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7 Health Benefits of Gardening

7 Health Benefits of Gardening

While some people like to get their hands dirty literally, pouring their love into soil and actually growing plants, crops, or flowers, others just shy away from the whole idea completely, concluding gardening as a gross pastime that is not for them. Health experts have actually shown that gardening is good for your health. Surprised? Don’t be. Let’s take a look at some of the ways gardening actually aids us in maintaining good health.

1. Stress Relief

Gardening allows you to be more relaxed and one with all the sunshine and fresh air. It equally boosts your immune system function while enabling you to be more productive because there’s no greater measure of one’s power to create positive change in the world than to nurture a plant from a seed to a fruit-bearing plant. Studies have shown that after a day of sitting at your desk, or after a highly stressful day, getting your hands into the dirt and nurturing your garden reduces levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.

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2. Physical Activity

Gardening might just be all the workout you need. As a pleasurable and goal-oriented outdoor activity, gardening has another advantage because people are more likely to stick with it and do it often. It is important to note that the amount of exertion needed for gardening really depends on the size of the garden. Gardening is hardly like pumping iron. Unless you’re hauling wheelbarrows of dirt long distances daily, mowing or shoveling or pruning probably won’t do much for your cardiovascular fitness.

However, digging, planting, weeding, and other repetitive tasks that require strength or stretching are excellent forms of low-impact exercise. This could be more effective, especially for people who find more energetic exercise a challenge, like people who are older or suffering from a chronic disease. Besides, general activities in gardening also help to get your blood pumping.

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3. Anti-depressants

Dirt contains a natural antidepressant called mycobacterium vaccae. According to research, this particular antidepressant microbe causes cytokine levels to increase, which in turns boosts the production of serotonin. People with some mental illnesses have been advised to try horticultural therapy, a garden with a combination of fruits and vegetables as well as scented and flowering plants to nourish all the senses. From visual aesthetic appeal to the refreshing scent of fresh flowers to the nutritional benefits, succeeding at gardening also fosters a sense of confidence, satisfaction, and increases self-esteem.

Once the flowers have bloomed and the fruits have been harvested, looking back on the work that went into the gardening and landscaping will provide you with an overwhelming sense of pride, confidence, and satisfaction, which helps to deal or helps patients cope with illnesses. The overall benefits, apart from the one listed above, seem to spring from a combination of physical activity, awareness of their surroundings, cognitive stimulation, and the satisfaction derived from the work. This is why different farming techniques like the hydroponics farming system is becoming more popular in many therapy centers.[1]

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4. Healthier Food

People who grow food tend to eat healthier than those that don’t, as several studies have shown that gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than their peers. Home gardens are likely to be filled with fresh fruits and vegetables that are organic and free of harsh chemicals, which are among the healthiest food that should be in our diets. Homegrown produce have also been reported to taste better than store-bought produce.

5. Brain Nutrition

One long-term study followed nearly 3,000 older adults for 16 years, tracking the incidence of all kinds of dementia and assessing a variety of lifestyle factors. Researchers found daily gardening to represent the single biggest risk reduction for dementia, reducing incidences by 36%. Another study estimated the risk reduction at a whopping 47%. This is because gardening involves so many of our critical functions, including learning, problem-solving, and sensory awareness, that its benefits are likely to represent a synthesis of various aspects.

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6. Hand Strength and Dexterity

As people get older, agility and strength in the hands may gradually reduce and this may limit the range of activities that are possible or pleasurable for them. Gardening, however, keeps those hand muscles vigorous and agile. Remember not to overdo it, as gardening can also cause repetitive stress injuries, tendonitis, and carpal tunnel. Practice hand-healthy gardening by using a few simple warm-ups, positioning your body comfortably and ergonomically, changing tasks frequently before strain becomes evident, and also balancing tasks between both hands also helps the brain.

7. Vitamin D

Gardening gets you out in the sun, sunlight being a good source of vitamin D. Very few foods actually contain vitamin D, which is instrumental in preventing a number of chronic illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Those with low vitamin D levels may be doubling their risk of dying of heart disease, osteoporosis, and some forms of cancer.

Gardening has a lot of positive effects on us as individuals, on the environment, and on the planet as a whole. Many now consider gardening as a form of spiritual cultural quest.[2] This, in part, is because gardening and tending the plants can be soothing and has great impact on our health. The good thing about it is that you can start small if the idea of gardening overwhelms you. You could start with a few pots of flowers, set time out to see to their care, and grow to love the soil.

