Freshly harvested vegetables and fruits from the garden don’t just taste better than their supermarket equivalents, they really are better. Home-grown produce is simply more nutritious, packing a healthier punch than what you can buy.
One reason for this is the no-dally speed our harvest goes from plot to plate, so it remains at its nutritional peak. Another is the generally richer soil we patiently build up through our regular additions of organic matter and natural fertilisers. Boosting soil nutrition in the more holistic way that gardeners are able to ensures plants are never left wanting for the nutrients and trace elements they require, which means the plants themselves are more nutritionally dense.
Optimum Daily Portions of Fruit and Veggies
Any homegrown grub is going to be good for you. Variety counts too, so include as many different types of fruits and vegetables in your diet as you can to get the full complement of health-boosting vitamins and minerals. No further excuses needed for expanding the vegetable garden then!
Just how much fruit and veg should you eat to promote good health? The recommended number of daily portions varies wildly from country to country, so finding a precise answer to this question is tricky. Thankfully the good folk at Imperial College London have done the reading up for us. Researchers there analysed 95 separate studies into fruit and vegetable intake, concluding that 10 portions offer the greatest health benefit, with fruits, salads, leafy vegetables and brassicas especially good at guarding against the bogeymen of heart disease, strokes and cancer.
Maintaining a healthy diet is the most effective (and cheapest!) way to safeguard your health in the long-term, while feeling great in the short-term. So if you would like to prioritise what you grow according to the health benefits provided, here are some suggestions sure to put a pep in your step.
- Blueberries and apples: Both these fruits are high in fibre so they take longer to digest and will release their energy over a longer period.
- Spinach: Spinach is an excellent source of iron, which helps the body to produce energy.
- Beans: Beautiful beans are full of protein and complex carbohydrates, which means they keep you fuller for longer – and full of beans! Beans and peas are good for boosting your mood too.
- Oranges: If you’re lucky enough to have the climate to grow oranges, you really should. They are rich in potassium, folate and, famously, vitamin C – all good news for a steady energy supply.
Boosting Brain Health
- Brassicas: Brassicas such as broccoli and cabbage are believed to help improve memory function. Dark, leafy greens like kale are also a must for a brain boost.
- Berries: Darker berries (like blackberries and blueberries) and cherries contain high levels of anthocyanins that are believed to improve memory.
- Walnuts: Walnuts are ace for promoting heart health and just the job for enhancing cognitive ability too – they even look like miniature brains!
- Leafy greens: Among the most nutritious are kale, mustards, Swiss chard, pak choi, and spinach. All these antioxidant-filled leaves help to boost immunity and keep you on full form.
- Red peppers: Red peppers are a spectacular source of vitamin C, which is great for the immune system. They’ve lots of beta-carotene as well – good news for healthy eyes and skin.
- Garlic: If ramping up the flavour volume wasn’t enough, garlic’s also a powerhouse for general health, contributing to a strong immune system, lower blood pressure and clearer arteries.
- Broccoli: Few vegetables boast a list of health-boosting goodies as long as broccoli’s: fibre, antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E chief among them.
- Sunflower seeds: Cheer body and spirit with a stand of mood-lifting sunflowers. The seeds are chock-full of all sorts of nutrients, including vitamins B6 and E, a powerful contributor to immune system health.
Weight Loss Foods
- Celery and cucumber: Both these vegetables are low in calories owing to their high water content. They will fill you up and help to keep you hydrated, so you’ll stay satisfied for longer.
- Brassicas: Another entry for this nutrient-rich family of vegetables whose high-fibre, non-starchy, low calorie credentials put it top of the list for anyone watching their weight.
- Chilli peppers: The heat generated by the capsaicin in chilli peppers increases metabolism, which means you burn off more calories after eating them.
Remember, growing your own food offers health benefits beyond the nutritional value of what you harvest. Gentle exercise, fresh air and sunshine, plus the proven mood-enhancing impact of the soil microbes we’re exposed to – they’ll leave a long-lasting impression on mind and body.