The weather is getting nicer and our diets are changing from heavy and greasy for hibernation to light and healthy food. We are going to help you get ready for the gardening season with Naturopathic Doctor Judy Ancheta. She has rounded up her favourite gardening veggies with the healthiest nutritional punch!
Let’s face it some veggies are better for you than others. So which ones are the easiest to grow, won’t take up too much backyard space, but still deliver on valuable nutrients for your family to enjoy? That’s a great question!
Why We Love Them: Carrots are easily a fan favourite. Adults and children alike love a garden-fresh carrot. They are easy to add to soups and stews or are delicious fresh with a little hummus.
Health Factor: Carrots are full of beta carotene (which turns into vitamin A in the body), fibre, vitamin K, potassium, and antioxidants. Everyone knows that carrots are good for your eyes as they contain antioxidants that may prevent age-related macular degeneration. They also have the added benefit of lowering systolic blood pressure and increasing the body’s antioxidant capacity.
Planting Guidelines: Carrots are pretty hearty, which is nice if you don’t have a green thumb. They can be planted in the ground, in a raised garden bed, or even a large planting pot as long as it’s deep enough for the root.
Why We Love Them: Nothing tastes quite as good as a fresh garden tomato. The smell and texture of a fresh tomato just can’t be store-bought. Tomato is a base for many sauces and soups and it even tastes amazing on toast with salt and pepper for breakfast.
Health Factor: When it comes to nutrition, tomatoes are high in vitamin C and rich in the antioxidant lycopene which helps reduce the chance of heart disease and stroke. When combining tomatoes and olive oil, studies have shown that it can boost the production of pro-collagen. This means better-looking skin!
Planting Guidelines: You can buy tomato plants that have been started, which reduces the gardening preparation and time it takes to yield a harvest. Once started, you can enjoy tomatoes all summer long. Tomatoes can be grown in large pots on your deck if you don’t have a lot of yard space to spare.
Why We Love It: Aside from the fact that it grows like a pretty rainbow adding colour to your yard, it will also add colour to your meals. Rainbow chard is a relative of the beet and produces big, tender, leaves. Chard can be used in many healthy recipes, added to a salad, or sauteéd with garlic and lemon for a simple yet nutritious side dish.
Health Factor: Rainbow chard is rich in the minerals potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Swiss chard is considered a powerhouse veggie because it can reduce your blood pressure and reduce your risk of cancer. Since rainbow chard contains a high level of naturally occurring nitrates (which is not to be confused with synthetic nitrates or nitrites), they can reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise and may improve your sports performance.
Planting Guidelines: Rainbow chard grows best in the cooler temperatures, so it is best to plant it in early spring. When picking these leaves, cut the leaves an inch from the base of the plant and harvest the outermost leaves of the plant first, allowing for new growth at the center of the plant. What’s great about this plant is that it doesn’t seem to be bothered by pests and is disease resistant, making it a fairly hassle-free plant to grow.
Why We Love It: Simply put, salad! You can dress it up, dress it down and it’s an excellent lunch option.
Health Factor: All lettuce is good for you but some are more nutrient-dense than others. Lettuce has fibre, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. If you don’t know what a phytochemical is you aren’t alone – it is a compound produced by the plants to help protect cells from damage. Lettuce is a good source of folate (an important B vitamin). Lettuce can also help fight inflammation and diabetes because of its low carbohydrate content. This means you can enjoy a large bowl of this vegetable without having to worry about its effect on your blood sugar levels or your caloric intake.
Planting Guidelines: This is a great plant that will thrive in the shaded area of your garden that receives indirect sunlight. Too much heat will actually cause this plant to bolt, which is when a plant produces flowers or seeds too early in the season. The longer you can prolong this from happening, the longer you can enjoy your salad as bolting will change the taste and texture of the lettuce to one that can be bitter and tough.
Why We Love Them: Green beans are another fantastic kid-friendly veggie. Most kids don’t mind eating some green beans with dinner or as a snack. They can be enjoyed as a side dish (steam them and add a little olive oil with salt and pepper) or you can mix them into soups and casseroles. Green beans are easy to store and freeze if you want some on hand for the fall/winter months.
Health Factor: Green beans are crunchy and low on calories yet they are a good source of vitamin, A, C, K, and folate. This means it’s great for pregnant women. Green beans can also promote healthy skin and improve bone health in both men and pre-menopausal women because they are rich in the mineral silicon.
Planting Guidelines: They are easy to grow and don’t require fertilizer. There are different varieties that you may grow – bush beans grow in a more compact space and generally require less maintenance. If you have the space, pole bean varieties require a trellis or stake, and can yield more produce!
If you don’t have the yard space — or any yard at all for a garden, herbs a nice simple way to add something fresh to your meal with very minimal work. We love basil, parsley, cilantro, and fresh garlic bulbs. All are easy to grow on an apartment balcony or in an indoor sunny spot. Garlic is especially healthy because it improves blood pressure, reduces the risk of heart disease, is a great natural way to fight colds, and flu and the list goes on!
Want to learn more about how to get the right nutrition for your optimal health? Dr. Judy Ancheta, ND offers Virtual and In-Clinic Appointments at DSANDA. BOOK NOW!
1. Potter, A. et al. (2011). Drinking carrot juice increases total antioxidant status and decreases lipid peroxidation in adults. BMC Nutrition Journal 10, 96.
Story, E. et al. (2010). An update on the health effects of tomato lycopene. Annual Review of Food Science and Technology.
2. Jugdaohsingh, R. et al. (2004). Dietary silicon intake is positively associated with bone mineral density in men and premenopausal women of the Framingham Offspring cohort. Annual Review of Food Science and Technology, 19(2): 297-307.
3. Jones, A. M. et al. (2018). Dietary Nitrate and Physical Performance. Annual Review of Nutrition, 38: 303-328.
4. Kasole, R et al. (2019). Traditional medicine and its role in the management of diabetes mellitus: “Patients’ and Herbalists’ Perspectives”. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
5. Ho Ming Cheng et al. (2017). Tomato and lycopene supplementation and cardiovascular risk factors: a systemic review and meta-analysis. Atherosclerosis.