Reference

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Amber McNaught

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

Top 9 Foods for Incredible Brian Health And Brain Power

Top 9 Foods for Incredible Brian Health And Brain Power

Your brain is the most intricate and powerful organ in your entire body. It’s essentially a super-computer with brain power like a Ferrari.

If you have a Ferrari, would you put cheap gasoline in it? Of course not. You want to put in high-octane performance fuel to get the most out of your investment.

When it comes to the brain, many people are looking for the top foods that will supercharge the brainpower to help focus better, think more clearly and have better brain health.

In this article, we’ll look at the top 9 brain foods that will help create supercharge your brain with energy and health:

1. Salmon

Salmon has long been held as a healthy brain food, but what makes this fish so valuable for your brain health?

It’s important to understand that your brain is primarily made up of fat. Roughly 60% of your brain is fat. One of the most important fats that the brain uses as a building block for healthy brain cells is omega-3’s.

Omega-3’s are essential for building a healthy brain but one of the most important omega-3’s for your brain is DHA. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) forms nearly two-thirds of the omega-3’s found in your brain.[1]

Omega-3’s and DHA in particular help form the protective coating around our neurons. The better quality this coating is, the more efficient and effective our brain cells can work, allowing our brain power to work at full capacity.

Studies have shown that being deficient in DHA can affect normal brain development in children, which is why so many infant formulas and children’s supplements are beginning to include DHA.

Being deficient in DHA as an adult can cause focus and attention problems, mood swings, irritability, fatigue and poor sleep.

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2. Blueberries

Blueberries top the list as one of the most beneficial fruits to maximize your brain health and performance.

Blueberries have some of the highest content of antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, than any other fruit, which helps protect the brain from stress and promote healthy brain aging.

Blueberries antioxidant content also help reduce inflammation, which allows the brain to maintain healthy energy levels.

Blueberries have begun to receive attention for their connection to brain performance.[2] Studies have demonstrated that eating blueberries on a regular basis can not only improve brain health but also brain performance as well including working memory.[3]

Blueberries not only taste great but are low in calories, high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Manganese.

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is a very impressive spice that has well-researched and proven to have tremendous benefits for your brain. Turmeric’s main compound that benefits the brain is called curcumin, which is responsible for turmerics bright yellow appearance.

Curcumin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-cancer properties.[4]

Curcumin increases the production and availability of two important neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, two important neurotransmitters involved with happiness, motivation, pleasure, and reward.

Curcumin has been well documented to have powerful anti-depressive effects. In one study, it was found to be as effective for depression as popular medications such as SSRI’s like Prozac.[5]

Curcumin has also been shown to:

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  • Increase blood flow to the brain.[6]
  • Increase BDNF production, a powerful stimulator of neuroplasticity.[7]
  • Increase DHA availability and synthesis in the brain.[8]
  • Increase antioxidant levels in the brain to prevent brain aging and inflammation.[9]

4. Coffee

Coffee is the wonderful elixir of energy that many people cherish every single morning. The biggest reason people drink coffee is to get a dose of caffeine.

Caffeine is a natural neurological stimulant that not only gives you energy but also prevents adenosine, a neurotransmitter involved with feeling tired, from binding in the brain.

Many people are surprised to find that coffee actually contains a large quantity of antioxidants called polyphenols, which are important for reducing inflammation in the brain and keep your brain energized. The antioxidants in coffee also provide a neuroprotective effect, protecting the brain from stress and damage. [R]

Coffee can also:

  • Improve alertness and concentration.[10]
  • Help with neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease.[11]
  • Reduce your risk of depression.[12]
  • Improve your memory.
  • Provide short-term boost in athletic performance.[13]

5. Broccoli

What was your least favorite food as a kid growing up?

Most likely, broccoli was your answer.

Broccoli may not have been your top choice, but it might be the top choice for your brain.

Broccoli contains a compound called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has been shown to promote the proliferation and survival of brain cells by reducing inflammation and boosting production of BDNF. It has also been shown to boost neurogenesis, the production of new brain cells.[14]

Broccoli is also loaded with important nutrients Vitamin K and Folate. Vitamin K plays a vital role in protecting brain cells.[15] Folate plays a crucial role in detoxification and reducing inflammation in the brain.

6. Bone broth

Bone broth wasn’t just created to combine with soups, you can actually drink bone broth by itself.

