-100 years ago.
- In wheat and barley, protein concentrations declined by 30 to 50 percent between the years 1938 and 1990.
- a study of 45 corn varieties developed from 1920 to 2001, grown side by side, found that the concentrations of protein, oil, and three amino acids have all declined in the newer varieties
- Official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data shows that the calcium content of broccoli averaged 12.9 milligrams per gram of dry weight in 1950, but only 4.4 mg/g dry weight in 2003.
- In 1951, an adult woman could meet her daily requirements of vitamin A by eating two peaches. By 2002, she would need to eat 53 peaches to obtain the same amount of vitamin A
Industrial farming tends to decrease the mineral and nutrient value in the crops. The mix of fertilizers and methods used to achieve higher yields and reduce the cost of food are also reducing the nutrients value.
6. Peak Freshness
Picking fruits and vegetables at their peak time ensures they are the most nutritious. All produce loses vitamins during storage time: “Lettuce loses 46% of some key nutrients within seven days of cold storage. Spinach loses 22% of lutein and 18% of beta carotene content after just eight days of cold storage. Culinary herbs, when used fresh, contain significant amounts of antioxidants. These antioxidants decrease rapidly after harvest making it difficult to reap the full health benefits of fresh culinary herbs with products from commercial grocery stores (Bottino, 2010).
7. Safer Food
Do you know what is in the insecticides and pesticides that are sprayed on food or around food? Next time you have the chance take a look at the label of one of these products. Look at all the health risks and concerns. A lot of these products are carcinogens. Some of these sprays intended to help the plant are systemic sprays- absorbed and redirected into the entire plant tissue.
By growing your food, or urban agriculture as we refer it here, there are no worries about contamination from the farms, manufacturing plants or during delivery. How many times over the past five years have you seen a recall on some produce in a store?