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How Gardening Can Improve Your Health

Posted by Desiree Nielsen RD on March 20th, 2016 under Healthy Living, General, Organic Gardening

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I have to admit I am a total gardening newbie. Life in a condo restricted me to a single pot of kale and the optimistic purchase of an apple tree that in years had never bore fruit.

 
After moving into my first house last year, the seemingly giant garden beds have intimidated me a bit. I am determined to get something delicious out of them…and gardening is certainly in my blood. I grew up spending summers dashing in and out of my grandparent’s garden. My grandparents grew almost anything you could ever wish for: from sweet cherries to puckering-ly tart gooseberries, giant cucumbers and tasty snap peas, I always knew where I could find my next snack. There was even a tree with four different types of fruit on its wildly grafted branches.
 
So I am determined to ace my own little plots so that my son can enjoy the experience of running out to the yard for something tasty. And because I believe that growing your own food is a critical link in staying connected to what you eat.
 
Getting your hands dirty doesn’t just feel good…it is good for you.
 

A Garden Gets You Moving

The act of gardening itself is physical, getting you off the couch. Hours of weeding have already taught me that gardening uncovers all the little muscles you didn’t realize you had. Gardening also requires you get quiet and focus, away from the distractions of smart phone and TV. Pulling weeds certainly clears my head better than most other distractions! There is even some research to suggest that gardening helps to improve mental health, increases feelings of reward, and may even help lower your blood pressure.
 

Kids Love to Grow

For those of you with kids, getting them involved in the garden will help them to appreciate and enjoy more fruits and veggies. My son loves digging in the dirt, finding earthworms and garden snails…and he gets excited when he sees food growing out of the earth. It’s far more exciting to eat a carrot out of the garden than out of a bag. 
 

You Can Grow Organic

Gardening is a great way to improve your access to organic food; growing your own organic produce, free of chemical inputs, helps save you money and boost your intake of these healthy foods. Just think of all of the $4 bunches of organic kale you can grow with a $3 packet of seeds! 
 

Even Small Gardens Make a Big Difference

To enjoy the benefits of gardening, you don’t have to have a big yard. Just a few feet can get you started, happily eating basil and tomatoes all summer long. If you don’t have access to your own gardening space, you can sign up for a plot at a community garden or even take advantage of your patio or windowsill. Starting with even a few herbs will improve the taste of your cooking and reduce the waste that comes with all of those clamshells of fresh herbs you can never use up in time. 
 
I am looking forward to my (likely) misadventures as I build my gardening skills. But already, things are looking up: that apple tree I have tended for so long finally has apples budding on it.
 

 

Desiree Nielsen RD

Desiree Nielsen is a registered dietitian in Vancouver, Canada and the author of the book, Un-Junk Your Diet. A passionate supporter of organic, non-GMO foods, Desiree encourages her clients to adopt a more plant-centred diet for increased vitality and sustainability. Follow Desiree on twitter @desireerd or visit her website at www.desireerd.com.