Gardening – A Prescription For Health
Oh, what’s that you say? Those seasonal allergies, tension headaches, achy joints and muscles, fussy digestive system, excess fatigue, slowly rising cholesterol and blood pressure, and the few extra pounds that have crept up this winter have been bothering you? Well, fret no more.
I have just the thing for you, I want you to get into the dirt and plant some vegetables, herbs and flowers. Oh, you’re concerned about side effects? Well, you may experience more productivity, feel peaceful, rejuvenated, proud, and restored. I also expect with in three months of 30-60 minutes per day that your blood pressure and cholesterol will come down a bit, you immune system to be stronger, you will have lost a few pounds, your headaches will decrease, and your overall energy and sense of well being will have improved. The long-term effects should include a deeper connection to the earth and your food, an increased consumption of veggies and stress reduction. I know, pretty great medicine, isn’t it!
Gardening is Truly Preventative
Currently obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer are among the most likely causes of death in our country. These conditions are also among the largest contributors to health care costs and can all be reduced, alleviated and often treated with lifestyle changes. What sort of changes you may be asking? It’s nothing all that surprising…more fruits and vegetables and more exercise.
Literally, by simply adopting a whole foods diet rich in fruits and vegetables and moving your body for 30 min/day, you can significantly decrease your risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. In fact, a recent Meta Analysis demonstrated that more than 1.5 million subjects showed a reduction in cardiovascular disease when they adhered to the Mediterranean Diet.
Essentially, the Mediterranean Diet is low in saturated fats, low in sugar, rich in omega 3 fatty acids, whole grains and unprocessed fruits and veggies. Endless studies continue to demonstrate risk prevention and improved longevity with as little as 30 minutes of exercise per day 6 days per week. With a vegetable garden in your yard or involvement in a community garden you can easily accomplish both an increased consumption of fruits and veggies and 30 minutes of exercise.
Connecting with Nature
Beyond lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and stress, and the weight loss that is associated with gardening, there is a powerful healing benefit when you are more connected with nature. Harvard naturalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Edward O. Wilson, who coined the term biophilia – love of living things, believes that we have an affinity for nature because we are part of nature. He says that we would prefer to look at flowers, tress, fruits and vegetables over concrete buildings, freeways, and busy sidewalks. Wilson says that because we are connected to nature we are restored by nature.
There have been several studies that have demonstrated strong evidence that nature heals. One study done at Texas A&M University found that patients recovering from gallbladder surgery who looked out at a view of trees had significantly shorter hospital stays, fewer complaints, and took less pain medication than those who looked out at a brick wall. There are other studies that have found that looking at scenes of nature can produce a decline in systolic blood pressure in five minutes or less. It is believed that by looking at nature we increase healing. By examining changes in brain electrical activity, muscle tension, respiration, and shifts in emotional states, researchers have concluded that all may be linked to better immune function. Therefore, not only can we heal faster by improving the immune function and inflammatory response, we can also decrease disease.
Quality of Life
Furthermore, gardening is a great way to promote healthy living and nutritious eating habits. Gardening increases the consumption of fruits and vegetables for kids and adults by making fresh fruits and vegetables readily available, adding in the excitement of eating something healthy because you grew it, creating a greater appreciation for how food is grown and by providing opportunities to practice preparing nutritious and new foods. It is a great way to spend time with children and discuss important topics such as; life cycles, the health of the soil, composting, our relationship with the earth and other species, and of course food.
My daughter Lola loves to be in the garden. Whether it’s the thrill of starting seeds and growing sprouts in a couple of days or waiting months for the beets to be ready, she is always eager to take a bite of something that she helped grow. That is the moment when I think to my self, “now, that’s some good parenting!” Plus, gardens are an exciting and interactive tool that demonstrates life skills and develops good habits.
Top 10 reasons to grow a garden
1. Deeper Connection with the Earth
2. Local, Organic, Fresh
3. Better Health
6. Stress Reduction
8. Sharing the with your community
9. Variety in Your Diet
Here are some great resources to get you started, simply Google the following:
You Grow Girl
Gardening Supply Company
Vegetable Gardening Made Easy – good soil to great veggies
Organic Home Gardener
Thank you for coming to Nature Cures today, I expect that if you follow my simple instructions, with in a few weeks and for years to come you will be feeling much, much better.
Image courtesy Mazaletel