Raising a vegetable garden offers many health benefits. There are obviously loads of fresh veggies and nutritious greens to add extra nutrition to the table, but the benefits of keeping a garden go way beyond produce. Here are some obvious (and not so obvious) reasons why a home vegetable garden beats even the farmers market when it comes to your health and well-being.
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1. Your Garden Is Better Than Any Gym Membership
Gardening is very physical. As anyone who keeps a garden knows, swinging around hoses, lifting heavy pots and walking with watering cans full of water is a lot like the newest trend in strength training offered by the toughest gym. What makes gardening better than a gym workout is that it happens outdoors with fresh air and sunshine. Whether you are weeding in the downward dog position, or going hard core and slinging bags of soil, a garden delivers the full gym experience, from cardio right down to yoga.
2. Your Garden Provides a Raw Diet Like No Other
The sugars and vitamins in vegetables begin to decline moments after they are picked, which makes homegrown veggies so full of natural sweetness that the experience of eating them raw may surprise you. Most homegrown crops taste better than store-bought, but no veggie takes this to the next level like sweet peas. Experts may not recommend peas for small gardens (and it is certainly worthy of a 60 foot row if you want to serve a large bowl for dinner), but most gardeners find that even a few vines are worth the space. A handful of freshly-shelled, raw sweet peas popped into your mouth on a summer morning has few rivals in the food kingdom.
3. Your Garden Lets You Eat The Rainbow
The average consumer remains at the mercy of the produce buyer at the local market, but once the home gardener discovers the diversity of colors and flavors that can be homegrown, an entire new palette or nutrient rich vegetable choices opens up. Heirloom tomatoes range in color from deep purple and nearly black to golden yellow and pale white. There are flavorful purple brussels sprouts, golden yellow sugar peas, deep violet string beans, and carrots available in most every color from yellow to white to red to purple. Nutritionists and scientists agree, colorful veggies are rich in antioxidants and nutritious; and the only way to have them all is to grow them yourself.
4. Your Garden Allows You to Give Back
We know that it feels good to give, but nothing feels as great as when you share food. And imagine how it feels for others to receive fresh and healthy homegrown vegetables. The bounty of a mature, late-summer vegetable garden can be overwhelming, but rather than freezing or canning your excess, much of it can be shared with your local food bank (most accept home raised produce, but be sure to call first). Gift baskets can be dropped off with elderly neighbors, those with large families or even brought to the office -- a basket of heirloom cherry tomatoes can disappear faster than a box of donuts deep fried in fat.