Get planning and start planting - Nutrition

Jane McClenaghan explains all the different ways gardening is good for you

Get gardening and see your health - and diet - improve (Alamy Stock Photo)

Bank holidays, rainy days and the need for extra layers are all sure signs that spring is here.

If you are a gardener, this is the time of year to get planning and start planting. St Patrick’s day is traditionally when the first spuds go into the ground. This got me thinking about the link between the soil under our feet and the health of our bodies.

When the soil conditions are right, the tiny little seeds we plant into the ground will quickly sprout and as if by magic, we have food growing in our gardens within a few weeks. The condition of the soil, and the nutrients it contains become part of the food we grow.

Whether we look at this in our own back gardens, or in commercial growing, the better the soil the more nutritious the food, and the better for our health.

Whether you are a keen grower, or new to gardening, there are plenty of health benefits to growing.

Here are just a few:

Better nutrition

It is an obvious link, but growing your own food packs more nutrition onto your plate. Vegetables, salad and fruit eaten fresh from your garden is much higher in nutrients than even the best that you can find in your local supermarket or veg shop.

Although we don’t think too much about it, soil is the source of vital nutrients for human nutrition. Homegrown vegetables are rich in nutrients and antioxidants and because there are zero food miles involved, and that we often pick and eat immediately, we are optimising our intake of these vital nutrients.

A healthy gut microbiome

Getting your hands in the earth has a really positive impact on your gut microbiome. Research shows that gardeners have a better diversity of healthy, probiotic bacteria than non-gardeners. Not only that, but is also seems that having a gardener in your house is good for everyone’s health. It has been demonstrated that the gut microbiome of a household is positively affected, so even if you are not a gardener, but you live with someone who is, you will reap the benefits – nutritious food and a healthy gut microbiome. Who would have thought that gardening was good for your gut?

Eating seasonal produce

Getting into your garden will keep you in touch with nature’s seasonal cycles. When you garden, you know the best time of year to eat certain foods. Strawberries and tomatoes in summer taste amazing, compared to the tasteless versions we buy in the supermarket at other times of the year.

It's time to plant the new crop of spuds... (Alamy Stock Photo)
Top up your vitamin D levels

Although the forecast for the next few days puts the shorts and T-shirts back into storage for a while, getting some sun on your skin in milder weather will help maintain healthy levels of vitamin D – a nutrient most of us are a bit low in at this time of the year in this little corner of the world. Vitamin D is essential for so much of our health, including bone health, supporting our immune systems and managing our mood. Vitamin D is made by the exposure of sun on our skin and it is recommended that we supplement vitamin D between October and May, when we are not outside so much and the sun is not so strong.

Mindfulness and stress relief

Gardening is great for your mental health. Often gardeners say they went out for 10 minutes and found themselves so immersed in nature, they didn’t see an hour fly by. Sowing seeds, digging the soil or pulling weeds gets your moving and keeps your mind on the job. A great way to de-stress and stay mindful.

If this is all new to your, why not give it a go. Start with a pot of compost and a pack of salad seeds. You will be munching your way through your homegrown salad in a few short weeks. Happy gardening.