There are many good reasons why you should grow your own vegetables if you can.
But the main reason has to be that fruit and vegetables should be eaten as soon as possible after being picked.
They will never be as nutritious as they are at the moment you pick them or dig them up. Although fruits and vegetables remain alive after picking, it is that very quality that can contribute to spoilage and loss of nutrients.
Every hour that goes by means less nutritional value.
Why that main reason counts
After picking, fruits and vegetables continue to breathe. This process, called respiration, breaks down stored organic materials (such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats), and leads to loss of food value, flavor and nutrients. Produce will lose heat from this respiration (as well as moisture) which is one way nutrients are lost. The longer fresh fruit and vegetables have to breathe before being consumed, the less likely they are to retain nutrients.
For example, spinach
can lose 90% of its vitamin C content within 24 hours of harvest and 50% of its folate and carotenoids within a week. Long distance delivery can often mean that over a week passes between picking - and selling in the store.
Other vegetables lose between 15% and 77% of their vitamin C within a week of harvest and that’s if they’re kept refrigerated the whole time. The warmer the temperature, the faster the vitamin loss.
Fruits and vegetables grown in the southern hemisphere for winter and spring consumption in the U.S.A. can be stored in refrigerated ships for several weeks.
What is the solution?
There are several solutions:
- Buy in season, buy local. Support your local farmers markets.
- Grow your own as much as possible.
- Get involved in a community garden.
- If you cannot get really fresh fruit and vegetables, consider frozen instead.
Some of those other good reasons
Working in a garden and using the soil has been found to have similar effects on the brain as antidepressants
– to lift mood
. A study by the University of Bristol (and colleagues at University College London) looked at how mice exposed to ‘friendly’ bacteria normally found in soil, altered their behaviour in a similar way to that produced by an antidepressant.
Gardeners (when actually gardening) are said to get into a flow state where they don’t notice that time is passing, tend to switch off worrying and thinking about other things such as making plans or dwelling on rehashing the past. It produces a state of mindfulness
, literally connecting them to the earth.
Gardening exercises your mind as well as your body
. It utilises a number of our brain functions and includes learning, problem solving and sensory awareness, keeping our minds active. A number of studies have shown the benefits of therapeutic gardens for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Exercise (including that used in gardening) can help to make your brain 10 years younger
than your actual age. And while you are working in your garden, make sure you have rosemary growing so that you can have a daily sniff of this herb for a further brain boost!
The summer months are the perfect time to increase your sunlight exposure
, stripping off to minimum clothing for at least part of the time you work in the garden (and especially between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm) to as much skin area as possible until it starts to turn pink. The aim is to raise your vitamin D to a minimum
serum level of 40 ng/ml. If you can go higher, so much the better. The secret is in regular testing and we tell you more about this in our earlier post
. Sufficiently high levels of vitamin D are beneficial to your health in a hundred different ways including helping to prevent Alzheimer’s.
Growing your own fruit and vegetables is a win/win situation for anyone who is able to do it. And you can start off simply, with just a selection of easy to grow salad crops and build up your repertoire over time.