Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gardening Goodness

This article will also be available on the Total Cleanse website
Gardening Goodness
Sarah Reid, RHNC

Do you garden? The Spring and Summer seasons have arrived, and with the warmer weather, sun and inevitable rainstorms comes bursts of flowers and greenery. Everyone from children to seniors can make a basic plot of vegetables or flowers or fill a container with dirt and seedlings, and the benefits of getting a green thumb are as extensive as the types of plants you can grow. As well as giving you pounds of vegetables, herbs for months of flavour or sweet smelling vases of blooms, gardeners have built in fitness opportunities, immunity enhancers and stress-reduction strategies. For those with a culinary mind, fruit, vegetable and herb planters have a tasty nutrition boost from their free fresh groceries as well.

A fee-free experience, gardening has the unique exercise variety that even pulling hours at the gym can’t provide. While all the activities are low-impact and enjoyable, being out in the sun and fresh air, they also burn anywhere form 250-350 calories an hour (more than a powerwalk)! Bone density and joint health are enhanced due to the movement and weight-bearing that even basic tasks like weeding and watering require. And don’t forget that hauling all the heavy tools, hoses, and harvests helps build your muscle groups too! Simple, safe gardening includes lifting, stretching, walking, kneeling, climbing, pulling, raking, weeding, and digging. All in an hour or two out in nature, without fancy clothes or equipment! Try asking for that with your next gym membership package. If you have kids, not only do you get free help weeding and harvesting, but the activity gets them moving in an otherwise sedentary Summer break and gives them a real appreciation for where plants “come from” and the work they take, setting them up for healthy habits throughout life. Like any workout routine, avoid injuring yourself by starting slow, lifting things properly (with your legs, not arms and back!), stretching after a session and taking your breaks when you need them. Water is particularly important when working out in the summer sun, and sun protection for both your skin and eyes as well. Make it a point to slather on a minimum SPF 30 about 20 minutes before heading outside (especially on the back of your neck and ears!), don your sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat like the fabulous Audrey Hepburn in 1963’s Paris When it Sizzles, and drink a minimum 500 mL of clear, still water every hour you’re puttering away.

Being out in the fresh air and sunlight has other health boosters beyond the calorie burn too. Being around living, “breathing” plants puts you in an atmosphere that is inherently oxygen rich, giving you a boost of energy (especially with all the deep breathing you’ll be doing!). The sun exposure (even with sunscreen and a hat) boosts your bone-saving vitamin D levels too, and studies have shown that people who garden recover more quickly from illnesses. Crafting even the simplest garden is a huge boost to the mentality, too. Accomplishing a lush, productive garden triggers feelings of contentment, while many people feel more “grounded” and less stressed after spending time with their hands in the soil.

Of course, growing your own produce gives you an instant influx of vitamins and minerals to your diet. Being part of the whole process, from seeding to harvest, has shown to translate into higher intake of those vegetables and fruits. Not only do they taste better than store-bought items (and cost less too!), a diet rich in produce, along with simply prepared whole grains, provides your body with a natural detox support system. Most vegetables pack the biggest nutrition punch in their raw state (for example: raw cauliflower has more antioxidants than a tomato, raw beet juice makes exercise less draining and helps you exercise 16% more, and raw cabbage juice is a potent parasite and Candida cleanser). The four veggies that actually give their most after cooking, though, are tomatoes, leafy greens, garlic and carrots. A few of these items lightly sautéed, blended into a pasta sauce or roasted as a delicious dinner side perfectly balance the raw fare more popular in the Summer months. If you need some hints for growing and decadent recipes for what your garden gives you, pick up a copy of Superfoods from the Garden by Michael van Straten or Serving Up the Harvest by Andrea Chesman.

Whether you only have a few pots or a vast expanse of acreage at your disposal, make it a point to get out and get dirty this year. Your mind, body, family and table will thank you for it!

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About Me

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I started my "working life" as a holistic and allopathic nutritional consultant with a love of cooking. Teaching the value of wholesome meal choices to families became close to my heart after I battled a long history of struggles with weight and health, and the passion for teaching led me into where I am now. My blog, which focuses on "bringing good taste to healthier food" through creative use of whole grains, fresh produce and acknowledging the importance of the occasional treat, also features a wealth of "specialty diet" friendly recipes for gluten-, egg-, dairy- and sugar- tree nut-free items that everyone can enjoy without alienating those who need them.

Overall, I want to bring back the desire for good quality, homemade, (mostly) healthy food into the hearts and kitchens of families so that the next generation will be less box-reliant than mine. I firmly believe that any “homemade” food, even when labelled as "naughty", is a more wholesome treat than pre-packaged, cookie-cutter junk. With the knowledge of good food (and how to cook good food) as a base, a healthy lifestyle can follow, and then anything is possible!