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Nutrition Articles  ›  Seasonal & Holiday Tips

The Benefits of Growing Your Own Food

Boost Your Health and Your Bottom Line

-- By Liza Barnes & Nicole Nichols, Health Educators
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If you still aren't convinced, consider these benefits of backyard gardening:
  1. Improve your family's health. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the most important things you and your family can do to stay healthy. When they’re growing in your backyard, you won’t be able to resist them, and their vitamin content will be at their highest levels as you bite into them straight from the garden. Parents, take note: A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that preschool children who were almost always served homegrown produce were more than twice as likely to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day—and to like them more—than kids who rarely or never ate homegrown produce.
     
  2. Save money on groceries. Your grocery bill will shrink as you begin to stock your pantry with fresh produce from your backyard. A packet of seeds can cost less than a dollar, and if you buy heirloom, non-hybrid species, you can save the seeds from the best producers, dry them, and use them next year. If you learn to dry, can, or otherwise preserve your summer or fall harvest, you’ll be able to feed yourself even when the growing season is over.
     
  3. Reduce your environmental impact. Backyard gardening helps the planet in many ways. If you grow your food organically, without pesticides and herbicides, you’ll spare the earth the burden of unnecessary air and water pollution, for example. You’ll also reduce the use of fossil fuels and the resulting pollution that comes from the transport of fresh produce from all over the world (in planes and refrigerated trucks) to your supermarket.
     
  4. Get outdoor exercise. Planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting add purposeful physical activity to your day. If you have kids, they can join in, too. Be sure to lift heavy objects properly, and to stretch your tight muscles before and after strenuous activity. Gardening is also a way to relax, de-stress, center your mind, and get fresh air and sunshine.
     
  5. Enjoy better-tasting food. Fresh food is the best food! How long has the food on your supermarket shelf been there? How long did it travel from the farm to your table? Comparing the flavor of a homegrown tomato with the taste of a store-bought one is like comparing apples to wallpaper paste. If it tastes better, you’ll be more likely to eat the healthy, fresh produce that you know your body needs.
     
  6. Build a sense of pride. Watching a seed blossom under your care to become food on your and your family’s plates is gratifying. Growing your own food is one of the most purposeful and important things a human can do—it's work that directly helps you thrive, nourish your family, and maintain your health. Caring for your plants and waiting as they blossom and "fruit" before your eyes is an amazing sense of accomplishment!
     
  7. Stop worrying about food safety. With recalls on peanut butter, spinach, tomatoes and more, many people are concerned about food safety in our global food marketplace. When you responsibly grow your own food, you don't have to worry about contamination that may occur at the farm, manufacturing plant, or transportation process. This means that when the whole world is avoiding tomatoes, for example, you don't have to go without—you can trust that your food is safe and healthy to eat.
     
  8. Reduce food waste. Americans throw away about $600 worth of food each year! It's a lot easier to toss a moldy orange that you paid $0.50 for than a perfect red pepper that you patiently watched ripen over the course of several weeks. When it's "yours," you will be less likely to take it for granted and more likely to eat it (or preserve it) before it goes to waste.
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • GROWOWNFOOD6
    Growing your own food comes with lots of benefits. First, you get to improve the health of your family. You can also visit about Grow your own food http://growownfoo
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  • URBANFIG
    Growing your own food is an great way to expand your cooking and inspire new recipes. If you want to learn how to start an edible garden, UrbanFig has step by step instructions and a library of how to articles to get you started - 5/3/2013 9:06:25 PM
  • I would love to grow my own food but I am incredibly inept at it. I literally killed a Chia Pet, that's how far my black thumb extends. I'll let the green thumb folks grow my food. I am hoping to expand my relationship with my local Farmer's Market though. Now those folks know how to grow stuff! - 5/1/2013 6:21:11 AM
  • I received my Sparkpoints for reading this article in 2010 - when are new articles in this series coming? :) - 5/1/2013 1:00:26 AM
  • My square foot garden brings me much joy, in all those ways! - 4/8/2013 11:04:33 AM
  • We've been growing our own veggies ever since I've been married. 20+ years. I always plant a salad and a salsa with other veggies we like to eat.