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Drinking bone broth has become one of the biggest trends in the health and wellness industry and for good reason. Bone broth isn’t actually a new thing. Bone broth has been used for centuries as a healing tonic to promote health and longevity.

Much of the nutritional benefits and value of bone broth comes from its substantial vitamin and mineral content. Primarily calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.

Your gut is called your second brain for a reason. Research continually shows that there is a direct and indirect connection between your gut and your brain. Your gut also houses and stores many important brain compounds involved with optimal brain performance. Therefore the health of your gut is vitally important for your brain health and performance.

Bone broth has become a go-to tool for helping heal the gut and provide the gut with the vital nutrient and resources it needs to heal and perform optimally.

With the vast amounts of nutrients that bone broth contains, it makes the list as a go-to food for your brain health.

Look for high quality, organic bone broth for the best results.

7. Walnuts

Walnuts are one of the top choices of nuts for brain health. Walnuts also look similar to a brain.

Amongst the wide variety of nuts available, walnuts contain the highest amounts of the important omega-3 DHA. DHA, as seen above, is a critical building block for a healthy brain.

Walnuts also contain high amounts of antioxidants, folate, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, which help to lower inflammation.

Melatonin in walnuts is an important nutrient for regulating your sleep. Having low amounts of melatonin can make it challenging to get good quality sleep and getting poor quality sleep can dramatically impair brain health and performance.

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8. Eggs

For years, eggs were put on the nutritional naughty list; but now, eggs are finally getting the credit they deserve. Eggs can provide a tremendous boost to your brain health and longevity.

Eggs, particularly the yolks, contain a compound called choline. Choline is essential for building the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine plays an important role in mood, memory, and intelligence.

Egg yolks contain some of the highest quantities of choline. This is very important because low levels of choline can lead to low levels of acetylcholine, which in turn can cause increased inflammation, brain fog, difficulty concentrating and fatigue.

9. Dark chocolate

You’re about to love chocolate even more because chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is great for your brain.

Chocolate boosts levels of endorphins, your brains “feel good” chemicals. This is why you feel so good eating chocolate.[16]

Chocolate also increases blood flow to the brain which can help improve memory, attention, focus, and reaction time.[17]

Dark chocolate contains high levels of magnesium, which has been coined “natures valium” for its ability to calm and relax the brain.

Lastly, dark chocolate has one of the highest antioxidant profiles out of any other food, including popular superfoods like acai berries, blueberries, or pomegranates.[18]

Conclusion

Your brain is a high performing organ and it uses quite a lot of energy, roughly 20% of the bodies energy demands.

In order to maintain a healthy brain, you need the right fuel to ensure that your brain has all the nutrients it needs to perform as well as adapt to the stress of life.

If you want to keep your brain performing well for a lifetime, then you want to make sure you are including as many of these brain health foods as possible.

More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: DHA Effects in Brain Development and Function
[2] Canadian Science Publishing: Enhanced task-related brain activation and resting perfusion in healthy older adults after chronic blueberry supplementation
[3] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Cognitive effects following acute wild blueberry supplementation in 7- to 10-year-old children.
[4] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Curcumin: the Indian solid gold.
[5] Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition.: Turmeric, the Golden Spice
[6] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effect of combined treatment with curcumin and candesartan on ischemic brain damage in mice.
[7] Science Direct: Curcumin reverses the effects of chronic stress on behavior, the HPA axis, BDNF expression and phosphorylation of CREB
[8] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Curcumin boosts DHA in the brain: Implications for the prevention of anxiety disorders.
[9] PLOS: A Chemical Analog of Curcumin as an Improved Inhibitor of Amyloid Abeta Oligomerization
[10] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effects of Caffeine on Cognitive Performance, Mood, and Alertness in Sleep-Deprived Humans
[11] American Academy of Neurology: A Cup of Joe May Help Some Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
[12] American Academy of Neurology: AAN 65th Annual Meeting Abstract
[13] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effects of caffeine on the metabolic and catecholamine responses to exercise in 5 and 28 degrees C.
[14] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Hyperammonemia induces glial activation, neuroinflammation and alters neurotransmitter receptors in hippocampus, impairing spatial learning: reversal by sulforaphane
[15] Oxford Academic: Vitamin K and the Nervous System: An Overview of its Actions
[16] Diana L. Walcutt, Ph.D: Chocolate and Mood Disorders
[17] Health Magazine: Chocolate can do good things for your heart, skin and brain
[18] Chemistry Central Journal: Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products

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