Growing your own food is a convenient and cost-effective means of boosting your nutrition and health. Garden-grown organic vegetables and fruits are nutrient-rich and represent the freshest produce available. Growing your own crops not only improves your diet, but it also:
• Enhances and protects precious topsoil
• Encourages composting, which can be used to feed and nourish your plants
• Minimizes your exposure to synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and other toxins
• Promotes biodiversity by creating a natural habitat for animals, birds, insects and other living organisms
• Improves your fitness level, mood and sense of well-being, making gardening a form of exercise
While gardens have many benefits, the most important reason you should plant a garden (especially given the many issues associated with industrial agriculture) is because gardening helps create a more sustainable global food system, giving you and others access to fresh, healthy, nutrient-dense food.
Sprouts Are a Nutrient-Dense Food Easily Grown in Small Spaces
If you are new to gardening and unsure about where to start, consider sprouts. Sprouts are an easy-to-grow, but often overlooked, superfood with a superior nutritional profile. You can grow sprouts even if you don’t have an outdoor garden, and you should consider them if you live in an apartment or condo where space is limited. (For more tips on growing food in small spaces, Alex Mitchell's book, “The Edible Balcony: Growing Fresh Food in Small Spaces,” is an excellent resource.)
A powerhouse of nutrition, sprouts may contain up to 30 times the nutrition of organic vegetables grown in your garden, and they enable your body to extract more vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fats from the foods you eat. During sprouting, minerals such as calcium and magnesium bind to protein, making them more bioavailable. Furthermore, the quality of the fiber and protein content of most beans, grains, nuts and seeds improves when sprouted.
Sprouting also helps reduce toxic lectins, the sugar-binding plant proteins known to attach to your cell membranes, which are often a hidden source of weight gain and ill health. The content of vitamins and essential fatty acids also increases dramatically during the sprouting process. In addition to the benefits already mentioned, sprouts have been shown to:
• Defend against free radical damage due to the antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins and minerals they contain
• Inhibit abnormal cell growth due to being abundantly rich in oxygen (bacteria and viruses generally cannot survive in an oxygen-rich environment)
• Protect your body against disease, including cancer, due to their alkalinizing effects (many tumors are acidic)
• Support cell regeneration
I grow sunflower sprouts in trays because they provide some of the highest quality vegetables you can eat. Sprouted sunflower seeds also contain an abundance of chlorophyll, which will help detoxify your blood and liver. Beyond their superior nutritional benefits, sprouts are inexpensive to grow and can be added to salads, sandwiches, smoothies and vegetable juices.
Home Gardening Is the Answer to Many of Our Problems
There's no doubt that home gardening is an important step toward building a more sustainable food system. I've been encouraging readers for years to plant gardens as a means of making high-quality, nutrient-dense foods more readily available. After all, food grown in your own garden is fresher, more nutritious and tastes better than store-bought food — and you can't beat the convenience and price. Those are just a few of the many benefits of putting a garden in your backyard.
According to a survey1 by Gardeners' World magazine, 80 percent of gardeners reported being "happy" and satisfied with their lives, compared to 67 percent of nongardeners. Many of the happy feelings undoubtedly come from sticking your hands in the soil and spending time in nature, which includes vital sun exposure that helps promote your body's synthesis of vitamin D.
In addition, walking barefoot outdoors and making contact with the soil provides you with the many health benefits associated with grounding, also known as earthing. As detailed in the documentary film, “Grounded,” walking barefoot on grass or bare ground transfers free electrons from the Earth's surface into your body that spread throughout your tissues, providing beneficial effects.
Grounding has been shown to enhance well-being, improve sleep, reduce inflammation and relieve pain. If you are a gardener, you undoubtedly can attest to the uptick of energy and positive feelings that accompany the work. An additional pleasure comes from cultivating and eating your own homegrown food.