Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Improve Your Health, Well-Being And Happiness With Plants

As we enter a new year, it’s a great time to consider a few ways of adding greater value to our lives.  Engaging the world of plants will improve our sense of well-being, happiness and health, whether that means growing our own food in containers or a garden, nurturing indoor plants or simply walking in a green space.

In terms of growing the healthiest food, the latest research has found that not all varieties are created equal.  Certain varieties of vegetables have far more nutritional value and antioxidants than other varieties in the same food group.  Eating nutritious foods is one of the best ways to stay healthy and maintain a better quality of life, so it’s important to know which varieties offer the most significant health benefits.

Plants promote good health in so many ways

Food gardening has skyrocketed in popularity, mainly because folks want more control over the food they eat. They want fruits and vegetables that are free of harmful pesticide residues, and they want to savour flavours that can be achieved only by harvesting fresh, naturally-ripened produce.  It seems logical that today’s food gardeners should focus on the varieties with the best nutritional, vitamin and antioxidant qualities.

Leeks are great for flavouring many dishes, and the ‘Kilima’ leek has the highest nutritional value.  This variety contains vitamin C, B-complex, potassium, magnesium, silica, iron and calcium. If you enjoy leeks, it makes sense to grow this variety.

Onions are also right up there for flavouring salads, soups and meats, and the variety ‘Candy’ is the most valuable because of its ability to fight bacteria and reduce blood pressure, harmful cholesterol and blood sugars.

Peppers, both sweet and hot, are healthful in many ways, but the hottie, ‘Mucho Nacho’, is high in vitamin C, phenolic acids, plant sterols, and it has lots of carotene.  The sweet peppers, ‘Red Beauty’ and ‘Blushing Beauty’, are chock full of vitamin C, and, ounce for ounce when mature, have more vitamin C than oranges,

Tomatoes, the most popular garden fruit, contains cancer-fighting lycopene, a very strong antioxidant and free radical neutralizer, and ‘Health Kick’ has 50 per cent more lycopene than other standard varieties. Research has shown that men, who consumed a minimum of 10 servings of high lycopene-enriched tomatoes a week could reduce their risk of prostate cancer by 45 per cent. Very few foods contain lycopene — watermelon, apricots, pink grapefruit and guava have varying amounts.


Combine your favourite edibles to make a beautiful container

Leafy vegetables, particularly the darker green varieties like spinach and kale, contain high levels of lutein and zeathanthin, two carotenoids helpful in protecting eyes, arteries and lungs from those nasty free radicals.  Advanced Nutraceutical Research Inc. has found that folks consuming lutein every day have a 43 per cent less chance of developing macular degeneration.  Two to five servings a day of leafy vegetables will provide adequate amounts.

We often hear of the value of garlic, and garlic researcher Dr. Eric Bloch suggests that regular consumption of garlic lowers the incidence of stomach cancer and reduces the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. Dr. Yu-Yan Yeh indicates that regular use of garlic results in lower cholesterol levels. Historically, garlic was used in treating infections because of its anti-microbial agent called allicin.  In addition to flavouring so many dishes and keeping vampires away, it also inhibits many harmful bacteria.

All these plant foods simply need to be grown, harvested and enjoyed. Over winter, as you await the arrival of spring and a new opportunity to grow these wonderful foods, do a little research on the varieties that will provide you with the greatest health benefits.

Revive your spirits when you surround yourself in a canopy of green

Our gardens provide another opportunity for improving our lifestyles: exercise. The regular, natural movement of the body is one of the best prescriptions for good physical health, and the anaerobic nature of gardening is an exercise we can enjoy.  The Royal College of Physicians in Britain has produced a list comparing various activities and the number of calories each burned over 30 minutes of exertion.  Here is part of that list:  90 calories when walking, 162 when raking, 182 when weeding, 202 when digging, 243 when using a push mower, and 243 to 364 when shovelling.  Clearly, our gardens can be our new gyms.

Green spaces also afford us the opportunity to engage with plants.  Arizona State University has identified a name for a “connection to plants and nature”:  biophilia.  Creating this connection by bringing the outdoors inside is the latest trend in “interiorscapes.”  Using water, living walls, larger indoor plants, and other natural elements boost people’s mood, productivity and health.  After a long, arduous flight, arriving back at the Vancouver airport to the sound of water and loons and the natural look of weathered stumps is a relaxing and comforting welcome.

The importance of green spaces in urban areas is now recognized as critical to people’s mental health and sense of well-being.  As little as five minutes in a park can have a positive impact.  Japanese researchers found that spending just 20 minutes walking in a natural area enhances mood, vitality and creativity.  They call it shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing”.  They discovered that trees in forested areas give out aromatic phytoncides, and “forest bathers” inhale these compounds.  They also learned that a forest walk, two days in a row, stimulated the human immune system in a significant way, as well as the production of a type of white blood cell.  Apparently, this effect remains 23 per cent higher after a month of forest exposure.

It’s hard to beat the sound of rushing water

According to the World Health Organization’s report, Urban Green Spaces and Health, increasing children’s exposure to green spaces influenced their cognitive ability in a positive way, improved their social inclusiveness and behaviour and lowered the risk of ADHD.  There’s also a growing understanding that the quality of “streetscapes” enhances social cohesion.

