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Health Benefits of Growing a Garden at Home

Having a garden right in your yard not only gives you fresh, healthy options to eat, but the time you spend outside in your garden gives you many health benefits as well.

Elizabeth Tarabour, RDN, shares how easy it is to grow herbs inside your house, the many benefits of cooking with them, as well as easy items to plant outside that can give you fresh veggies for the whole season.
Health Benefits of Growing a Garden at Home
Featured Speaker:
Liz Tarabour, RD
Liz Tarabour, MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Henry Mayo Fitness and Health. Her professional experience includes 10+ years in clinical nutrition, inpatient/outpatient medical nutrition therapy, and culinary; plus she served 6 years as an officer in the United States Air Force. She loves helping adult learners improve their health with prevention and management of conditions such as diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and hypertension.

Melanie Cole (Host):  In addition to providing nutritious vegies and fruits for your dinner table and beautiful flowers to decorate it, gardening offers a variety of health benefits. We have been hearing about these for years. And here to tell us about them is Liz Tarabour. She’s a registered dietician nutritionist at Henry Mayo Fitness and Health. So, Liz what are some of the health benefits of gardening? People don’t realize. They think it’s easy or they think it’s not very much work. So, tell us about some of the health benefits from gardening.

Elizabeth Tarabour, RDN (Guest):  Right, yes there are a lot of wonderful benefits of gardening both indoors and outdoors at home. One of the obvious ones is that it is great exercise. Being able to get out and move and do the physical work is great exercise, good for your waistline, good for your heart health, all those sorts of things. Also, it can – there are a lot of actual benefits to your health in terms of things like that it’s higher in nutrients because the food has not traveled versus what you buy in the store that has had to travel far away to get to the grocery store. So, they are higher in nutrients. They are also richer in a lot of the nutrients such as phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A, folate and things like that. But also, when you grow them at home, you have the ability to leave out things like pesticides that you would find in a lot of the produce that you might purchase at the grocery store. So, you have that option for growing your own organic types of produce and herbs and things like that. But it’s also good for the planet in terms of reducing carbon footprint and being able to do things like composting which can be good for the soil. There are lots of other benefits too such as being good for your mental health. It’s a good place to be able to meditate and share time with the family. There are so many benefits. Saving money, sense of appreciation for what you are doing, new appreciation for nature, stimulating lots of new interests. Some people find out all sorts of things like learning about botany, landscaping architecture, photography and nutrition. So, it’s endless. The list goes on and on.

Melanie:  Well it does kind of help you reconnect with nature and getting your hands in the dirt, I love the spring time when I get to plant my vegetable garden and get my hands in that dirt and work it. it feels so good. So, you are reconnecting. Now let’s talk about what you grow because you are a nutritionist and a dietician and tell us when we are growing these vegetables what we should know. Because you mentioned pesticides and using those kinds of things and not using them when we are growing our own garden. So, what do you want us to know about what you would like us to grow? I mean if we are going to grow some stuff, what’s some of the healthiest things we can grow?

Elizabeth:  Well, you can grow anything. It’s just knowing how to and what season. Talking about the pesticides and organic versus nonorganic. You can purchase organic soils at the store at Home Depot, Lowes, plant stores, nurseries, things like that. So, you would just want to talk to the expert there about the region that you live in and what type of soil you would want to purchase and what type of nutrients you would need for different fruits and vegetables and herbs. But otherwise, it’s all seasonal thing to pick the right season and learn about if things should be planted in pots versus in the ground. Right now, we are kind of in that period going from spring to summer so, a lot of those spring vegetables we are a little bit past season with that, but you can still plant just about any herbs. Some of the ones that thrive indoors are things like chives, oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and they are really hardy, and they don’t require a whole lot in terms of special care. They just need a lot of sunlight and good soil with suitable pH level which you can ask your specialist at the nursery for what type of soil you would get for what type of herb and that sort of thing. And making sure you have good drainage. And so really any kind of herb. Those ones I mentioned are really good. As far as the fruits and vegetables go, right now we are getting kind of closer to getting to summertime, so things like peppers, and zucchini and squash and cucumbers and eggplants, basil, those are all good ones that could be started now. But I wouldn’t wait any longer to start them because the closer we get to summer, you are not going to get much out of them. And then later towards August, you could work on those winter – getting those winter vegies planted such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, fava beans, leeks, shallots, onions, things like that.

Melanie:  I agree and so much fun to grow them and then actually get to use them and what a great way to get our kids involved in eating healthy. So, tell us what you want us to do about getting our kids because it’s so important to get them involved. They may not like to pull weeds, but maybe getting them involved in what we harvest can help them to learn to eat healthier.

Elizabeth:  Definitely. A lot of times, kids, if they are involved with the process, then they will be a lot more willing to try something. Same thing goes for cooking. If they are involved with cooking, then they are going to be much more likely to try it at the table. But it’s so much fun to see what you have started come to fruition with – when the actual fruit or vegetable, it’s time to eat it. So, not only is it fun for kids to see that and it’s a great education and learning experience; but it can be good family time if you are doing this together. It’s more nutritious for them because they might eat more of it. Also, it’s really good physical activity and in this day and age where we have the video games and electronics and kids want to be on them all day; this is a great alternative, especially before it gets too hot. Right now, is a perfect time to get out there a little bit and try to be physical outside. It’s just – it’s a great family activity and a way to get your kids involved.

Melanie:  It’s so important definitely and when we are talking about some of the other benefits, really in learning to cook, because learning to cook with these things and I’m sure as a dietician you teach people what to do. People don’t always know what to do if they are going to grow kohlrabi, if they are going to grow leeks, if they are going to grow all these things; what do you want them to know about learning to use these things so maybe they will try and grow some new and different things?

Elizabeth:  Well, one good thing about the internet is that there is endless information and recipes and ideas for things. Let’s say you wanted to grow some oregano but didn’t really know what to do with it. Well, you could just Google it and you are going find out that it is used in Mediterranean cooking and you can use it to marinate meats or use it in breads, so there’s it’s a matter of taking some time to get a little bit creative and learning about what these different things can do in terms of creative dishes and new tastes and flavors and combining things. Maybe you would have ginger and turmeric that you had that you garden, but you didn’t think to combine them. But that would be a great way to combine flavors and make some kind of a new dish that might amaze you. So, it does take a little creativity and inspiration, but I think it can be so much fun. If you are looking for a new hobby, this is a great one for so many reasons.

Melanie:  Well, I completely agree it is just absolutely a wonderful way to destress, get outside, reconnect. Wrap it up for us Liz as a registered dietitian nutritionist and what you really want us to know about the health benefits of not only gardening outside but growing those fresh fruits and vegetables and even growing herbs inside our house and getting the kids involved as well.

Elizabeth:  I say just do it. Find some spare time on a Saturday. Get out there, go to a nursery and go to a nursery not Home Depot. Not that there’s anything wrong with Home Depot, because they have wonderful products, Home Depot and Lowes. But, you will find that at a nursery, you have experts that have endless knowledge and can help inspire you and teach you what to buy, what to do when and just do it. And I once you get going with it, it will be a new fun habit, hobby rather, and you can improve your health. Everything from increasing your nutrients to getting a little exercise and getting some good vitamin D from the sunlight.

Melanie:  Absolutely true and great information as we head into the summer and it would be a great hobby to take up. You’re listening to It’s Your Health Radio with Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. For more information please visit That’s This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for tuning in.