Maybe it’s just me, but lately I’ve noticed a lot of shows on TV along the lines of “eating well for less.” The shows are based on the premise that many families are unable to afford “fancy” groceries like fresh fruit and vegetables or unprocessed meat and seafood. In each episode, the “expert” swoops in and shows the family how they can make wonderful, fresh meals that supposedly nourish everyone while not breaking the bank.
But when you actually look at what these people are being told to cook, it’s a far cry from actually eating well. Invariably, the expert ends up recommending that they make large pasta dishes with a smattering of “fresh” ingredients like tomatoes and a sprig of basil, and apparently the family is supposed to thrive on that carb-heavy, nutrient-poor meal.
What most of these shows ignore is the fact that most of these families live on a property with at least a small patch of land. And what might they plant on that land? Why, a garden, of course! Simply by shoring up some soil, spending a few dollars on some seeds and occasionally watering their new veggie patch, that family could simultaneously save a heap of money while actually guaranteeing their health. For less than $50, the family in question could have an endless supply of fresh, organic, wholesome food. To me, that’s a whole lot more effective than showing them how to make a few crappy pasta dishes.
But the benefits don’t stop there. Growing your own vegetables can provide a wide range of benefits to not only your digestive health, but your mental and spiritual health as well. In fact, home-grown vegetables are often far more healthy even than expensive organic produce from the supermarket or green grocer. Here are four reasons why you need to start your own veggie patch, right now.
1. Homegrown vegetables have more enzymes
We rely on enzymes for optimum digestion, metabolic processes and immune regulation. The problem is, we aren’t getting nearly enough in the food we eat these days. As vegetables grow, they begin to develop groups of enzymes (both on their skin and internally) designed to increase chemical reactions and support biochemical processes. Many of these enzymes perform important roles in the body, helping to break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates, boost energy production and support a wide range of other processes.
You’d think that eating plenty of store-bought vegetables would provide all the external enzymes you need for optimum health. Unfortunately, however, constant applications of herbicides and pesticides during the growing process typically removes all but the toughest enzymes. Even buying organic produce doesn’t guarantee high enzyme content, as enzymes degrade over time and can easily be removed by mechanical processes like washing or scrubbing.
This means that the only real way to get your naturally occurring enzyme quota each day is to eat vegetables grown from your own garden. Eating vegetables within a few hours of being picked (preferably without washing them excessively!) guarantees you’re getting all those wonderful digestive enzymes, with the added benefit that you’ll be absorbing more vitamins and nutrients from the foods you eat.
2. Homegrown vegetables have more probiotics
Forget about supplementing with probiotics; there’s a wonderful source of probiotics growing right outside the door — and I’m not just talking about the decomposing contents of your trash can! As with enzymes, the vegetables growing in your garden are actually covered with a microscopic layer of beneficial microorganisms. Many of these microorganisms are vital for optimum health, as they help to populate and maintain the various microbiomes of the human body, including the gut, mouth, skin and lungs.
Ever picked a plum and noticed that there’s a whitish film on the skin? When you rub the film it comes off easily, exposing the smooth, polished skin of the plum underneath. That film, as it happens, is actually something called a biofilm: a community of microorganisms living together on the surface of any fruit or vegetable. That biofilm is always washed or scrubbed off with commercial produce, so the only way to enjoy probiotics on your fruit and veggies is to grow them yourself!
3. Growing your own vegetables combats stress
One of the most important benefits of growing your own vegetables is the intensely relaxing effect it has. Multiple studies have demonstrated the powerful stress-alleviating effects a simple bout of gardening can provide, and the beneficial effect this can have on your health is not to be downplayed.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Health Psychology exposed 30 volunteers to a stressful task then randomly assigned them to either 30 minutes of gardening or reading. The gardening group showed significantly greater drops in stress levels following the stressful task, and within 30 minutes every member had fully restored positive mood. A 2011 study published in the Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy found a similarly positive effect from gardening, with the simple act of being in a garden helping to treat women with stress-related ill health.
4. Homegrown vegetables aren’t contaminated with toxins
It’s a well-known fact that conventionally grown vegetables are thoroughly doused with herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. What most people don’t realize is that much of those chemical residues remain on the produce even after it’s been processed… meaning you’re putting toxins into your body every time you eat non-organically grown veggies.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives examined the health of children eating either conventional foods or predominantly organic foods. Researchers found that certain toxins were up to nine times higher in children with conventional diets than the organic children, concluding that “consumption of organic fruits, vegetables, and juice can reduce children’s exposure levels from above to below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s current guidelines, thereby shifting exposures from a range of uncertain risk to a range of negligible risk.”
But rather than spending a small fortune on organic produce, why not grow your own organic vegetables and fruit at home? Provided you don’t spray them or use synthetic fertilizers, they’ll be just as healthy and chemical-free as store-bought organic vegetables… and a whole lot cheaper!
— Liivi Hess