Planting your own produce and/or tending to a garden allows you to reap the benefits of what you grow and may be beneficial to your overall physical and mental health as well as the environment!
Growing your own plants and/or produce can be a fun and rewarding experience. Not only do you get easy access to homegrown flowers and fresh-picked herbs, fruits, or vegetables, but you also obtain a myriad of physical and mental health benefits.
1. Vitamin D Vitamin D is a nutrient obtained primarily from sun exposure or dietary supplementation (if recommended by a healthcare provider). The body can create Vitamin D when bare skin is exposed to sun. It doesn't take much for the body to produce vitamin D. Just 10-15 minutes of sun exposure 2-3 times per week followed by sunscreen can suffice. Gardening outdoors is a great outlet for this! If planning to be outdoors for longer than 15 minutes, using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 is recommended. It takes about 15-minutes for the sunscreen to be absorbed after putting it on, so you can reap the vitamin D benefits by gardening as the sunscreen absorbs. Vitamin D is not as easily obtained from food sources. It may be found naturally or added to foods such as milk and milk alternate products, fatty fish (like salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel), fortified orange juice, egg yolks, beef liver, cheese, and mushrooms. It is important for bone health, immune function, and muscle strength. Gardening and being outdoors can help you more easily meet your Vitamin D needs.
2. Easy access to nutrient-rich local foods
Growing vegetables, herbs, or fruits in your garden allows you easy access to nutrient-rich locally-grown foods! Fresh produce that has just been picked is more nutritious than those that have been transported to a grocery store and then stored on a shelf or bin to be sold to consumers. You don't need much space to grow herbs. A raised bed or planter can suffice for many vegetables and fruits. Additionally, you can grow these without pesticides. Easy access to produce in your yard versus a store provides ample opportunities to add more nutrition to your diet by simply walking outdoors to harvest some veggies to add to a meal or snack!
3. Physical Activity / Exercise
Gardening is a great form of physical activity that provides easy access to fresh air as well as the physical and mental benefits of physical activity. Gardening has been shown to help improve heart health and boost immunity. It may also improve hand grip strength, fine and gross motor skills, as well as muscle strength, stamina, and flexibility.
Gardening itself has been shown to be helpful in reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety and boosting mood. Gardening may reduce cortisol levels and improve mental focus and clarity. Flowers and certain plants used in aromatherapy (such as lavender, jasmine, roses, peonies) have also been shown to enhance happiness, tranquility, compassion and creativity in individuals. This may benefit the gardener as well as the recipient of the flowers or produce!
5. Save Money and the Environment
Growing your own produce and/or flowers also allows you to save money in addition to saving the soil and earth. By planting seeds or seedlings, you will produce vegetables, fruits, herbs, or flowers that will continue to yield throughout the summer and possibly into the fall. Gardening reduces carbon dioxide and food transportation costs, prevents soil erosion, reduces water runoff, replenishes nutrients in the soil, and supports sustainable agriculture. Even a small garden plot may produce long-term benefits for the environment.
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