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How urban gardening can support your health

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

If you are lucky enough to have access to a garden or allotment, growing your own fruit, vegetables or herbs is really rewarding and great for your microbiome and overall health.


My best friend's veggie garden is enormous and often feeds 3 families!

These zucchini flowers were delicious.

My tiny veggie box produced a great tomato crop.

My best friend's lettuce crop


My veggie garden in Melbourne, Australia, is tiny but still generated tomatoes, chilli, spinach, rocket and loads of herbs this summer. In fact, our tomato crop has been so good that we haven’t bought a tomato for the past 8 weeks. I love picking fresh herbs and vegetables for dinner and think they taste so much nicer than anything store bought. Not to mention that most homegrown produce uses natural compost so no chemicals or pesticides.


There are so many health benefits to growing your own produce. Not only does it provide you with fresh tasty food, but it can also result in higher nutrient availability and improved polyphenol content in your diet. Polyphenols are natural compounds found in plant-based foods that are associated with a range of health benefits, including reduced risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Studies have consistently found that homegrown fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of polyphenols compared to commercially grown options.


Also, vegetables and fruit carry beneficial bacteria from the soil – these are the bacteria that make sauerkraut or kimchi. The fresher the vegetables, the more live bacteria, so that's a major advantage to freshly pulled carrots over ones that have been flown in and stored for long periods. In fact, studies have shown that organic apples had a greater diversity of bacteria than conventionally farmed apples.


Growing your own produce also encourages a healthier diet. People who grow their own produce are more likely to consume fruits and vegetables on a regular basis, as the fresh produce is readily available. It is also a fun way to encourage kids to eat fruit and vegetables by engaging them in the process of planting, picking, and preparing a meal.


Another advantage of growing your own produce is the physical activity it involves and the opportunity to spend time outdoors and interact with green space. Research has shown that spending time in nature can have a positive impact on mental health by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Being outdoors also increases our Vitamin D levels which can help to improve our mood.


And don’t forget that growing your own food can significantly reduce your grocery bill and provides a steady supply of fresh produce at your fingertips.



REFERENCES:

Faller, A.L.K. (2010) Polyphenol content and antioxidant capacity in organic and conventional plant foods, Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 23 (6). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfca.2010.01.003.


Lal, R. (2020). Home gardening and urban agriculture for advancing food and nutritional security in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Food Security. 12, 871–876


Vigar, V. et al (2019). A Systematic Review of Organic Versus Conventional Food Consumption: Is There a Measurable Benefit on Human Health? Nutrients, 12 (1), 7.

Wassermann, B. et al (2019). An Apple a Day: Which Bacteria Do We Eat With Organic and Conventional Apples? Frontiers in Microbiology, 10, 1629



Vicky Ellenport BHSc NUT is a registered Nutritionist and Microbiome Group Associate. You can find out more about consultations with her here:



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