Delicious and Nutritious: Maximize Your Garden

Friday, June 21, 2013 2:28 PM

Summer has arrived. Ice cold glasses of lemonade and cookouts are among the many perks of the warmer weather. But don’t forget to add the delicious fruits, vegetables and herbs in season during the summer to that list. Sure, it’s easy to find produce at your local grocery store, but when you grow it yourself, you reap both the nutritional and physical benefits of your harvest.

Geeta Maker-Clark, MD, Integrative and Family Medicine at NorthShore, shares some of the benefits gardening can have on your overall health:

  • Pesticide and preservative free. Homegrown produce and herbs mean you know exactly what went into the growth and harvesting of your food. You can rest assured that there are no unnecessary preservatives and/or pesticides.
  • Encourages healthy eating habits. Knowing that the food on your table is a direct result of your hard work can help you make smarter food choices. It might also encourage you to include more fruits and vegetables in your daily meals. You may end up growing some varieties of veggies and fruits that you have never tried before.
  • Saves some green. Keeping an edible garden reduces the amount of produce you have to buy at the grocery store.
  • Brightens your mood. Spending time outside can help improve your mental outlook and reduce stress. Getting your hands dirty, smelling the soil and connecting with the cycles of life can be meditative activities.
  • Slims your waistline. Not only does gardening provide you with deliciously healthy food, it’s also a great way to get some exercise. Weeding, trimming and harvesting can be hard work if you keep at it for 30 minutes or more.
  • Connects you to your family. Getting your family out in the garden is a great way to spend some quality time together, creating something that will benefit all of you. 
  • Provides vitamins and minerals. Fruits, vegetables and herbs are filled with nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Here’s a sneak peek at just a few of the vitamins and minerals found in common produce items:
  1. Tomatoes are full of fiber, iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium and vitamins A, B6, and C, as well as the antioxidant lycopene.
  2. Red bell peppers are rich in potassium, riboflavin, vitamins A, B6 and C. 
  3. Broccoli is high in calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamins A, B6 and C.
  4. Zucchini is a good source of niacin, pantothenic acid, dietary fiber, protein, vitamins A, B6 and C, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.
  5. Cilantro is an excellent source of thiamin and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamins A, B6, C,  E (Alpha Tocopherol) and K, riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese.
  6. Basil is a good source of vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), riboflavin and niacin. It is also a great source of dietary fiber, vitamins A, B6, C  and K, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.
  7. Blueberries are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins C and K, manganese and rich in antioxidants.
  8. Kale packs a high iron punch and it’s also high in vitamins A, C and K.
  9. Dill adds flavor and texture to a dinner salad but it also brings vitamins A and C, and lots of iron to the table.

What is your favorite fruit, vegetable or herb to grow in the summertime?

To see more on the health benefits of gardening, check out this video from Lake County's recent community gardening event, Dig Day

× Alternate Text