With winter on the horizon, health and fitness are set to virtually disappear while we launch into festivities. From work parties to Christmas dinner, there’ll be plenty of unhealthy moments ahead. However, New Year always brings resolutions and the desire to be healthier. If you’re after a new hobby and you want to boost your health, why not try growing your own fruits and vegetables.
In Britain, much of the produce you can grow also carries numerous health benefits. Considering it’s been proven that only 17% of Brits eat five portions of fruit and veg a day, we could all do with upping our intake. Here are some of the easiest to grow along with the reasons you should eat them.
Tomatoes are fairly simple to grow. They’re actually a fruit, contrary to many people’s belief. They can be cultivated in pots and grown from seeds. At around 25 calories per piece, they’re delicious and guilt-free.
Antioxidants: Tomatoes have all four carotenoids: alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene. Most importantly, they contain lots of lycopene, which is great at scavenging free radical cells that can cause cancer. This makes tomatoes useful for fighting off some cancers and studies have proven that lycopene is linked to a 31% reduction in pancreatic cancer.
Vitamins: Tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Potassium and Iron. Iron is useful for those suffering from anaemia and maintaining blood health, while potassium helps control the electrical activity of the heart. Potassium counteracts sodium to maintain good blood pressure.
Digestion: Tomatoes have a high fibre content which promote smooth digestion and can reduce the risk of haemorrhoids and diverticulitis.
One of the most common vegetables to see on any British plate, carrots are a favourite for Sunday dinner. They are easy to grow and you can cultivate them in containers or in the garden. Is there any truth in the old ‘see in the dark’ urban legend…
Cholesterol: Carrots help reduce cholesterol, thanks to their calcium pectate content which lowers ‘LDL’ cholesterol. Two carrots per day reduce LDL levels by between 10-20%.
Vitamins: Like tomatoes, carrots are high in various vitamins. Of those, Vitamin A is the source of the eyesight benefit rumours behind carrots.
Heart disease: Carrots, thanks to their cholesterol reduction properties, are effective at combatting heart disease. A study in Italy found that people who ate carrots carried one third of the risk of heart attack compared to people who ate less.
Turnips are a quintessential part of a good Sunday Roast. They’re fairly simple to grow at home if you have a cool patch of garden as they grow best in moisture retentive soil. It’s a cruciferous vegetable and carries similar benefits to Kale and Broccoli. It’s a filling food, and despite its reputation as a starchy carbohydrate it contains a third of the calories of a potato.
Fibre-rich: Turnip has a high fibre content, keeping you fuller for longer and maintaining blood sugar. Dietary fibre can decrease inflammation and associated conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even cancer.
Antimicrobial benefits: Turnip sprouts have glucosinolates in them, which contain sulfur compounds that have antifungal, antibacterial and antiparastitic benefits. They have the second highest level of glucosinates after white mustard sprouts.
A classic British vegetable, different variations of cabbage can be grown year round. You’ll need an outdoor space to accommodate the large bulbs, but the health benefits make it worth your while.