I was drawn to the nutrition school I attended, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, for two main reasons. First, they teach bio-individuality. This means that no specific eating plan works for everyone. One person’s medicine can be another person’s poison. And second, the school coined the concept of primary and secondary food. This means that it’s not just the food on your plate that impacts your health. You also have to consider relationships, mindset, and self care. All of these areas feed us, and there are 12 key areas that impact health.
I share this with you because I discovered something fascinating about these 12 steps. Gardening addresses NINE of them! So, this means that gardeners already have a head start. I’ve highlighted the steps that are impacted by gardening in black, so it’s just a simple step of implementing these healthy practices. That’s right, gardening for the health of it!
12 STEPS TO BETTER HEALTH
1. Drink more water: I don’t believe there is a perfect prescription for exactly how much water you should drink, but generally the bigger and more active you are, the more you should drink. By increasing the amount of water you drink you can significantly reduce cravings, aches and pains and increase your energy.
2. Practice cooking: Cooking is a fundamental step to healthier living. By making your own meals you know what’s going into them. Meals don’t need to take hours to prepare and involve multiple ingredients. Growing your own food significantly enhances how much you cook at home, you are cooking with the fruits of your labor!
3. Increase whole grains: Trust me it’s not these types of carbohydrates that have led to the obesity epidemic, but rather the processed goods like doughnuts. Whole grains are some of the best sources of nutritional support and provide long-lasting energy. We can grow whole grains at home. For example, I’ve been experimenting with growing quinoa.
4. Increase sweet vegetables: People forget that these exist and they are the perfect medicine for the sweet tooth. Instead of depending on processed sugar, you can add more naturally sweet flavors to your diet and dramatically reduce sweet cravings. Growing sweet veggies in the garden like sweet potatoes, beets, and carrots, is sure-fire way to work them into your diet.
5. Increase leafy green vegetables: These are seriously lacking in the American diet and they are most essential for creating long-lasting health. More specifically they help eliminate depression, improve liver, gallbladder and kidney function. Growing organic kale, spinach, collards, swiss chard, and broccoli at home can save you time and money at the grocery store!
6. Experiment with protein: The majority of Americans eat way too much protein and mostly in the form of animal meat. Try growing protein-rich edibles like beans, kale and quinoa.
7. Eat less meat, dairy, sugar and processed foods; consume less coffee, alcohol and tobacco: Did you notice I said eat less instead of don’t eat? If I told you not to drink coffee or chocolate you would want it all the more. By increasing your whole grains, vegetables and water you will naturally crowd out the more processed items. Home edible gardens make this even easier to accomplish.
8. Develop easy self-care habits: People get so wrapped up in their busy lives that they forget to take care of themselves. This can be something as simple as a relaxing bath and as nice as a day at the spa.
9. Have healthy relationships: I call love the ultimate superfood. A loving, supportive relationship can nourish your soul. What’s more is when you feel love and happiness you are more likely to eat better. Reach out to that one person who makes you feel loved and nourished. Gardening can accomplish this as well because you’re outdoors interacting with fellow gardeners in the neighborhood and the community.
10. Be physical active: You don’t need to spend hours at the gym. We know that gardening is excellent exercise!
11. Find work you love or a way to love the work you have: So many of us spend 8 hours a day in a job that is unfulfilling and end up stressed out which leads to a slew of health problems. Ask yourself if your job is aligned with your values.
12. Develop a spiritual practice for stress management: Some people freak out when I tell them this, but it’s really about connecting with yourself. You don’t need to start going to church or praying every day. Maybe being spiritual means spending time in nature while gardening. Finding a spiritual practice, like meditating, can help you slow down and appreciate the non-material things in life.
This is the most laid back health program ever, but these are excellent general guidelines to follow. You don’t need to follow the steps in order and you can do one step a week. Pick the step that you are most interested in trying. Have you wanted to try a pilates or yoga class? Go for it! Maybe you’ve wanted to experiment more in the kitchen? Just keep adding little healthy actions to your lifestyle and you will intuitively start crowding out unhealthy habits.
Here’s to gardening for the health of it!