World Food Day 2020: Maintaining a kitchen garden helps to build good nutritional, physical, neurological and mental health

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World Food Day 2020: Maintaining a kitchen garden helps to build good nutritional, physical, neurological and mental health
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Growing your own food, especially via kitchen gardens in urban areas, is one effective way of maintaining your connection with nature and reaching the above-mentioned health goals even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kitchen garden. Image courtesy SuSanA Secretariat/Wikimedia Commons

World Food Day is observed every year on 16 October to honour the establishment of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in 1945. World Food Day was established by the FAO’s member nations in 1979 to highlight food, nutrition and agriculture-related issues plaguing the world and a theme is devised to focus on key areas every year.

The theme for World Food Day 2020, which marks 75 years of the FAO, is “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together”. This theme was created keeping in mind the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, which the FAO believes has given humankind the time to reflect on and cherish the value of the thing so many take for granted while many others, unfortunately, go without food. Ensuring access to safe and nutritious food while celebrating those who work so hard to provide it to the world is one of the greatest needs of the hour because proper food intake and nutrition play a huge role in preventing infections and diseases, including those that come under malnutrition.

The value of growing food at home during the pandemic

Growing your own food, especially via kitchen gardens in urban areas, is one effective way of maintaining your connection with nature and reaching the above-mentioned health goals even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maintaining small kitchen gardens in balconies, window sills and other parts of the house has recently started gaining popularity across India, especially during the lockdown period when many families stayed at and worked from home.

An article published in the journal Human Ecology in April 2020 describes how community and personal kitchen gardens in apartment buildings in Italian cities provided the residents with a variety of benefits, including a sense of community and security even while the pandemic raged all around the nation. The article also explained how the residents were able to address their food and nutrition needs while improving their physical and psychological health.

Benefits of maintaining kitchen gardens

The findings of this article are completely in line with many other studies which have, over the years, underlined the benefits of community gardens and kitchen gardens, especially in urban areas. For example, using repurposed buckets or tubs to plant seeds extracted from vegetables and herbs you eat every day like eggplants, tomatoes, capsicum, mint, tulsi or green chillies is quite economical. The following are the key health benefits you can reap by maintaining a kitchen garden at home.

1. Nutritional benefits: A study published in the Journal of Community Health in 2012 indicates that families that maintain kitchen gardens at home have better food security and an increased intake of vegetables. Vegetables are an important part of a balanced diet and eating five servings of vegetables every day can provide your body with sufficient amounts of dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. This, in turn, is very important to maintain a healthy immune system and to keep diseases at bay.

2. Physical benefits: A 2018 study published in Clinical Medicine suggests that gardening — in a balcony or a properly plotted garden — not only exposes you to sunlight, leading to higher vitamin D levels but also helps burn calories. Digging, raking, mowing, lifting, etc are all moderate-intensity activities and can help you stay just as physically fit as going to the gym would. Just ensure that you spend at least half an hour to 45 minutes every day in your kitchen garden.

3. Psychological benefits: Horticultural therapy, as a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in January 2020 shows, is used by mental health experts to treat many psychological issues. Studies show that engaging in gardening, especially with your family or loved ones, can stimulate reductions in depression, stress, anxiety and mood disorders while improving recreational, social and communal habits.

4. Cognitive benefits: According to a 2019 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, engaging in regular gardening activities can improve cognitive function, especially in older adults. The study indicates that the levels of two key brain-growth factors known as a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) increase significantly while gardening, which improves memory and cognitive skills.

For more information, read our article on Balanced diet.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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