Grow On – 11 Healthy Benefits of Gardening


Time to Get Growing

Small-raised-bed-garden-300x198.jpgThere’s a lot of great reasons to grow a garden besides the obvious delicious outcome of fresh, home-grown food. Gardening comes with a myriad of healthful benefits that your entire family can enjoy. Read on to learn 11 little-known reasons why you should get growing and start planting!


11 Healthy Benefits of Gardening

girl-gardening-200x300.jpg[1] Grow thy food, know thy food. By growing your own organic vegetables, you can rest assured that you’re eating fresh, truly organic produce while avoiding harmful pesticides, fertilizers and preservatives that are found on most conventional produce. Even organic produce can be covered in waxes and edible plastics that extend their shelf-life, but may decrease yours.

[2] Money doesn’t grow on trees. Let’s face it. Buying organic produce and eating Paleo can become painfully expensive and subsequently stressful (especially if you’re shopping at high-end health food stores). I save a LOT of money on groceries throughout the year by growing my own veggies and herbs, which I then vacuum seal, can, freeze, or dehydrate for later use. Every summer I go to local farms and harvest berries and nuts. Pick your own (PYO) or “U-pick” farms are another great way to save money while avoiding those dang edible plastics and zombie produce preserved with “Modified Atmospheric Packaging”.

Girl-getting-exercise-gardening-208x300.jpg[3] Plant your feet. Gardening is great exercise. As Lou Erickson said, “Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration”. It’s also a bonus when you can be productive while getting exercise. (Don’t forget to bend from your knees and not your back!) Plant your garden and get fit too! :)

[4] Grow a Healthy Heart. Even if you don’t consider gardening to be exercise per se, research shows that non-exercise physical activity is still great for heart health and longevity. This study showed that spending time in the garden may decrease risk of heart attack or stroke by as much as 30% in folks age 60 and older.

[5] Don’t be Vitamin D-eficient.

Vitamin-D-sun-skin1-300x231.jpgAn alarming number of people are deficient in the immensely important vitamin D. Spending time outside gardening in the sun can help to boost Vitamin D levels naturally. Sunlight converts the inactive form of vitamin D found in your skin (7-dehydrocholesterol) to the active form (D3) that your body needs to perform several critical functions including calcium absorption for bone health, immune function, hormone production, and so much more. Wearing sunscreen blocks your ability to get this crucial vitamin from sunshine, and also comes with a host of toxicity concerns.

Elderly-man-gardening-for-health-300x200.jpg[6] Ripen gracefully.
This review highlights the benefits of gardening in the elderly, promoting “overall health and quality of life, physical strength, fitness and flexibility, cognitive ability, and socialization”. Gardening is also great for improving hand dexterity, helping to keep the fingers flexible and joints lubricated as we age.

[7] Dig out dementia. Daily gardening may reduce the risk of developing dementia. This study found that gardening reduced the risk of dementia by 36%! Indoor gardening has also been shown to “be effective for sleep, agitation, and cognition of dementia patients”.

gardening-digging-plants-191x300.jpg[8] Bury your stress, anxiety and depression. Researchers and psychologists agree that gardening can help to reduce the negative effects of stress, and is an effective stress-management tool. Working in the garden decreases depression while increasing your ability to focus, and is also a natural way to manage anxiety and depression. To quote an unknown author, “Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes.”

[9] Harvest mindfulness. Working with plants can help to bring us into the present moment, making gardening a wonderful way to practice mindfulness. Gardening with mindfulness has been linked to improvements in brain function, sleep, and better physical and mental quality. Outdoor gardening connects you with the earth and the plants you are growing, temporarily removing the boundaries between nature and self. Leave your cell phone and headphones inside the house so you can become absorbed in the music of nature and the present moment! As spoken by Hanna Rion, “The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.”

Family-gardening-300x200.jpg[10] Plant a Family Tree. Gardening is a fun and healthy activity that the entire family can do together. Research shows that home gardening strengthens family relationships. Family members who garden together eat more fresh vegetables, have more diversity in their diets, and are less likely to skip meals. Teaching kids how to grow food is a survival skill that will benefit them into their adult years and help them to better appreciate the fruit of all their labors. Gardening with your family also illuminates fresh food and vibrant health as a priority…the family that grows together, glows together! :)

Family-hands-gardening-300x200.jpg[11] Reap what you sow.
Growing your own organic food at home can help to decrease your carbon footprint (the amount of greenhouse gases you produce as a byproduct of living). Home gardening limits your need to travel away from home for food, saving time and money while reducing carbon emissions from your car. It also reduces the need for buying commercial produce that requires carbon-intensive shipping and production. Plants reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and produce oxygen, and planting local species is favorable as these require less resources to thrive. Planting a garden near your house can also help insulate your home against temperature changes thus reducing energy use. Composting vegetable scraps and yard waste decreases the amount of waste added to landfills. In contrast, non-organic gardening that utilizes fertilizers and pesticides and planting non-local plant species may have the opposite effect…increasing your overall carbon footprint. Here are a few more tips about how to decrease the carbon footprint of your garden.

paleo-vegetable-from-garden-300x200.jpgNext week on the Paleo Plan blog, I’ll be discussing how anyone can grow a garden and reap the positive effects of growing your own food. You don’t need a lot of physical space or resources to get growing, and in the next blog of this gardening mini-series we’ll talk about how to get your grow on, quite literally anywhere!


In good health,
Kinsey Jackson, LMP, MS, CNS®