As we draw near to the end of what seems like a never ending winter, many of us are starting to think about planting our gardens, mapping out what vegetables and flowers we hope to see thrive in the coming months. Or, if you’re like me and have two black thumbs, saying a little prayer to the garden gods to please let something, anything, survive this year. My interest in planting a garden came from hearing about the benefits for so many aspects of our health from physical to mental. The act of gardening can provide stress relief, reduce anxiety, and bring a sense of calm and joy to our lives. The fresh, truly organic food you produce not only brings a sense of pride and accomplishment but also nourishes an entire family or community with nutrients and antioxidants that taste amazing. Here are my top picks for what to plant if you want to get a full spectrum of things our bodies need for good health.
A blueberry bush
Blueberries possess one of the highest antioxidant levels of any fruit or vegetable. This means they can prevent against oxidative damage and inflammation which is the root of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Blueberries contain high levels of anthocyanins which neutralize free radicals in our bodies and have anti viral properties. Free radicals are what our bodies produce as a result of UV exposure and natural cellular processes. Blueberries protect our hearts, brains, increase the antioxidant value of our blood, improve memory, and lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol.
Kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. It is rich in Lutien, another powerful antioxidant and free radical fighter. One cup of raw kale has some pretty impressive vitamin and mineral stats, containing these percentages of your daily needed value:
-Vitamin A- 206%, Vitamin K- 684%, Vitamin C- 134%, Vitamin B6- 9%, Manganese- 26%, Calcium- 9%, Copper- 10%, Potassium- 9%, Magnesium 6%.
Kale has large amounts of flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol. These substances have been studied thoroughly and are shown to have powerful heart protective, blood pressure lowering, anti inflammatory, anti viral, anti cancer and anti depressant effects.
Whether you are Team cilantro or not, you can’t deny this herb’s impressive health benefits.
The calorie content of cilantro is pretty much nonexistent, yet it is packed with phytonutrients, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds, vitamin A, K, folate and potassium. Cilantro not only adds a fresh citrusy flavour to many dishes but can rid the body of heavy metals, prevent oxidative damage, prevent UTIs, settle digestive upset, soothe skin irritation, protect against cancer, cardiovascular disease and neurological inflammation, lower blood sugar levels and protect against food poisoning.
Not only is garlic capable of making almost anything delicious, it is high in vitamin C, B1, B6, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese, and selenium. Garlic is high in a beneficial sulfur compound called allicin. Allicin and garlic can lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol and studies show people who consume garlic regularly have lower instances of cancer, especially cancer of the colon and stomach. Raw garlic has significant antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Believe it or not, potatoes contain a little bit of almost every nutrient our bodies need. A single potato is loaded with potassium, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, vitamin C and almost all B vitamins. When allowed to cool, potatoes form a resistant starch which is a fiber like substance with many health benefits such as improved insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels and better digestion.
The bottom line is that anything you plant and grow yourself is going to be beneficial to your body and provide you with many essential vitamins and nutrients. Some have a bit more impressive statistics than others, but choosing homegrown organic fruit and vegetables more often than not will do incredible things for your body. Don’t be afraid to experiment, get your hands dirty and enjoy spending time outdoors while getting all the physical and mental benefits a beautiful garden has to offer. The power of plants is truly amazing!