WHO also compared the proximity of green spaces and the corresponding health benefits.  Ideally, there should be 1.5 hectares of green space within a five to 10-minute walk from any home; a 20-hectare park within a 2km distance; a 100-hectare park within 5km, and a 500-hectare green space within 70 km.  Scientists have determined that one-hectare of green space per 1000 people in the surrounding area is the optimal situation.

This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the benefits of connecting to plants and green spaces.  To be happier and healthier in the new year, grow, nurture and eat healthy, fresh foods.  Enjoy the plants inside your home, the ones growing on your patio or in your garden, and visit the parks, gardens and forests around you.


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Why We All Need Green In Our Lives

(CNN) It’s the color of the Emerald Isle, the hue of sickness and envy, and a shade associated with grotesque monsters. And its most universal interpretation conjures imagery of nature, a vibrant symbol of the environmental movement and healthy living.

Green, the mixture of blue and yellow, can be seen everywhere and in countless shades. In fact, the human eye sees green better than any color in the spectrum.

This, along with many other facts about this earthly color, makes it an essential part of our everyday lives.

But why is that?

Helping you see

We see green with ease because of how light reaches our eyes; the human eye translates waves of light into color.

When we see a green frog, the color that we see is the light reflected off of the surface of the frog’s skin, perceived by our eyes as green.

When we see these colors, the cones in our eyes are able to process the wavelengths and tell the brain what color is being observed.

Humans are trichromats, meaning we perceive three primary colors: blue, green and red. The retina in a human eye can detect light between wavelengths of 400 and 700 nanometers, a range known as the visible spectrum.

Each primary color corresponds to a different wavelength, starting with blue at the lowest (400 nanometers) and red at the highest (700 nanometers).

In the middle of the spectrum resides the color green, at around 555 nanometers. This wavelength is where our perception is at its best. Because of its position in the center of the spectrum, both blue and red light waves are enhanced and better perceived with the help of green waves.

Knowing your environment

Green space sweeps the planet. Before skyscrapers and suburbs popped up, our ancestors resided in forested regions full of greenery.

As they scavenged for food, the ability to differentiate between colored berries against the backdrop of green foliage was critical for survival.

The evolution of eyesight and the increasing ability to detect color with fine detail gave our primate ancestors an evolutionary advantage over other mammals who could not discern such differences as well.

Color changes in leaves, fruits and vegetables can indicate age or ripeness and even offer a warning that something may be poisonous or rotten.

Today, we continue to use this ancestral instinct at a farmers market or grocery store.

Sourcing your food

Bananas, though widely considered to be a yellow fruit, start off as green due to the presence of chlorophyll. Just as grass and leaves have chlorophyll to give them color, so do fruits.
Located in the cells of plants, chlorophyll plays a crucial role in photosynthesis, allowing plants to harvest energy from sunlight and convert it into energy that the plant can use to grow.

The molecule absorbs blue and red light well while reflecting the green light that we see.

The peels of bananas are bright green in color until the chlorophyll inside the peel begins to break down. As the fruit ripens, the molecule in the peel breaks down and we observe a color change from green to bright yellow – and we prefer to eat yellow bananas because they are sweeter.

While the chlorophyll in the banana breaks down, the starch in the peel is converted into sugar, so more yellow means more sugar – until it begins to rot.

Because of their high starch content, greener bananas are sometimes favored as a cure for upset stomachs.

This change in color also applies when glancing over an aisle of bright bell peppers. Our eyes help us find our favored ripeness and sweetness. Green peppers, with more chlorophyll, are less sweet. As they turn yellow and red, the peppers become sweeter.

When we’re enjoying a salad, a brown piece of wilted lettuce or kale is almost always discarded. And our eyes tell us the lawn is overdue for some maintenance when the color darkens.

So although we may not reside in the forests anymore, our keen perception of green continues to play a significant role in keeping us healthy.

Keeping you calm

Some scientists and researchers also believe that because our eyes are at the peak of their perception to detect the wavelengths corresponding with the color green, the shade may calm us down.

With less strain to perceive the colors, our nervous system can relax when perceiving the tone.

This sedative quality of green may explain why there is so much of it in hospitals, schools and work environments. Historically, actors and actresses would recess to green rooms after so much time looking into bright lights on stage, though modern “green rooms” are rarely painted green.

Helping you live longer

Natural environments, full of green vegetation, might help you live longer.

A 2016 study found that living in or near green areas can was linked with longer life expectancy and improved mental health in female participants. Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital compared risk of death with the amount of plant life and vegetation near the homes of more than 100,000 women.

After the eight-year study was completed, the data revealed that participants who lived in the greenest areas had a 12% lower death rate than women living in the least green areas.

With more green space, study authors said, came more opportunity to socialize outdoors.

Additionally, the natural settings – compared with residential regions where plants and greenery were sparse – proved to be beneficial to mental health.

“We were surprised at the magnitude of the mental health pathway,” said Peter James, study author and research associate at the Harvard Chan School’s Department of Epidemiology.

Of those who did not live in greener areas, respiratory issues were the second highest cause of death. The study indicated that less exposure to polluted air may have been one of several reasons for increased life expectancy among for those who lived in green areas.

Our ancestors lived their entire lives outdoors. The benefits we stand to gain from adopting an outdoor mindset, James says, could have a positive impact. “We know already that vegetation can help mitigate the effect of climate change. Our study suggests the potential co-benefit for health.”

Article by Robert Jimison, CNN        Mon June 5, 2017
source: www.cnn.com