The health benefits of gardening are well documented - good for both physical and mental health. And following on from last month’s blog on the cost of food, growing your own fruit and vegetables is cheaper than buying them in the supermarket. Across the world we are seeing governments focus on community gardens in their nutrition policy as a way of providing communities living in food desserts (areas where supermarkets don’t sell or sell very little fresh produce) or with people with food insecurity (due to low income) with fruit and vegetables. Growing your own is also an effective way to get the children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to increase their intake. There are numerous studies that show children that have grown vegetables are more likely to eat them. One particular study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, followed families who took part in a seven-week gardening, cooking, and nutrition workshop. Each family worked a plot plus there were community-building activities such as potluck dinners using foods grown in the garden. At the end of the seven weeks, not only had the children in the program increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables in general, but roughly 17 percent of those who were overweight saw a reduced body mass index (BMI). Another study found that 100 percent of participants, many of them school-age children, reported increasing their consumption of fruits and vegetables after participating in a community garden. Here in Oxford the first Children’s Allotment has just started, check out what is near you or get involved in the Parkinsons.Me community garden in West Lockinge.
If you are a seasoned ‘grow your owner’ or thinking about giving it a
go for the first time this year now is the time to start planning and sowing seeds. Speak to a more experienced gardener for advice on what will grow well in the soil and position of your plot. Here the focus is nutrition. Whilst all fruit and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals that will support well being you may want to consider fruit and vegetables that are high in antioxidants - proven to slow the progression of Parkinson’s, such as berries, peppers, chilli, spinach, cavolo nero, rainbow chard and broccoli. Also consider growing vegetables high in fibre that will help ease constipation and support good gut health such as asparagus, leeks, onions, artichoke and broad beans. For those that don’t have much space or the thought of a whole plot is too daunting then consider growing fruit and vegetables at home in pots and window boxes. Salad vegetables grow well in pots and once planted are an easy way to ensure you have vegetables at your fingertips all summer to include with meals adding essential nutrients and antioxidants. You may also want to experiment with different varieties of vegetables that add a bit of pizazz to meals, general only available at great expensive in specialist greengrocers or fine dining restaurants such as Chioggia beets and purple carrots.
Here at Parkinsons.Me we are always striving to find ways to enthuse readers to eat well. Wherever your abilities lie be it your own full allotment, participation in a community garden or planting a small window box the base line is that fruit and vegetables are packed with nutrients that can help ease some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s, slow the progress and support all round well being and they don’t come any fresher than growing your own.