Duchess of Dirt: Harvesting for health

A bountiful harvest from my garden certainly makes me appreciate the goodness it has produced.

The flavour straight from garden to table is undeniable. Grown organically, the produce is rich in beneficial nutrients we need for our bodies.

Scientific studies abound to support just how important certain foods are for warding off many of the aging pitfalls the baby boomer generation is encountering. And who can dispute the many benefits a healthy diet of fresh vegetables and fruits have for developing young bodies?

Thanks to the old Popeye cartoons, spinach has long been in the limelight. Deservedly so for the 20 vitamins and minerals, plus a nice balance of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fibre all wrapped up in a single cup of leaves. So much goodness for your body in a mere 41 calories. Without the dressing, of course.

Collard greens and Swiss chard are also high in nutritional value with 18 and 21 vitamins and minerals, respectively. They both contain protein and fibre as well, but Swiss chard lacks the omega-3 fatty acids.

When it comes to helping maintain healthy bones, spinach is one of the best. That one cup of leaves contains over 1,000 per cent of the recommended daily value of vitamin K, a major good guy in fighting off osteoporosis.

“Eat your carrots” has long been a mantra for good eyesight. Good advice, but you also want to include broccoli, brussels sprouts, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, and spinach. They all contain beneficial minerals and vitamins for maintaining healthy eyes. Eating too many carrots by themselves will turn you a light shade of orange from the beta-carotene. This happened to my youngest son when he was on his allergen diet of no wheat, no eggs, and no dairy. Mark definitely turned an orange colour from too many carrots! But his eyesight is awesome.

Don’t forget about kale. It has risen in the ranks of a healthy vegetable for its vitamin A and C, potassium, calcium, iron, and folate. Kale is also a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin (zee-uh-ZAN-thin), both healthy carotenoids for your eyesight.

Kale also contains kaempferol, a flavonol which is purported to be beneficial in reducing the growth of pancreatic cancer cells according to a study conducted by the Baylor College of Medicine.

One good, non-food advice for your eyes: stop staring at the computer screen for long periods of time. Eye specialists recommend you look away for a few seconds on a regular basis and take a 15-minute break every two hours.

Need to speed up your metabolism? It slows down as you age so eat cauliflower for its fibre content. It also contains vitamins B6 and K, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and sulfurophane. This last ingredient is really good for your heart.

Problems with your bowels? Eat your beets. (There is a delicious lemon-honeyed beets recipe on my website.)

Thinking about that next trip to the dentist? Eat a handful of raisins daily. Various studies have determined raisins lower the pH level in the mouth and inhibit certain harmful bacteria which cause cavities and gum disease.

Of special note to older women: eat your cabbage! It raises your estrogen levels, a very important and healthy hormone for us.

From the herb garden – who knew basil protected cell structure against radiation? Oregano is an excellent source of fibre and antioxidants, as well as having antibacterial benefits. And don’t forget to liberally sprinkle rosemary and sage in your soups and stews for the boost they give to your cognitive powers.

All this, and more, from our garden. Truly a season to celebrate the harvest!

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at www.duchessofdirt.ca and her column appears every second Thursday in the Record.

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