    My daughter didn't even know that they came any other way. Her first grade teacher called me to tell me that my daughter was lying because she said that she didn't know veggies could come from a can. I had to correct the teacher and explain that she really didn't know this because we only eat fresh and mostly out of our garden. Then the teacher informed me that she needed to know this because when she moves out how is she going to eat? I said like we do now. With her own garden! The teacher forced me to take her shopping with me the next time and show her the cans of veggies and allow her to try some. lol We bought a can of peas. Then we went and picked our peas. Heated the can one and put ours out fresh. She took a mouth full of the canned peas and they came out as fast as they went in! She looked at me in horror and said "that's not what peas taste like what are they!" lol Then she happily ate our fresh ones from our garden. See you can't even fool a first grader! - 4/3/2013 4:03:47 PM
  • We have a very small yard. My husband built two raised beds, and we tore up a 3' wide strip of turf along our back fence (which gets sun all day long). That strip along the fence produce a bumper crop of sweet corn, broccoli, and beans. The beds produce plenty of tomatoes. I grow kohlrabi & beets for myself (the Hub's not a fan). It's easy to grow loose-leaf lettuce almost anywhere.

    Burpee sells seeds for hybrid plants developed especially for containers - including corn.

    Our church offers community garden plots. If you don't have the space or the sun exposure, I recommend looking into a community garden. Ours is a part of our church's outreach to the community, so it's pretty cheap to rent a plot for the season ($10). All you need to invest is time & some seeds.

    While gardening can seem like a lot of work, some of us find it relaxing. And such rewards! (At the end of our corn harvest, the Hub picked 11 pounds of corn, which we then canned. (Canning corn is easier than freezing it, but it MUST be done in a pressure canner.) That sweet corn was unbelievably delicious, and such a treat in the middle of February!) - 4/3/2013 12:56:53 PM
  • The only thing with growing your own food is that you grow it for the entire neighborhood: deer, rabbits, and gophers love fresh veggies. - 4/3/2013 10:02:22 AM
  • Love growing my own food! It is the best feeling. Then I will freeze some of it, but mostly dehydrate, dry or can, ok ok and eat eat eat!!!! Some of it barely makes it in the door. I am trying a new way this year with planting in straw bales. I will still have my raised beds, but I like to try new things as well. Keeps things interesting and challenging!!! - 4/3/2013 9:23:51 AM
  • I live in a city and grow vegetables, herbs, and fruit in my front, side, and back yard! It is hard work and there is expense involved, but I enjoy the work and love eating something that I have grown. - 5/25/2012 10:39:26 AM
  • This year we're trying an experiment that I'm actually blogging about at http://tamsgarden
    -howdoesourga
    rdengrow.blog
    spot.com/. We're trying to see how much we can grow/how little we have to purchase at the grocery store! - 6/14/2011 10:40:12 AM
  • My mom grew her own long bean and tasted much sweeter and size much longer than the one they sold at market! And it's true about gardening is a part of workout, just watering plants make me think as if I'm doing arms workout, hehe - 5/25/2010 9:58:59 PM
  • My husband and I have been gardening for a long time. Last year I canned over 400 jars of vegetables and we have a small garden plot. That did not count what we froze. We make our own compost and do not use chemicals. We also raise pigs naturally, on the dirt and the meat is out of this world. It is so much different from what you get in the store. I sold quite a bit from what I canned and people are already asking what I am going to be canning this year. This year i am going to experiment with using something besides sugar. So much of the pickles and chow-chow require sugar and i mean a lot, so I am going to try to work on cutting down on sugar and replacing it with something else. Anybody got any ideas???? - 4/12/2010 8:12:56 AM
  • I grew up on a farm and have gardened for most of my 43 years...I had my own small plot when I was a little girl and my husband and I now have a big garden, along with fruit trees, raspberries, asparagus, strawberries and grapes. We love it and have had our kids help too all their lives. We can, pickle, freeze and give away the excess. I can't say enough about how rewarding gardening is for us!

    For those of you with questions, I highly recommend going to your local library and checking out a basic vegetable gardening book. Go to your local Extension office and they will give wonderful publications and information. Check out the Dave's Garden web site. Gardening is like any other skill; it has to be learned. If you didn't learn it as a child, you need a little help to get started. Contact me if you like; I LOVE to talk gardening! - 4/10/2010 10:53:27 PM
  • Our fabulous veggies have taken over the front lawn, providing for our little family, our neighbours AND our extended family ( we are gifted their produce also). As they grow, so too the roots in our familes & communities. - 4/10/2010 9:21:39 PM