Getting Ready for Back to School

Best of Thymes Garden of Rosemead High School

Written by Maria Cannon

Having a garden that produces fruits and vegetables has the obvious benefit of providing fresh and healthy food. The fact the food is so readily available increases the likelihood that you’ll maintain a well-balanced diet. Gardening also provides benefits for your body by providing a source of exercise and promoting mental well being. These benefits come from both food-producing gardens, as well as floral gardens.

Good for Your Body:
Although you may think hitting the gym for 30 minutes is the best way to get in shape, prolonged light exercise, such as gardening, can actually burn more calories than a gym session, despite feeling much easier to do. Because gardening is usually lower intensity than a gym session, you can keep at it two or three times longer, which adds up to more burned calories in the end. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine say gardening provides the recommended amount of physical activity for older adults.

In addition to being low intensity, gardening is outdoors and thus provides more stimuli than at the gym, so you don’t notice the time ticking by as much as you do when you’re running on a treadmill. Being outside coupled with exercise takes the benefits of exercise to a new level. Exercise helps lower blood pressure and improves mood and self-esteem, but exercising outdoors significantly increases these benefits, especially mental well being.

Good for Your Mind:
Gardening is a great way to relieves stress. “Getting out in the garden at the end of a busy day reduces your stress levels and mental fatigue,” says Rodale’s Organic Life. Gardening fights off depression, provides an outlet for creativity, and gives you a sense of pride when you harvest your food or enjoy your flowers in full bloom. Additionally, gardening can cut your risk of Alzheimer’s by 50 percent.

Getting your hands dirty while gardening further improves mood thanks to a surprising reason. Mice that were exposed to bacteria that is commonly found in soil (Mycobacterium vaccae) performed better in tests designed to assess the performance of antidepressant drugs. They also had higher levels of serotonin, which is the brain’s “happy” chemical. These findings were replicated in humans when cancer patients were treated with the same bacteria along with conventional chemotherapy. Participants reported an increase in energy, appetite, sleep quality, and cognitive function, and they reported a decrease in pain.

Gardens for Therapy:
Using a garden as a therapeutic process is nothing new. According to NPR, “Horticultural therapy dates back to Socrates, but it didn’t become a scientific pursuit until the 18th century.” In the 18th century, a psychiatrist began documenting how gardening benefited his mentally ill patients. Experts now believe that building, planting, and harvesting a garden can be a therapeutic process in its own right.

Rehabilitation facilities, assisted living communities, and other similar facilities are utilizing group gardens. Members of a gardening group benefit from an enhanced mood, reduced stimulation (so more relaxation), and improved concentration. They also benefit from the social aspect of being in the group. Members feel a need to cooperate with each other to achieve the end goal of growing their plants. This type of intervention is beneficial because it focuses on skills and aspirations rather than symptoms and deficits.

The particular scenario of having the focus on skills and aspirations is particularly beneficial as part of therapy for people with mental health issues, including PTSD, depression, and anxiety, as well as those in rehabilitation for drug or alcohol abuse. Gardening already promotes mental wellness, and a group garden adds another layer of wellness. It’s clear to see how someone in a drug rehab facility could benefit immensely from gardening, alleviating both their mental illness and addiction, which often times go hand in hand.

Gardening has a plethora of health benefits, from the promotion of weight loss to an increase in brainpower to a better night’s sleep. In addition to health benefits, gardens can also increase property values and save you money when grocery shopping. Gardening truly benefits your life in ways you probably didn’t even consider. This spring, get your hands dirty and start a garden.

Foodie Corner: Summer Recipes for Health & Wellness

Raw Veggie Lasagna

Raw Vegan Lasagna
Recipe and Photos offered by : Sandra Salazar

  • 1 small-medium zucchini
  • 2 large tomatoes, slices
  • Dried basil to top
  • Nutritional yeast to top

Slice Zucchini and tomatoes lengthwise. Thinner slices are easier to cut and eat but difficult to accomplish so slice to your preference. 

Cashew Cheese:

  • 1 cup cashews
  • 2 and 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1-3 tablespoons water
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Pinch of basil
  • Pinch of salt

Combine and blend together all ingredients until receiving the texture desired. The less water used, the chunkier and thicker the cheese is. For creamier texture soak your raw cashew from a few hours in water, drain then blend. 

Basil Pesto:

  • 3/4- 1 cup fresh Basil
  • 1/3 cup walnuts (optional if you’re allergic)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove 

Combine and blend together all ingredients until receiving the texture desired. 

Now you will layer all your ingredients together. Place Zucchini down, smear a gracious layer of cashew cheese. Place down 2-3 tomatoes slices (depending on how long your Zucchini slice is). Apply a layer of pesto on time of the tomato and repeat these steps till you have your desired serving size.

At the end, top off your Lasagna with a bit more cashew cream and pesto if desired and sprinkle nutritional yeast and dried basil. 

Did you know?
Zucchini is a low calorie vegetable loaded with fiber. Nearly 18 mg of Vitamin C, 18mg of Magnesium and 261 mg of Potassium per 100g of raw Zucchini with the skin, just like in our recipe! 

Tomatoes are full of Lucopene, an antioxidant that according to a study, helps protect the skin from ultra-violet (UV) rays. As well as Zeaxanthin, another helpful compound, that protect eyes from “age-related macular related macular disease” 

Nutritional yeast is great to incorporate to your diet if you do not eat cheese. This ingredient is an inactive yeast made from sugar cane and beet molasses that is loaded with Vitamin B .

Summer Fruits and Veggies from the High School Gardens

Summer Fruits and Veggies

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