A Garden Boosts Both Nutrition and Health
June can’t arrive soon enough for me. I signed up for an introductory permaculture class held June 2nd and 5th at San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. Permaculture is an approach to growing food that works with nature. Instead of attacking and attempting to overpower nature – always futile and destructive in the long run – permaculture works in harmony with natural law.
The result is food for people and habitat for birds and wildlife.
Permaculture seeks to connect people and nature in a seamless web. Horticulture therapy takes advantage of this principle as well, This therapy treats a variety of patients and ailments using gardens and gardening. The lush colors and textures of plants is a welcome respite from a sterile, institutional health care setting.
For example, hospitals may bring patients into the outdoors to tend plants as part of their rehabilitation program. Elderly nursing home residents gain strength planting, weeding, and cutting flowers. Mental health settings can incorporate gardening into group therapy. Even Alzheimers disease patients become less anxious and more focused when engaged with nature.
You don’t need to wait until you are a patient to take advantage of the healing power of gardening. Growing plants is therapeutic for many reasons. First, and most obvious, is the exercise. Gardening may involve walking, lifting, bending, stooping, digging, and other physical tasks. Even tasks that are not strenuous add up when you do them frequently or over a period of time.
Don’t forget the nutritional advantage. If you grow vegetables, fruits, beans, potatoes, whole grains, herbs, nuts, or seeds, you are likely to eat these whole foods. These are the foods you are meant to thrive on, that keep you lean and can even reverse chronic disease. The crops fresh from your garden are the tastiest and most nutritious food you can get. Since you grew it, chances are you will eat and enjoy it.
Indoor environments are usually more polluted with toxic chemicals that the outdoors is. So when you garden, you benefit from the fresh air. Grow your flowers and food organically so you are not poisoned by herbicides, insecticides, and other dangerous pollutants. The daylight boosts mood, and the sunshine teams with your own skin to make essential vitamin D.
Researchers have found the health benefits of green spaces transcend all these practical advantages, though. Simply looking at nature is healing. Gardening is an excellent reason to hang out in a relaxing, green space. Being in nature can overcome stress and fatigue and helps reduce feelings of anger, frustration, and aggression.
Find whatever space you can and grow some of your own tasty whole foods. Even at work, you can suggest a group garden to your
employer if there is any location for it. Some employers are offering access to a garden as a new employee benefit. All the therapeutic advantages help keep health costs down and morale up. Employees can bring home fresh food for dinner, saving money on groceries they don’t need to buy.
So my permaculture class is beckoning. Please consider joining me if you live in San Diego, or find a class near you. The sun, soil, and the freshest food you can eat are their own reward.
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Blog by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet, a nutrition book built on sustainable food choices. Enjoy six kinds of whole foods for permanent, hunger-free weight loss and health.